Firstly, the main things that we as recruiters look for in a CV for our clients are:
- What company the candidate currently is working at – most companies have a target bunch of companies that they wish to recruit from, so it’s important that you currently work at a “target”.
- What school the candidate graduated from (and G.P.A) – top-tier strategy consultants are expected to be the best of the best, thus our clients seek candidates who have been high achievers throughout their education and usually expect G.P.As of 3.7 and above. Anybody coming in at a Consultant level is expected to hold a top MBA or an extremely relevant Masters from a leading school.
- What is the career progression like at their current organization – again, strategy houses are looking for high-achievers. They know the progression timelines and if a CV indicates that a candidate has been stuck at a level for three years, it indicates they are not the top-performers and may be getting let go of.
- How many job changes they have had in the last few years – strategy consultancies invest a lot of money and time in developing a strategy consultant to grow into a future Partner. Too many job changes will ring alarm bells as to their loyalty.
If all four of these points are satisfactorily addressed, then you’re well on your way to having a CV that will get you an interview at a top strategy firm.
The next thing to do, is make sure that you tailor your CV for the market you are applying for. If you’re applying for a purely Oil & Gas focused position and your current work experience is 75% Oil & Gas / 25% finance, then stick to highlighting your knowledge in O&G.
Impact is another massive thing that employers look for. Yes, you might have worked on a cost-optimization project for a large multinational energy corp, but what was the outcome? What did you achieve by doing this? If you saved the company $15m in operating costs through the work that you did – highlight it! If the digital transformation exercise you did for a global bank rolled out worldwide – mention it!
One more bit of advice, is make sure you highlight experience that is relevant to your level. If you’re applying for a Manager position, ensure you mention occasions where you have led a team or a project effectively, it only needs to be one or two lines, but make sure it’s there. Also, demonstrate an occasion where you have mentored or developed more junior members of staff – all the top firms look for candidates who will help the juniors grow. For higher levels, ensure you include information about revenue targets and achievements.
The next important thing is the general look and content of the CV. I’m going to highlight some BIG no-nos first of all to make sure you avoid (please note, that this advice is solely related to the strategy consulting market).
- CVs with images – Irrelevant and takes up valuable CV real estate.
- CVs with company logos for where you’ve worked – Again, same issue as before – plus, the formatting can get messed up and look sloppy when people use different versions of Word.
- Anything more than 2 pages long – Clients of ours are looking for very similar things to what I described at the beginning of this piece. They don’t need a comprehensive list of every project you’ve done, they want to know what you do, where you work and how much of a high-achiever you are. If it’s a technical role, they need to know your proficiencies, if it’s an industry focused role, they want to see a couple of examples of your work in that market.
- Landscape CVs – Just no, not remotely professional.
- CVs with any form of table – Completely unnecessary and doesn’t display correctly in some formats.
- Colourful CVs – I appreciate how some people enjoy a bit of colour in their lives, but leave your CV professional and black and white – you’re applying for a consulting role, not a creative role.
- CVs with your photo on it – Strategy Consultancies are the most diverse bunch of individuals you could ever imagine and they don’t care how you look. Leave photos off the CVs (this does still mean though that you’re expected to be presentable at an interview – if you have a skull & crossbones tattooed to your forehead this may affect your chances).
- CVs with a chart that measures your capability in something with an “out of 5” level – Probably my biggest pet-hate at the moment and something I’m seeing gaining popularity. If you are a beginner in Hadoop, or intermediate in MS Paint, don’t put a chart in there demonstrating your ability in it as “1 out of 5” or “3 out of 5”. Just leave it off or mention you’re learning it.
Harvard Business School has a great template (which I’ve slightly modified to make a little more relevant) that is an excellent foundation for putting together an excellent CVs. If you stick to the points I’ve made above and use this template, you should be set up well for success. Click here to download the CV Template.
Thanks again for reading, any questions or queries, let me know! Hope you’ve found this somewhat useful, feel free to share among your network.
Dan – firstname.lastname@example.org