If you're like most college grads, you're officially on the hunt for your first postgrad job. You're putting the final touches on your resume, getting started on cover letters, and maybe even practicing tough interview questions so you can land the perfect gig.
But now that you're officially no longer a student, what about your grades? How much does your GPA really matter in the job search process?
We'll walk through the answers to these questions and outline best practices for using your GPA when applying for your first job.
Does my college GPA matter?
Your college GPA matters to employers (sometimes). We know this isn't the straightforward answer that you were hoping for, but hear us out.
A GPA of 3.0 or higher is usually preferred by most companies that hire entry-level candidates because it shows a real commitment to academic success.
Employers tend to value the following qualities:
A strong work ethic
Dependability and responsibility
And recruiters view strong grades as a by-product of these qualities.
Also, GPA is regularly used as a first step in shuffling through job candidates, especially for highly competitive positions. In fact, research has shown that hiring managers only spend about 7 seconds reviewing a resume before moving on to the next candidate. And your grade point average is usually one of the first things they look at to determine whether or not you'll move on to the next step.
This is especially true for jobs in finance, accounting, tech, and engineering since new grads often flock to these fields. Having a GPA of 3.5 or higher is always an asset here. But even if you're applying for something outside of these categories, your grades can help get you noticed.
Should I put my GPA on my resume?
The answer to this question depends on two things: how much work experience you have and how high of a GPA you earned. If you’re entry level in your field or recently graduated, you should make sure and have this information visible for hiring managers.
Intermediate or experienced level professionals rarely ever list their GPA on their resume because they have other achievements and work experience to highlight.
As a new grad, most of your accomplishments up to this point will revolve around school, so naturally, you'll want to use a strong GPA to your advantage. Just keep in mind that a competitive grade point average alone won’t get your resume to the top of the interview pile. You’ll also want to include the following:
A professional-sounding email address (hotgirl99@gmail won’t cut it)
Relevant skills and any activities and accomplishments that help you stand out
Volunteer experience (spelled out using action verbs)
A strong professional summary that overshadows your lack of work experience
Recruiters also suggest finding ways to link your GPA to other accomplishments. Reference letters from people who can vouch for your character and leadership abilities can be especially helpful here.
What if my college GPA is lower than 3.0?
The only time you should avoid listing your GPA on your first after-graduation resume is if it's lower than a 3.0. For some fields, this cut-off may be 3.3.
Think about it: what's a 3.3 GPA? This is just above a B average. In the eyes of most recruiters, this is enough to show that you challenged yourself with tougher classes in college yet still managed to keep relatively high grades throughout.
A GPA that is lower than this draws attention to the fact that you averaged a B or lower in most, if not all, of your classes. This might send a signal that you weren't as dedicated to your college career as you should have been.
But thankfully, this isn't the end of the world. There are steps that you can take to make sure your grades don't hinder your job search. These include:
Including the GPA of classes related to your major instead of overall GPA
Leaving your GPA off of your resume/application unless asked for
Preparing a solid explanation to use during future interviews when asked about your GPA
The last suggest can be especially helpful if you struggled early on in school but then picked things up. For example, you might explain during an interview that your most recent four semesters are evidence of your actual academic abilities. In this case, be sure to be fully upfront and honest, but avoid sounding defensive.
After you score your first job, you’ll be able to rely less on your GPA. Until then, employers will probably be considering it as a way to assess your ability to perform well. If you have a high GPA, you’re on the right track! Highlight it in the education section of your resume and use it as a strong point during your interview.
If your grade point average isn’t what you would like it to be, that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. Just make sure that you take responsibility and highlight what you can do well versus what you’ve struggled with (wins over losses).