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How IKEA can help you craft the perfect CV

Posted by Khaled Kteily on in Preparing Your Applications
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Have you ever shopped at IKEA? Yes, of course you have. That means you've spent hours with an Allen key, and your blood, swear and tears. The result? Furniture that you are damn proud of.

The Ikea Effect - which is well-profiled by social psychologists and has been analyzed by the Harvard Business Review - is the tendency to value something more because you made it. So why is that relevant when you're putting together your application?

If you're applying for consulting jobs (and really, any job at all), remember: just because you spent a lot of time doing something, doesn't mean that recruiters care! Remind yourself of the qualities that recruiters really care about: leadership, teamwork, analytical skills, and all that jazz (Working on your application? Make sure you give 'The 6 steps to success' a read).

Back at McGill, I was involved with the organization of McGill's international case competition for several years in different roles. I was ultimately selected to co-chair it. While my CV originally had bullet points about each role (I added a new bullet point every year rather than rewriting from scratch), I realized that by far and away the most relevant role was my co-chair role, where I was actively managing a 10+ person committee. I ended up dropping the bullet points about my other roles so I could devote more space to the co-chair role.

Next, I decided that I wanted to emphasize the following 3 aspects:

1. Prestige and scale (to show it was an important role)

2. Salesmanship (successfully pitching to executive sponsors)

3. Leadership (managing a team of 10+ individuals over a year).

I downplayed the logistics of event planning and balancing the budget, because I didn't think the logistical component was as important for consulting, and I had already shown analytical skills elsewhere. I also didn't write about the relationships we built with schools and students around the world - an amazingly meaningful experience, but something best discussed in an interview rather than taking up valuable CV real estate. This allowed me to have a few key takeaways that were easy to understand for a recruiter:

1. This was a prestigious/challenging role

2. It involved direct contact with executives and corporate sponsors

3. I had to be an effective leader to successfully run the event

You can't - and shouldn't - try to demonstrate every skill in every role. Think about what skills are most relevant to each role, and what you can do to complement the rest of your CV when you're adding or modifying a position.

In fact, this speaks to a broader comment about your CV. Every experience you have listed says something about you, and it's your responsibility to craft a story out of that. Let me give you a personal example.

A few years ago, I was deciding between internships at L'Oreal, Deutsche Post, and Chubb Insurance. I started by speaking to a recruiter at a major consulting firm to confirm that any of the above would position me well for consulting recruiting, which was a good way to remind them that I existed and was getting internship offers. I then sat down and analyzed my CV to figure out where I was the weakest. At the time, it was demonstrated analytical ability. I figured that a role in underwriting would prove that I was good with numbers, and so I accepted the internship in underwriting.

Now when it came to putting the role on my CV, I focused on two things: analytical skills (of course) and initiative. Here's where the IKEA effect comes into play: while I discussed conducting risk analyses on 50+ companies, I also emphasized a model that I built to help underwrite the risk of universities.

The model I created took just 2 weeks of work over a 16-week internship (12.5% of my time), compared to what I did the rest of my time: working with brokers, researching companies, comparing risk to other companies that we had underwritten. Still, I knew that a recruiter would be much more interested in seeing an example of proactivity in an analytical context.

Ultimately, I was right - in my Monitor first-round interviews, I spent about 20 minutes discussing the details of how the model worked, how I built it, and what the outcome was.

So sit down and look over your CV. Are you showing analytical skills, leadership, entrepreneurship, and impact? Take a read through Part 2 of the 6 Steps to Success to get a better sense of what consulting firms are looking for from applicants.

Thanks to David El-Achkar (ex-McKinsey) for his input on this post and the IKEA effect.

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Guest Jun 16, 2019