Those people who graduate from college with a less-than-stellar grade point average may be a bit concerned about their job prospects, especially in the twentieth century, when competition for positions is so fierce.
So can you get a job with a 2.5 GPA? The truth is that while it might be a bit more difficult to secure your first job in a relevant field if you have a lower GPA than your peers in the industry, but once you have an entry-level position, your work experience and attitude at your job are far more important than your academic grades.
If you’re exiting university with a GPA that is lower than you like, there’s still plenty of hope for you to get a job in the field you want. Read on to find out more about how GPA impacts your job prospects and how you can make up for having a low one in your job search.
GPA Only Matters on Your First Job
GPA only really matters when you first begin applying to entry-level positions out of high school or college, and here’s why—you don’t have any related work experience to show as proof of your value as an employee.
Because of this, prospective employers instead look to your scholastic performance not to see how intelligent you are, but rather to see how hard you’re willing to work, and whether you can effectively balance your academics and extracurricular activities.
Grades are important when you’re applying for a first job out of college or high school because they are indicative of how disciplined a prospective employee is, and where their values lie.
Low GPA Can Make You Less Competitive
The major disadvantage of leaving school with a low GPA (at least in comparison to those who got mostly As in school) is that employers are completely saturated with job applications, so those responsible for conducting new hires will take any opportunity to weed out less competitive applications. Applications can be thrown out for a variety of reasons:
- Not paying attention to the qualification requirements
- Misspellings or informal language
- Inappropriate personal or professional references
- Poor formatting of resume or curriculum vitae
- Lack of relevant work history
- Low scholastic grades
- No relevant extracurricular work
- No demonstrated soft skills
Each hiring manager will generally receive hundreds upon hundreds of applications for any given position, at least for positions that are open in larger industries, so to stand out from the crowd with a lower GPA, you have to have something to compensate.
Experience and Work History Matter More Than GPA
Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door in your chosen industry, your GPA doesn’t matter at all. No prospective employer cares about your GPA once you have relevant work history—they care how you actually performed in your field once you got a related job position.
Here are some of the other aspects of your professional career that matter much more than your GPA once you’ve landed a job in your field:
- Your work experience and positive professional references from your superiors
- Professional contacts and networking prowess
- Advanced certifications
- Relevant internships
- Successes in your field
At the end of the day, how you conducted yourself in school matters very little in comparison to how you conduct yourself at work. The further you advance in your career, the less and less important your scholastic performance becomes, and the more prospective employers will look to your work experience instead. GPA is just instrumental in being given the chance to show what you’re capable of.
Work Prospects and GPA Thresholds
While there are more important factors in getting a job than your GPA, GPA does factor into a hiring manager’s decision. Many companies operate under a GPA threshold for entry-level hires, typically 3.0 or above, according to US News. This is because a high GPA in school denotes several personality traits of a potential employee:
- Ability to perform under pressure
- Discipline and work ethic
- Motivation to succeed at any task assigned
- Ability to learn quickly
The GPA threshold is mostly a way for hiring managers to pare down their list of prospective employees, but it doesn’t have much use to a hiring manager beyond that. A prospective employee with a rather low GPA but who makes up for it in other ways on their resume and in their job interview can easily tempt a hiring manager who wouldn’t be interested in them based on their GPA alone.
Here are some important things to remember about your GPA and applying to a job straight out of school:
- Don’t lie about your GPA. Ever. For any reason. Not only can a prospective employer look this information up easily, as soon as your lie is revealed, but you will also be disqualified from the position for dishonesty (as you should be).
- Don’t leave your GPA off your resume. If you don’t have a strong work history coming out of high school or college, you need all the relevant information possible on your resume in order to increase your chances. A low GPA, while not ideal, is still better than not having graduated at all, and just graduating puts you ahead of those applicants who do not have a degree.
- For some positions, a high GPA is critical. Some companies depend more heavily on GPA than others, especially those with a research or scholastic bent, and these companies usually will bar any applicants who don’t meet the minimum GPA requirements from even applying.
How to Compensate for a Low GPA in a Job Interview
If you’re leaving school with a low GPA, that’s no reason to resign yourself to manning a fryer in a fast-food restaurant. There are many ways that you can compensate for your lower GPA during the interview process to show prospective employers that you are still serious about pursuing a position through them. Here are some of them:
- Don’t make excuses for your GPA. If it comes up during the job interview process, don’t make excuses for why your grades weren’t as good as you would have hoped. Instead of sympathizing with the reasons that you didn’t do well, hiring managers will only hear the griping of someone who blames their weaknesses on others.
- Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Instead of going on a tangent explaining why you didn’t do well, turn the conversation towards your strengths and any accomplishments you achieved during your academic career.
- Don’t sweat it and focus on the interview itself, not your grades. GPA is mostly used as a standard to cull out weaker prospective employees before calling the more tempting applicants in for an initial interview, so if you’ve made it to the interview process, chances are there was something on your resume that the employer was attracted to. Be confident in that knowledge.
Instead of keeping the topic centered on your academic shortcomings, be sure to have a list prepared of any of the following:
- Any volunteer work you did that is relevant to your field
- Certifications, advanced or otherwise (these can range from computer training certifications to online courses)
- Internship experiences that are relevant to the position you’re applying for
- Relevant professional and personal references (if you have any prior work history at all, here is where letters of recommendation can really come in handy)
If you don’t have a high GPA, you’ll need to have something else to show for your time to prove that you’ll be an asset to your prospective employer.
You Can Get a Good Job With a Low GPA
While a low GPA can make it somewhat more difficult to land an interview for your first entry-level job in your field, once you’ve gotten to the interview part of the proceedings, your good attitude and how you positively frame your past experiences will be far more important than your grades.