Creating your Consulting Résumé

With the wide use of LinkedIn and personal websites to promote yourself, the idea of a printable résumé may seem old-fashioned but in most cases, it’s still necessary. This article explains why and how a consulting résumé should differ from a traditional corporate résumé. It also includes tips for crafting a strong one.

First, the Top Three FAQs

Q: I’ve heard that having a bio is better for solopreneurs, it this true?

A: It depends on your type of work. For example, a coach or public speaker probably can use a one-page bio because their expertise is fairly narrow and relevant only in a certain context. On the other hand, consultants who do project work should have résumés that clearly reflect the types of projects they have done. That way potential clients can see the variety of situations in which they have made a difference.

Q: If I have a complete profile on LinkedIn, why do I need a résumé? 

A: You want to make it as easy as possible for a client to select you over other consultants. It’s true that practically every client will review your LinkedIn profile, but when it’s time to consider you vis-à-vis another consultant, they are probably going to want something they can print, write notes on, and/or easily share with others. Moreover, some people prefer to review documents like résumés away from their desk, for example while eating lunch or in the evening. It’s also likely that the person interviewing you is super busy, so they’ll want something they can easily skim before talking with you.

Q: Should I post my résumé to my LinkedIn profile or on my website? 

A: Yes, you want to make it easy for people to learn more about you.

Now that we’ve addressed why you should have a tailored résumé, let’s make sure it’s the right kind. Most people don’t realize that a consulting résumé is different than a traditional corporate résumé. Understanding the difference will make marketing yourself to potential clients more effective.

How a Consulting Résumé Differs

The purpose of a consulting résumé is to enable potential clients to clearly understand your expertise and how you can help them. Consequently, your consulting résumé should differ than your corporate résumé in three ways: length, format, and content.

LENGTH: Consulting résumés tend to be longer because they should include several project summaries to demonstrate expertise and accomplishments. It’s not uncommon for a consulting résumé to be three pages. That said, once you reach three pages or more, you may want to switch to a different format.

FORMAT: The best consulting résumés are a cross between a traditional chronological résumé and a functional résumé. These hybrids clearly highlight areas of expertise, listing select projects as evidence for each skill area. Also, these résumés usually have a section listing recognizable clients. Much lower in the document they include an abbreviated section for work history with only company names, locations, job titles, and dates. There is no need to list what you did in each job because you’ve already included relevant examples in the functional section. (Click here for an example.)

CONTENT: The two most important things in a consulting résumé are numbers and results, which aren't always the same thing. Numbers give a sense of scale and complexity; use them wherever possible. Use actual numbers instead of words so it’s easier to skim. Examples:

  • Analyzed 18 recent acquisitions to distill 5 best practices for M&A.
  • Developed strategy and implementation plan for 2-year program to align and simplify 65 HR policies and 3 systems across 21 domestic sites, impacting over 2,500 employees.

Results may or may not be quantifiable but be sure to list them for every project so your potential client understands how you made a difference. If your work isn’t quantifiable, say something qualitative. Examples:

  • Result was the smooth implementation of new expense-reporting software to 1,200 global employees, including the elimination of paper and faxing. (This gives a sense of scale and degree of change.)
  • 100% adoption of the new tool and process by 3,000 salespeople in the U.S. and Europe, with only 12 calls to the help desk in the first two weeks. 
  • 6 new global process owners clearly now accountable for monitoring process metrics to support the shift to a continuous improvement culture.

Remember, clients want to hire someone who is effective, not just smart. Take a critical look and make sure you describe the impact of your work. This is usually more important than how you did it.

Additional Résumé Tips

Here are 15 suggestions for presenting yourself as an excellent management consultant. (Nice use of an actual number; did you catch that? ;-)

  1. Don't use the word “executive." The word implies that you delegate and oversee the work but don’t personally do anything hands-on. While it’s true that the majority of clients are looking for a consultant who can think strategically like an executive, they are also looking for someone who will make things happen and “get sh*t done.” If you are trying to convey experience, use numbers and results instead. If you’re trying to convey seniority, don’t. The one exception to this guideline is if you are actually an interim executive, which one could argue is different than being a consultant.
  2. Do not include an objective statement. This is for someone looking for full-time employment.
  3. Do include a succinct summary near the top. Here, instead of simply listing your skills, phrase them from your potential client’s point of view. Summarize the types of problems you solve and/or how you make a difference on projects.
  4. Don’t just list your job titles, reporting relationships, and responsibilities. This information isn’t very relevant to someone who wants to hire you for a project; they want to know what you have done to make a difference on initiatives and how you may be able to help them.
  5. Definitely include examples of problems you’re helped to solve, projects you’ve done, and how you made a difference.
  6. Be succinct. Show the reader that you are easy to work with and to the point. Use bullet points so it is easy to skim but avoid long lists. Résumé experts recommend no more than three examples per topic.
  7. Use strong verbs like created, persuaded, analyzed, interpreted, summarized, influenced, spearheaded, drove, managed, led. Avoid phrases like “assisted with” and “was part of a team that.” Instead of “coordinated” say “produced.” Review each of your verbs and try to make them more powerful.
  8. Use your professional email address, not your personal email address. (Related article here.)
  9. Consider adding a “tag line” below your name in the résumé header. This is a short phrase that summarizes your area of expertise. (See related article on knowing your niche.)
  10. List clients if they are well known companies. If not, omit this section.
  11. Have plenty of white space so it’s easy to skim. If you’re not sure, ask someone. If you see large blocks of text, delete less relevant projects and/or use bullet points. Warning: Consultants tend to be particularly susceptible to violating the “white space rule”!
  12. Do not include a photo on your résumé, but it’s critical that you have a professional one on LinkedIn. On the other hand, most bios do include a photo.
  13. Provide links to your LinkedIn profile, your website, your blog, or anything else that will help you gain credibility with the client. If you send or post your résumé as a .pdf document, double-check that links to material actually work.
  14. List education near the end. Omit dates to avoid unconscious age bias.
  15. Make sure it’s flawless and has consistent font sizing and spacing. Clients don’t want to hire someone who is sloppy or lacks attention to detail.

Finally, just for fun, here is the worst résumé we’ve ever seen from an independent consultant. Name changed to protect the guilty.