Emmit from ITESM asked:
“At the beginning of my studies I had some personal problems that affected my performance, at the end I did very good on my courses but I have a bad GPA. How should I handle this situation on an interview?”
Hello Emmit. I am sure many other students can relate to your challenge of having a personal issue that affected their grades in college. You may be surprised to know that you are not alone and also relieved to hear that having a low GPA is not the end of the world for your job search.
According to a Fall 2016 National College Health Assessment, 50% of undergraduate students and close to 40% of graduate students in U.S. colleges found it traumatic or very difficult to handle academics in the past year. Many students have difficulty adjusting to college academic work and sometimes have added personal stresses
How Do I Find Employers that Don’t Screen for GPA When Hiring?
Although 70% of larger companies often screen for GPA when hiring (according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2017 Report) the good news is that many smaller employers do not screen for GPA when hiring. How do you find these employers?
- Look at job postings to see what the application requires. If the application form requires a GPA or transcripts, that may be an indication that GPA matters (not necessarily in all cases).
- Create a list of employers of interest and check in with your career service office at Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores (ITESM) to see which ones may not require a high GPA. Having worked in a college career service office for over 10 years, I had close relationships with many of the employers and their hiring requirements.
- Conduct informational interviews (brief 20-30 minute conversations with people who work at companies that interest you) and ask them how important was GPA in the application and interview process.
If I am Required to Disclose My GPA in My Application, What Can I Do to Offset This?
Show that you were balancing multiple activities outside of coursework. If you worked in addition to taking classes, specify how many hours/ week you were working. If you served as a leader of a student organization, be sure to include these additional activities and highlight any achievements on your resume. Relevant experience in your field can often be more important than a high GPA. Be sure to highlight any internships, relevant coursework, academic projects and volunteer work that may demonstrate relevant skills in your field.
If I Do Get Asked About My GPA During an Interview, What Should I Say?
While it is unlikely that you will get asked to explain your GPA in an interview (especially if your GPA is not required for your application), it could happen. Think about what happened and how you can frame it into a positive story. Leave out any deeply personal issues that may be awkward and hard to explain or that might raise a red flag.
As a hypothetical example, you might say that your family’s financial circumstances changed and you ended up having to work two jobs while taking a full load of classes to help cover your tuition and that your grades suffered. Be sure to add that you were able to work hard and pick your grades back up in your final year. Employers like to hear that you can bounce back from adversity.
Best of luck to you with your job search Emmit!