1. Be concise. You want your letter to be inviting to read, and nobody wants to read a dense page of text. We recommend that your letter include no more than 400 words. We know it is tempting to list and explain all of the reasons you should get an interview. Instead, be concise and compelling.
2. Use clean formatting. As with your resume, your cover letter should be easy to navigate. We recommend using the same header, margins, and font as your resume for consistency. You can download our template here.
3. Be error-free and professional. Make sure to review your letter closely for spelling and grammar. Have someone else proofread the document as well, and you can also use a site like grammarly.com for an additional review. Also, be mindful of your tone and wording. You want to be professional and confident but not overly formal (and definitely not arrogant). We recommend reading a few examples to get a sense of best practices.
4. Structure your letter. In making your case, you’ll want to include 4 paragraphs: introduction, your value proposition, why you want to work in consulting at that firm, and conclusion. Organizing your letter in this way makes it easy for the reader to follow, and ensures that you hit all of the important elements of a cover letter.
5. Craft a narrative. Your cover letter should explain why there is a mutual fit between you and the role and firm you are applying to. Piece relevant parts of your experience together to convince the reader to offer an interview. Taking the time to do this well demonstrates to the firm that you are a serious applicant.
6. Complement (don’t repeat) your resume. We sometimes see applicants convert a set of resume bullets into a paragraph or list off all of their major accomplishments. The firm already has your resume. Remember, your cover letter makes the case for why they should interview you, and your resume has the supporting evidence.
7. Know your value proposition. Firms see tons of great applicants. Know what you specifically offer, and communicate it effectively. Double majored in math and literature? You’re exceptionally well-rounded. Interned at a consulting firm? You can thrive in the industry. Played a varsity sport while graduating with honors? You’ll bring grit and leadership to the team.
8. Demonstrate that you know the firm. For example, show that you are familiar with their industry focus(es), or that you are interested in a mix of strategy and implementation (if they’re a larger professional services firm), or that you value their charity work (or whatever else may be a source of pride for the office). You can find more information on what differentiates firms here. Tailor each letter to the individual firm, and please double-check the firm name before you hit send. The parts of the letter that most need to be tailored are the “introduction” paragraph and “why you want to work in consulting at that firm” paragraph.
9. Network and name drop. This is one of the best ways to make your application stand out. Mention conversations you’ve had with people at the firm. Make sure to explain what you learned and why this information encouraged you to apply. We recommend mentioning no more than 2 people, focusing on the quality and content of what you learned, rather than too many names. Take a look at more networking tips here.
10. Address any red flags. This won’t be relevant to everyone’s application. However, if you have a significant work experience gap or a low GPA and an impactful explanation (for example, caring for an ill family member or working to support yourself through school), then include this information. This should not be the focus of your cover letter, rather this can be a brief (1-2 sentence) addition to the letter. Make sure to still cover the recommended set of content (you can find it here).
If you follow these steps, you'll be well on your way to creating that opportunity for an interview.