So you’ve just completed a major achievement: finishing college and earning your degree. Congratulations! Think you’re ready to leave college behind? You may have to think again, as a number of HR reps use academic performance to gauge job performance. For new graduates pursuing entry-level jobs, grades can be a particularly important indicator of future success or at least work ethic. In the past few years, the entry-level job search has become more competitive with recent college graduates, grad school graduates, and more experienced applicants vying for the same positions.
It’s not always clear just how important grades will be in a hiring interview. A lot is left to the individual HR manager’s hiring style, and industries may differ in how much importance they place on grades. It’s traditionally been large companies in particular fields, such as finance and engineering, that use GPA as an indicator of future job success. Some highly competitive positions in investment banking, for example, may require a GPA of 3.5 or higher for an applicant to even be considered.
This isn’t always the case though, which makes it hard to determine how important your grades will be to you getting hired. For instance, in a 2011 survey of companies most known to hire college graduates, many indicated grades were not considered to be an important factor in hiring. Instead, one’s undergraduate major rated highest in importance, followed by internship experience or overall applicable skill sets.
Explaining Academic Performance
Even though you can’t be sure which employers will value high marks, it’s important to treat all employers as if they may potentially see your GPA as an important factor. A specific question an interviewer may ask, particularly for entry-level jobs, is whether you think your grades were a good indication of your academic achievement. This allows you the opportunity to explain low grades or to highlight other academic achievements, such as internships, awards, extracurricular activities, or ungraded coursework. If you’re concerned about how to present your grades during your job search, do some research with friends or online; there is plenty of interview and job application help available.
If you want to show off your GPA, you can simply list it in the education section of your resume. If it’s under 3.0, you might want to omit it, and be prepared to answer any grade-related questions that may come up in the interview. In addition, you have the option of listing your GPA for your major, since this may be higher, in addition to or separate from your overall GPA.
Other Factors in Hiring
There are also many other factors at play in a hiring decision. Networking and solid references may allow you to bypass candidates with higher achievement in other areas; as they say, sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Trudy Steinfeld of the Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU, a center that offers application help to student jobseekers, places more importance on leadership and communication skills that can’t be so easily summed up in a GPA. In a New York Times interview, Steinfeld said that while employers often use grades to screen candidates for jobs, “Nobody even cares about GPA after a few years.” Once you get your foot in the door, it’s your experience on the job that employers will be concerned about so keep your head up if you don’t have the best GPA. A solid track record of working hard will more than make up for that.