You hate writing cover letters.  But you have to; you can’t click “apply” without one.  Soon, it becomes a wall of text.  You don’t know what to write because, well, it’s all in your resume.  Stop banging your head against the wall.  Here’s two quick SOS tips for cover letters.

DON’T just repeat your resume.

Your consulting cover letter should not be your resume, described in letter form.  Instead, try focusing on answering three (3) key questions:

  1. Why consulting?
  2. Why this firm?
  3. Why you?

Answer the questions as though you were holding an initial screening call with the firm.  Storytelling (using anecdotes) can be really effective here.  Was there a previous professional, academic, or even personal experience that led you to your interest in consulting?  Tell us about it.  Is there a business problem that you’re particularly interested in helping clients solve?  Tell us about it.  Is there something about the nature of the consulting work that appeals to you?  You get the idea….

One paragraph each.  Be succinct.  No walls of text, please.

DO think about appropriate ways to be creative.

Your cover letter doesn’t need to follow the typical letter format; you can be creative.  But, there are more appropriate ways to do so than others.

In consulting, a cover letter with massive head shot, splashed with bright colour fonts may help you stand out — but not in the right way.  This is especially true if you don’t have strong graphic design skills.

Here’s a good litmus text:  does the creativity align to one or more of the key job requirements?

For example, if you have a strong scientific and/or mathematical research background and you’re interested in a consulting role where one of the key responsibilities is data visualization (e.g. analytics), you might want to include a sample visualization.  In one visual, you can demonstrate (and to what degree) you have the requested skill — and stand out, the right way.

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About the Author

Peggy Steele is a Management Consultant with with over 19 years of industry experience working for global professional services firms Deloitte, American Management Systems, and CGI.  Currently, she is the Industry Advisor for Consulting at the Schulich School of Business, responsible for designing, developing, and managing career-readiness programming for all undergraduate and graduate students interested in consulting.  Prior to joining Schulich, Ms. Steele served as the Consulting Expert-in-Residence at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, supporting the Bachelor of Commerce and MBA programs.