Updated: Dec 21, 2021
This article is part of a series of introductory articles:
I remember, I faced quite a challenge when I applied for an MBB (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) position and needed to write an entry level management consultant motivation letter. Back then I needed to rely on my Deloitte experience and friends working in the field of psychology to do it. After passing seemingly endless rounds of interviews, I developed a much better view on what recruiters are looking for in a motivation letter. This short article attempts to summarize how to write a motivation letter. Specifically, how to write a consultant motivation letter for McKinsey, Bain and BCG.
"You want to divide the letter into three main sections: introduction, the main body and a summary section. You want to highlight your name and contact details in the header of the paper and put your scanned signature in the footer to make a professional look."
The purpose of the introduction is to bring recruiters on the same page by showing which position you are applying for, and briefing why you have made the decision to do so. It generally contains of three parts:
Title of the position:
Start with naming the title of the position you are applying for. It gives a full picture to the recruiters. Surprisingly, most of my interviewers read my motivation letter and I must say, interviews were smoother when we were on the same page
Why you are applying for the position:
Mention shortly why you are a good fit for the position. Mention your unique experience, high achievements, or some of the important personality traits you have and are crucial for being successful in the role.
Why you are interested in the specific company:
I consider it important to mention straight away why you are applying at the given company. Making the motivation letter more personalized also helps in showing that you spent time on the letter and not simply copy-pasting it for each of your applications (even if you do so). The easiest way to do so is referring to the core values of the company and why you associate yourself with them. You may need to elaborate on it during the interviews, but nobody will challenge it.
The main body is actually the content of the motivation letter. You want to dig into details and show that you are the best applicant. I found it easy-to-follow if you try to write every part in a chronological order. What are the parts of this section of the motivation letter? I will show you:
Strategy consultants are hiring students with outstanding education only. You can start with mentioning your studies and major academic achievements. Do not forget, your motivation letter is not the reflection of your resume. I suggest mentioning the field of study only and link your grades to your personality. For example: “I believe that my ambitious and determined attitude is reflected in my GPA. I performed amongst the top 5% of students during my bachelor program (GPA), and I continued along this trajectory during my master studies in Strategic Management (GPA).”
Continue with the list of your extracurricular activities, let it be volunteering, competition, board membership. Instead of listing all of your achievements, you should mention your proudest ones and link it to your personality. Remember, this is a motivation letter, which should reflect your personal side full of feelings and emotions. The example I used: “The proudest achievements are delivering a project with other 24 high-performers as part of my masters’ Honours Course, and winning Boston Consulting Group’s annual Strategy Cup case competition in 2019. My strive for excellence is also noticeable in my extra curricular activities. I have been participating in various volunteer projects for years, which has allowed me to grow as a person. This experience has taught me how important and impactful it is to motivate people towards a common goal: giving back to the community we live in.”
Mention your experience in a professional setting. Bring up only relevant experience without going too much into details. Try to put more emphasis on your personal development, what you have learnt at these companies. For example: “I have also put emphasis on excelling as a young professional. I interned at Morgan Stanley investment bank next to my bachelor studies. I gained full-time experience as a Management Consultant at Deloitte’s XY office during my gap year. Besides acquiring time- and stakeholder management skills, I became a true team player and learned how to rely on, and support my colleagues in every challenging, client-facing situation.”
Why you are applying:
Now the reader understands why you are a good fit and where you are coming from. The final part of your motivation letter’s main body should answer: Why are you applying for this position at this company? For example: “I am actively looking for new challenges that could satisfy my intellectual curiosity and would provide an even steeper learning curve after graduation. In my view, McKinsey would allow me to strive for nothing but excellence and acquire knowledge from multiple industries and projects. Besides this, McKinsey represents a value system (including “adhere to the highest professional standards” and “improve our clients’ performance significantly”) that I can identify myself with.” You do not need to go into details, you can use the interviews to do that.
The summary ideally wraps up your motivation letter and looks into the future. Instead of listing everything, I found it a good approach to be a bit vague. You should reflect on that you are a good fit and you could contribute to the company’s success. I used the following paragraph, which were accepted by both McKinsey and BCG (I did not apply for Bain): “Overall, my academic, extracurricular and professional background in the field of strategic management and my intellectual hunger are all tailored towards my goal of becoming a consultant at one of the leading institutions. I strongly believe that my intellectual capacity would contribute to the success of the strategic projects of McKinsey, while the firm could help me in achieving my aspirations. I do hope that both this letter and my resume highlight my fit, and I look forward to continuing the recruitment process.”
DOs and DON’Ts:
This is not a text summary of your CV. Do not just repeat your CV
Maintain readable font; 12 Times New Roman is preferred
Use concise, complete sentences. No bullet points
Avoid jargon, acronyms and repetition of words
Read it through so you avoid spelling mistakes
Do not include photo
Stick to 1 page, even if you have 5+ years of experience
Reflect on the soft side of your persona: skills, motivation, feelings. Show that you are not a robot
Respect the margin, so interviewers can print and write on your motivation letter (2.5cm / 1 inch)
Save as a PDF, with the following name convention: First name_Family name_Motivation Letter
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This article is part of a series of introductory articles: