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Resume Format for a Principal Consultant

by Ruth Mayhew

Principal consultants typically have an area of expertise they want their resumes to illustrate. Whether she’s an engineering consultant or a management consultant, a principal consultant may more clearly express her expertise using a resume format that focuses on professional competencies instead of work history and chronology of consulting jobs.

What vs. When

Functional resumes contain short descriptions of professional competencies, such as a principal consultant’s expertise in designing exit strategy for startup companies. These short, two- to three-sentence paragraphs describe the consultant’s capabilities and experience – namely, the “what.” On the other hand, a chronological resume’s general focus is the companies the consultant worked for and the employment dates, or the “when.”

Functional Resume Style

Formatting a functional resume is relatively simple. With the exception of work history, many of the other resume categories remain the same, such as education and training, areas of expertise, licenses and certifications and employers. The difference between a functional and chronological resume is the amount of space devoted to employment dates and work history. In a functional resume, the principal consultant’s list of employers’ names, employment dates and job descriptions is compact.

Resume Layout

Principal consultants looking to land a job with another consulting firm should make it clear that they're principal consultants -- the top of the hierarchy in many consulting firms, or the consultant who’s primarily responsible for cultivating client relationships. An introduction -- situated just below the consultant’s name and contact information in the header -- indicates the consultant’s position and years of experience. The areas of expertise come next. It’s easy on the reader’s eyes to put these one- or two-word descriptors in a table format. For example, areas of expertise for a principal consultant whose line of work is in human capital management might include “HR Development/Training,” “Compensation Structuring,” “Business Development” and “HR Management Strategy.”

What Do You Do

You’ll rarely hear a consultant simply say, “I’m a consultant” when she answers typical cocktail conversation starters, such as, “What do you do for a living?” The likely follow-up question is "What kind of consultant?" So you often hear, for example, “I’m in management consulting for global tech firms” or “I’m the principal consultant for XYZ Engineering.” Being a consultant is such a general term, it needs detail. That’s why a principal consultant’s resume should contain several professional competencies. For example, that human capital management consultant’s professional competencies might include short descriptions, such as “Design strategic compensation and benefits models for large organizations with employee base greater than 5,000, including variable pay, pay-for-performance and merit-based pay structuring.”

Impressive Clientele

Some circumstances warrant a little bragging about a principal consultant’s clientele. In this case, add a short list of six to eight clients to the resume, usually below the list of professional competencies. What constitutes impressive depends on whether the consultant’s practice focuses on large, multinational conglomerates or regional corporations with strong reputations for engaging cream-of-the-crop consultants.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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