I remember this time during college, very well. I’d be graduating, soon. So I’d periodically pull out my transcript and stare at my GPA, trying to mentally manipulate it into growing larger and more respectable. I guess I thought that if I stared hard enough, somehow I could make my GPA look more attractive to employers.
A desperate disbelief that six years of college was almost down the drain, I’d revert to a plea bargain with phantom interviewers:
“Sure… a recruiter will think a 2.7 is close enough to a 3.0. AND if I look at just the classes in my major, I have a 3.4! I’m a good person. They’ll give me a chance – then I can show them how great I am! They’ll hire me… even with my low GPA. …won’t they?”
“Mr. Blutarsky… Zero… point… zero…”
Fast forward several years… now I’m the one interviewing – and hiring. And my hiring track record is extremely solid.
Because I’m a tough interviewer. I ask for quantified examples. I ask about your goals. I study how you present yourself, and how you choose your words. To give me a better idea of your real, non-interview personality I ask questions about your hobbies and interests outside work.
If you ever face me across the interviewing table, however, there’s one question you’ll never get from me… (and this may come as a surprise to many candidates):
I will never, ever ask you for your GPA.
Skills Pay the Bills
Wait! But I worked my ass off in college for an above average GPA!
Sure, for some industries like aeronautics or pre-med your GPA provides an indication of aptitude. And certainly if you plan to attend grad school a solid GPA is a must. And, I know there are still some recruiters and career experts who strongly believe that GPA is more important than I do.
But for me, I’d much rather you came to me with internships and solid soft skills on your resume. That tells me what you can do – for me… from day one. This is a business, not a Spelling Bee; an “A” earned in Anthropology 101 doesn’t tell me much about how well you’ll contribute.
Exception to the Rule?
“Surely other employers want to see my high GPA on my resume!”
Yes, some do. But I wouldn’t count on it getting you a job when you’re competing against someone perhaps less book-smart – but who is a better communicator, problem-solver and has more practical experience.
Need more evidence? Ok. Monday night’s InternPro Twitter Chat discussed “Making the Epic Leap from Classroom to Cubicle”. Question 5 during the chat was:
What is one area of the job search we focus on too much… that in reality isn’t a big deal to employers?
A fair number of chat participants, including a successful start-up CEO, career coaches and others, stated that GPA just doesn’t matter to hiring decisions.
Mark Babbitt (@YouTernMark), YouTern’s President and CEO, led the answers to Question 5 with a concise: “GPA #InternPro.”
In reply to Mark’s initial GPA comment, Recruiting Sourcing Analyst, Kara Singh (@KaraSingh), replied: “Very true! I don’t even look at GPA! #InternPro”
From Spring Hill College, Elizabeth Dexter-Wilson (@ResumeDrEliz) added: “AGREE on the GPA issue #InternPro”. (Emphasis, hers)
Gen Y author Isa Adney (@IsaAdney) added her take on a GPA’s weight with her comment: “No need to worry about GPA. I was surprised when I started going on interviews that no one asked or cared. #InternPro”. Isa also said: “GPA helps 4 scholarships, grad school, and for developing the overachieving skills you’ll need in the workplace. # not imp 4 jobs. #InternPro”
Only one notable dissenter from the consensus was our friend Tracy Brisson from career coaching website Opportunities Project (@oppsproject):
“I disagree on a few things. I value GPA and resume format highly. I don’t read resumes with low GPA and that don’t look good. #internpro”
In a recent blog post, Mark Babbitt summed up quite well the relevance of GPA to your chances of being hired, when he said:
“To hire the right person, I don’t need an entire resume section dedicated to GPA. Nor do I need one-third of a page listing ‘relevant coursework’”… “No one hires students. We hire young professionals capable of doing the job, right now. And your resume should reflect what you can DO for me now – and not what you DID in a classroom.”
My own advice to soon-to-graduate seniors and college students who stare at their transcript stressing that a number encapsulates their existence and represents their value proposition to an employer…
Use that time spent staring for far more useful activities… network… volunteer… acquire internships (even if you’re about to graduate, or have already graduated). Gain relevant skills now that will show recruiters you’re “capable of doing the job, right now.”
Have a less than stellar GPA? Unless your GPA is zero… point… zero… I’ll hire you anyway.
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Community Manager and Content Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s overall “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Follow Dave on Twitter!