College. It’s a great place to get drunk, fall in love, smoke pot, and occasionally go to class. Your GPA may be great, or it may be awful, or it may be somewhere in between. GPAs don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life. Unless you are going to graduate school, your GPA doesn’t necessarily mean that you are more or less capable of doing a job. All it means is that you studied really well… or didn’t.
Yet for employers, the GPA is one of the only tools they have to use to figure out if you are worth hiring. You probably don’t have a great work history, and your resume is likely pretty slim. So the GPA is the only thing that can tell the employer:
- How hard a worker you are.
- How intelligent you are (probably).
- How much you paid attention in class.
It’s not the most accurate measure, but it is the only measure they have, so employers use it to assess your candidacy. There are arguably reasons to keep it off your resume, but many experts advise that you should list your GPA, so assuming you go that route, here is the best way to put it on the resume, based on GPA.
GPA of 3.8 to 4.0
Go ahead and list your GPA, up to 2 decimals for anything under 4.0 (eg. 3.92). 3.8+ is almost always a good enough resume for even the toughest of jobs. There may be a few elite careers that are unimpressed by anything under a 4.0, but most of those employers recruit directly out of college.
GPA of 3.5 to 3.8
This is still considered a good GPA, but try your best to back it up with the other work you did in college. 3.5 in an easy major isn’t as impressive as a 3.5 in organic chemistry, so make sure you prove that you are still worth hiring.
GPA of 3.0 to 3.5
Here we get into something more complicated. This GPA is not bad per se, but it’s not impressive either. It is simply a GPA like any other GPA. Check to see if your within-major GPA is better than your overall GPA. If so, only list your major GPA, and ignore the overall GPA. If it’s worse, consider doing the opposite (for example, “3.6 GPA in all core classes”) but only if the difference is considerable, since the GPA in your major is more impressive than the GPA you got in your basic classes. If they are about the same, list it regularly or don’t list it at all, preferably don’t list it at all unless necessary.
GPA less than 3.0
If your GPA is anything under 3.0, you need to look for a GPA within your grades that is more impressive. For example, if you had a 3.4 in your major but a 2.3 in your other classes, only list your within-major GPA. If you had a 3.5 overall during your junior and senior years, but you did extremely poorly during your freshman year, maybe you want to put that as well. Otherwise, consider leaving your GPA off the resume. Anything 2.9 or below is not selling yourself to the employer.
GPA Can Be Tough
Struggling only a little bit can cause your GPA to plummet. You may have worked hard for your 2.9 GPA or your 3.1 GPA and your hard work should be rewarded. But when it comes to resumes, the goal is not to share “good enough” achievements. The goal is to share your best achievements. 2.9 GPA may have taken a lot of work in a lot of hard classes, but it is not going to wow the hiring manager, so you should leave it off your resume. In the next post, we’ll look at how to address the GPA at the interview.
Take Away Tips
- Use your major GPA if it is higher than your regular GPA.
- Use your core class GPA as a last resort (overall and major GPA far better).
- Don’t list your GPA if it is under 3.0.
- Consider leaving off your GPA altogether if it is under 3.8 and you have other achievements.