How Does GPA Stack Up in the Real World?

You might ask yourself, how important is my grade point average when searching for a job?

In some aspects – it is not to be overlooked.  If the applicant has recently graduated, is seeking entrance into a top corporation, is in a highly competitive job market or in a highly technical field, then GPA (grade point average) remains extremely important even though it is not always the best predictor of future performance. For other opportunities, GPAs are being valued less, with the candidate’s potential for valuable future contributions weighted far greater.

However, for those with actual experience, the GPA, unless it is stellar, becomes irrelevant information. Once an employee has had a few positions, the actual value delivered to the organizations becomes the focus of the hiring manager.

All is not lost if your GPA wasn’t the highlight of your school career.  Here are some general tips on securing that job – perfect GPA or not.

  • Take advantage of employee referral programs inside of companies. Connect with current employees and sell them on your value. Then ask that they present you and your resume with a personal sales pitch to the organization. Many companies highly value candidate referrals from top-performing employees, often rewarding employees with cash upon a candidate’s hire and after the candidate is retained for six months to a year. Theory proposes you are only six degrees of separation from an employee in any desired organization.
  • Appear more business savvy than your co-workers. Read the top journals and publications in your chosen field. Avoid overkill on buzzwords but use key words in the examples you mention.  Study the company’s strategy and hone in on the key competencies it will take to support and deliver on the strategic direction such as
                 - learning agility
                 - ability to deal well with change
                 - motivating others
                 - being a leader in a team environment
                 - flexibility
                 - non-judgementalism
                 - inclusivity
                 - ability to connect with others
                 - openness to coaching and development

 

  • Provide concrete examples from your past in which you have exhibited these very competencies vital to the company’s future. Make the connection for the interviewing manager that you are fluent in the very “non-academic” competencies that will be important for success at the company.
  •  Refrain from providing stereotypical opinions about how those with great GPAs are “book smart” but not “business smart,” or from justifying your own lower GPA. If asked, be honest about your GPA, acknowledge it and smoothly highlight what you can bring to the table.
  • Be clear about the value you add to any situation such as the fact that you are low maintenance emotionally, results driven, or a great listener. Be prepared to highlight actual deliverables and the measurable benefit derived from your work as a volunteer, intern or project team member. 
  • Interviewers are hungry for personal accountability, appropriate candor, and results-driven candidates so take personal accountability for your GPA. Use words such as “I chose,” “I learned,” “I assumed,” “I denied,” etc. Be prepared to talk about what you learned from the situation. Account for how you got to where you are today and how you would choose to respond differently in the future without stories or excuses.
  • If you are a younger candidate, shatter the stereotype of your generation. State your willingness to forgo work/life balance to get experience in the field and to achieve success. Highlight the many ways you have given back to society through activism or volunteerism. 
  • Rather than references about your character, provide actual testimonials about your work ethic, teaming skills, and quality of your deliverables. 
  • A GPA becomes less important when you have recent experience. Don’t just do time as a volunteer or intern – deliver something instead such as a project or an improvement with measurable results.
  • Show extra effort in the study of the company – use social media to connect with people who have worked at or still work at the company and interview them. Don’t ask them how to get the job but about what would be most valuable to them in a co-worker. In your interview, mention that you sought out some employees and interviewed them to prepare for your interview.
  • Acknowledge your low GPA, if asked. Make no excuses. Use the phrase, “While I did not have a terrific GPA, I do bring xyz to the table.” Think features and benefits: “What I can do for your organization is …”   
Don’t be fooled, however. You can’t do lousy at college and expect an employer to foresee a total turnaround in your future. They have little incentive to take risks in this economy where experienced workers are in great supply. Show extra effort in some area of your life – if not in your GPA, because one truth remains: It truly is extra effort for extra opportunity, no matter how it is measured or valued in the hiring process.

Bottom line: If you have a high GPA, flaunt it. If you have an average GPA, spin it to show it in its best light such as highlighting your GPA for classes in your major or for your last two years of college in addition to your overall GPA. If you have a low GPA, outshine it with other attractive and compelling information that instills confidence in your potential value to the organization.  



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1 Comments

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    As an educator, I know that GPA tells very little about intellectual capacity. In fact, its more an indicator of a student who took easy classes. Ultimately, its a toss-up as to whether GPA is useful or is inflating ability.

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