In the last post, we looked at how (and when) to place your GPA in your resume. In some cases you will want to avoid placing your GPA because it is not up to the standards you expect the company will appreciate. Anything below a 3.0 is troublesome for some of the better jobs, and even a 3.3 (a perfectly respectable GPA) can cause problems at some of the more competitive positions.
Recent graduates will likely have to address a “bad” GPA at the job interview. If you are asked your GPA, you cannot give them a fake answer, since they will find out. What you can give them are one of the answers below, based on what is most applicable to you.
Great GPA in Within-Major Classes
Most businesses are willing to overlook your bad GPA if your GPA was much better within your major. When that is the case, you can both put it on the resume and address it easily in your interview, with an answer like the following:
“While I struggled at the start of college during some of my core classes, once I was accepted into my major I maintained a 3.7 GPA in all of my Business Administration classes.”
Bad GPA – Good Excuse
If you have any excuse for why your GPA is bad, use it. It’s understandable. Don’t milk the excuse, but mentioning it is fine. If possible, it is also a good idea to qualify your answer with what you have to prove that it is not that big a deal.
“My GPA was affected by my sister getting ill. I spent a long time in the hospital taking care of her, dropping my GPA from 3.5 down to 2.7. As you can see from my portfolio, though, I have learned how to do X, Y, Z…”
Bad GPA – Good Finish
If you have a bad GPA but you ended your college life well because you decided to finally focus on school, you can use that too. Again, you don’t want to sound like the victim of your own misdeeds, but a brief mention is a good way to improve the answer.
“Overall my GPA ended lower than I would have liked at 2.9. Within the last year I realized how important my education was to me and since then I put all my effort into studying. My senior year I received a 3.7 in all of my classes.”
Bad GPA – Bad Finish, Bad Major Grades, No Excuse
Bad GPAs are bad GPAs. You can’t mask it and pretend it is a good grade when it isn’t. So instead, mention it quickly and discuss something that takes the focus away from the bad grade, like work experience, experience with specific programs relevant to the job, etc.
“Overall my GPA was a disappointing 2.6. Rest assured that number does not imply any inability to do the job. I am skilled at working with program X, and have two years of experience with program Y…”
Some Things Are Hard to Salvage
There are occasionally questions that come up during the interview where the real answer is going to harm your employment. For example, if your interviewer asks you if you have had experience with a task that you have had no experience with, and it is vital to the job, you still have to say “no,” and that may harm your chances.
GPA is similar. If you spent your 4 years of college struggling to maintain a high GPA (either because you slacked off or had trouble with your classes), that may affect your chances of getting a job. There isn’t much you can do about it. The best you can do is try to minimize its impact and hope that the rest of your answers make up for any doubt in the interviewer’s mind.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Do your best to minimize the GPA’s importance.
- Qualify your answer where applicable.
- Use a within-major GPA or senior year GPA if it is more impressive.
- Do your best during the rest of the interview.