Think Big Picture

I recently met with an undergraduate student applying for consulting internships. Despite having excellent grades at an Ivy League school and several impressive work experiences, he had not received call-backs from any consulting firms. It took me less than a minute to realize why that was the case.

There were major red flags on the resume: a leadership position at the pre-law campus group, an internship at a legal firm, and a research position for a law school professor. It doesn’t take a genius to put together the pieces and think that this student is probably thinking about going to law school. Why waste a competitive summer internship position on a student ¬†who probably has their heart set on law school the following year?

This story highlights a fundamental issue for all internship and job applicants: always put yourself in the position of the recruiter and review your application from an unbiased perspective. Of course this is easier said than done. Ask a friend or neighbor to look at your resume and cover letter and have them write down the three things they think of you after reading your documents. What is your biggest weakness given the qualifications for the position? Your greatest strength?

Applicants oftentimes focus so much time and effort on grammar, wording, and style that they lose sight of the elephant in the room. First, capture the main idea of what you are trying to convey to the employer and then figure out the details.


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