How long should a cover letter be? Check out this guide to HR-approved best practices for cover letter length and word count.
One does not simply walk into a McKinsey office and get a consultant job.
But even the longest of journeys starts with a small step. Your first step is writing an excellent resume and a McKinsey cover letter that will impress even the most hardened recruiters. Here's how.
In this article:
- A McKinsey cover letter sample.
- A clear ruleset on formatting to make sure your letter doesn’t end up in a McKinsey bin.
- A step-by-step template you can lay a foundation on, and be ready within a couple coffee.
See how this sample does it.
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Check out our non-McKinsey guides:
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1. McKinsey Cover Letter Sample
If you have a boatload of consulting experience, you probably have the contacts and the know-how to get the position you want. You might have recruiters bugging you. You might even have the money to have someone write the letter for you.
If you want to check your structure against a ready example, here’s ours, albeit for someone entry-level.
This example cover letter for McKinsey comes from Ruth, who’s applying to the New York office as a potential Associate. Her responsibilities will include gathering and analyzing information, formulating and testing hypotheses, and making recommendations for action.
Let’s see if she makes the Big One.
Example #1: Entry Level McKinsey Cover Letter
2758 Conaway Street
New York, NY 10007
San Jose, Jan 5, 2020
McKinsey & Company New York
Three World Trade Center, 175 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10007
It is with pleasure that I’m applying for the position of Associate at the NY McKinsey & Company office. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Economics and Econometrics from the London School of Economics in 2018, and have since held internship positions in different capacities at KPMG and JP Morgan Stanley. Having decided that neither accounting nor investment banking makes me tick, but solving problems and helping people and companies out does.
Previous to my Master’s study, I graduated with 1st Class Honours from the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Balliol College, Oxford University. During this time, I was the Society Secretary of the Consulting Society. During the economic downturn of the 2010s, many British high streets have started emptying, shops going out of business and boarding up, the same for many local businesses. Oxford was not spared. Together with the 38 active members of the consulting society, we spent two months planning and implementing structure, processes, and events, where we would offer free consultation clinics to local business owners, self-employed people, and many others who did not fit that profile but came to us with their material and administrative struggles. During the same time, the Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Buddhist and Sikh societies teamed up to tackle the growing homelessness problem around Oxford. As we had overlap between the clubs, some suggested to try and combine tackling both problems, so we managed to find full or part-time employment for 3 of these people, and also rented one of the failing shop fronts to create a pop-up store where the staff were 50/50 students and the now ex-homeless, with the profits (~$10k) going towards setting up an emergency fund for people in crisis. Solving multiple socio-economic problems at once for people who need it is an utmostly rewarding feeling, and I believe I will be able to do the same for the clients at McKinsey.
Working as an Associate at McKinsey New York would be the ultimate leap for me. In terms of what I want to do, there isn’t a better place to do it. The skills and range of experiences I bring is unique, and McKinsey would appreciate an Associate that puts the client interests ahead of the firm’s, and maintains an independent perspective.
When is a good time to schedule a call or meeting to discuss whether the solutions we implemented in response to certain social structures breaking down in Oxford would be scalable as a model for future action in advising both UK & US local and central governments on handling these issues?
Let’s get your foot in the door.
Yes, I know it’s a revolving one.
2. How to Write a McKinsey Cover Letter That Builds A Strong Case
1. Use The Business Cover Letter Format
This is the big league. The Big Three. The biggest of The Three. Everybody, everything here is polished. So is your McKinsey cover letter. Use classic business formatting. Make the information readily available. Be organized, be thought out, and most of all—be concise.
Here is the gold standard cover letter format:
- Perfect cover letter length? 1 page. Respect people’s time. You know what time is.
- Use the same font and style as your resume font. Pick one that is elegant but readable: Calibri, Cambria, Montserrat, etc.
- Always ‘Align Left’. There is no need to use justification.
- Use 1.15 line spacing, and leave an empty line between every section and paragraph.
- Use at least a 1-inch margin on every side.
Only then start composing what to include in your cover letter.
2. List Your Contact Information In the Header
Go for the classic, and use the same header here and as your resume header. List your contact info together with LinkedIn and other relevant links, the city and date of the letter on a separate line, and the details of the hiring manager below.
Cover Letter For McKinsey: Header
[ Your Full Name]
[ Your Job Title ] (Optional)
[ Address ]
[ Phone Number ]
[ Email Address ]
[ LinkedIn Profile ] (Optional)
[ City and Date ]
[ Hiring Manager’s Full Name ]
[ Hiring Manager’s Position ]
McKinsey & Company
[ Company Street Address ]
[ City and Zip Code ]
Expert Hint: If you’re applying online, there are some specific issues to keep in mind when sending your McKinsey cover letter electronically, which our email cover letter guide will clue you up on. At ResumeLab, there is also always more cover letter tips, dos and don’ts to know.
3. Identify The Position and Introduce Yourself
This is the biggest consulting firm in the world. There isn’t a stack of applications on a desk. There are hundreds of them. Hundreds of stacks, on hundreds of desks. Terabytes of hopefuls sending in their life story, hoping to become the next pinstriped corporate Jesus, healing all they touch.
Long story short, get to the point. At this stage, you’re just convincing them to read. In a company like McKinsey, it’s not granted that they will even get past the initial glance. State immediately the position you’re seeking in the first paragraph of your cover letter, and right away give them a reason to keep reading. It should be either a taste of your most convincing feature, or something that will satisfy their biggest need or requirement.
Address the cover letter to the recruiter, by name. McKinsey can be quite conservative, so use both first & second name. If this information is nowhere to be found, use LinkedIn. If that doesn’t work, put some coal in the time machine and call the telephone of the relevant McKinsey office.
Here’s a very basic structure of a McKinsey cover letter intro:
McKinsey Cover Letter Sample: Introduction
Dear [Hiring Manager’s Full Name]:
I am elated to apply for the position of [Position Name] at McKinsey [office]. With over [number of years] years of experience as a [Previous Position Title] I have cultivated the [relevant skill/the requirements of the job] skills, resulting in a [improvement/achievement/great metric]. I am hoping to translate these skills as well as my [auxiliary skill/languages] into a contribution towards the world-class service that McKinsey provides to their clients.
Expert Hint: Coming out of a college program, MBA, or PhD? McKinsey has different deadlines for submitting applications for different education levels. Check this McKinsey page for when yours should be in, and whether there’s a McKinsey event on your campus.
4. Manage To Convince Them
If you really care about your career, recognize there isn’t a better place to grow than McKinsey, and believe the rumours that they might keep a blacklist of rejected candidates, then this might just be the most important paragraph of your life.
McKinsey is in a certain league. The highest order. Focus on your experiences from that league—perhaps you worked in a top investment bank or a blue chip corp, one of the tech giants, or even an elite university? Focus on that, and your ability to shine in those environments.
Back it up with numbers, metrics and achievements from your resume.
Sample Cover Letter For McKinsey Jobs: Middle Paragraph
As a [X] GPA graduate of [College Name], I was able to find employment as a [Previous Position Name] at [Previous Company Name]. During my [X] years there, I handled projects such as [describe project], which ultimately ran into difficulties such as [describe difficulties], however, ultimately I was able to propose [describe solution], which resulted in [describe improvement]. I believe that I can bring my [approach/skills/area of expertise] to McKinsey [Office Location] and help its clients achieve [something important to their clients].
Expert Hint: It's estimated that McKinsey receives over a million applications every year. Only less than 1% make it, so before you get your targeted resume for McKinsey ready, it may pay off to apply to some smaller consulting firms to see how your applications fare.
5. Show Them Why It’s Them
Working at McKinsey is a huge opportunity for anyone. That’s a given. So, don’t use this as your justification for applying. The McKinsey websites, publications, and news stories about them are a goldmine of things to talk about. It’s really not hard to stand out.
Many high level executives will run their own blog on LinkedIn. See your local McKinsey office pages, and try to find some indication as to what they’ve been working on through the blogs. Find something you can talk about with authority, that is interesting and beneficial to them.
Fill in the [blanks]:
McKinsey Cover Letter Sample: Third Paragraph
While most people apply to McKinsey automatically for the prestige, because it’s the Big One, for me, the ethics and ethos of a company are far more important. Upon learning that McKinsey [did something ethically agreeable], and upon researching more about the company values and learning that [describe some McKinsey value], I decided that this is the right place for me to continue my career, and offer my sizeable expertise in [skill/expertise area] to McKinsey.
Expert Hint: Struggling to find a unique angle to stand out? Check out the McKinsey Insights page for their official publications and content. You can also use LinkedIn to search for the content posted by individual employees—here I prepared the filters already for you, it will show all recent content posted by McKinsey employees. This should make it easier to decide how to end your cover letter.
6. Request the Interview & Leave a Call To Action
You don’t ask, you don’t get.
Some of us realise this early on in life, when we ask for something we didn’t think possible, and receive it. Some never reach this revelation. Your cover letter for McKinsey, the biggest consulting house on the planet, the most serious of the serious player—cannot be passive!
Sign off your cover letter very formally and politely, but just before, ask for a call or an interview to discuss something that you have expertise or experience in, that would seem interesting or greatly beneficial for McKinsey or its clients.
Sample McKinsey Cover Letter: Call to Action & Closing
When could we have a call or a meeting to discuss how my [your best, most relevant skill/their most important requirement] can help McKinseyachieve [something important to them or their clients]?
[Digital Copy of Your Handwritten Signature]
[Your Full Name]
Check all of these before you send your cover letter to McKinsey:
- Start from the McKinsey cover letter sample—if needed, ResumeLab has many more cover letter templates you can take inspiration from for free.
- Set all the cover letter format settings before you start, and check again afterwards.
- Make sure the header on your McKinsey cover letter matches the one on your resume, check all the info for both you and the hiring manager.
- Identify the position you’re applying for without delay.
- List your aptitude in key responsibility and skill areas—and describe your achievements and metrics in those in the second paragraph.
- Show you know a little about what they do, and show them your passion.
- Be bold when closing—request a meeting or call, and sign formally.
Do you have any more questions about writing a cover letter for McKinsey? Did you find our McKinsey cover letter examples helpful? Leave us a comment, I’ll be more than happy to hear from you!