Pat O’Brien’s response:
Your GPA is more important than ever in most fields, particularly if you’re interested in working for a large or mid-sized company. It is a well-known fact that the job market has been challenging for the past several years. That alone would indicate that a strong GPA is an obvious differentiator.
What you may not know, however, is that most large and mid-sized employers use something called “applicant tracking systems.” When you apply to these companies, you apply via their websites. The application is embedded in their applicant tracking system, so by applying online, you become a part of their searchable database of candidates. If you were a recruiter with a searchable database and had 200 students interested in your 16 available interview slots on a campus, which variable would you search first to narrow your pool of candidates? The obvious answer is GPA. If you have 70 candidates with a 3.4 or above, how motivated would you be to look deeper in the pile? For most, the answer is “not very.” While you may find a hidden gem if you do, you then have to justify to your boss why you did not offer someone with a 3.5 an interview, but gave one to someone with a 2.6. This too is less than ideal.
Get the best GPA you are capable of achieving. If possible, get it above a 3.4. If you think this is unreasonable, let me ask you this: If I offered you $100,000 to maintain a 3.4, could you do it? If so, do it — as it will likely be worth much more than that over the life of your career if you get a better starting job because of it. If you can’t achieve get a 3.4, do all you can to get a 3.0 or above.
Pat’s bottom line: Your GPA matters — a lot. Step up your game, if needed, to get a GPA that is good enough to get you into the game.
Dr. Susan Davis-Ali’s response:
I hate when I have to admit that Pat knows more about a topic than I do, but on this one, he’s got me beat. With not much to add in light of the detailed description of the applicant tracking system, I would simply remind students with lower GPAs that it’s not always what you know, but who you know that matters.
It’s time to leverage your network to the fullest. It’s time to figure out who you know who can help you get your foot in the door for an interview. Start calling your long-lost relatives from coast to coast and see who they know.
Also consider whether there are special circumstances contributing to your lower-than-desirable GPA. If there are, be ready to talk about those circumstances during an interview.
As someone who has interviewed hundreds of candidates, I might be more impressed with a 3.0 student who worked two jobs to put herself through school than I am with the 4.0 student who never worked a day in college, but you need to land the interview first so you can tell me your story.
Susan’s bottom line: If your GPA is not where it needs to be to get an interview, reach out to everyone you know to find a way to get your foot in the door.
Are you transitioning from college to career or working in your first job after graduation? If so, we’d love to answer any question you may have related to career success. Send your first name, school, and/or employer to AskPatandSusan@gmail.com and we’ll try to address your question in a future article.
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