Help! My GPA stinks, and I am getting blocked from jobs.

Having a weaker GPA doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find a good opportunity. It does mean that you may need to work harder to prove yourself and should have a clear explanation ready to explain your grades. Here are a few tips to get you past some sticking points:

Applying to jobs online

Darn those pesky online job application GPA requirements. If you don’t have a good GPA, try to avoid entering it in the system. If there is a specific GPA data field, it is likely easy for the person reviewing resumes to filter out your resume by GPA alone. If you can avoid it, don’t enter your GPA if it doesn’t meet the minimum standard. 

If the system does require you to enter your GPA online, check for alternate methods of applying, before submitting online. Do you know someone who works at the company who can submit your resume on your behalf? Alternatively, check if there is an option to submit the job application via LinkedIn or other social media site (which may not require you to post your GPA). Finally, try to send it to the recruiter or manager directly.

If you have a lower GPA for a reason that would impress an employer, highlight the reason in your resume or cover letter. Note: Do not state, “while my GPA is low” or point out that your grades were lower than the job requirements…just wow them with what you have accomplished. Here are a couple examples:

“Worked 30 hours a week while attending school full-time.”

“Maintained two part-time jobs, and managed volunteer pet shelter while completing degree.”

If your major GPA is substantially better than your overall average,  it is okay to only list your major GPA. Just note that recruiters will likely realize that you left it off intentionally.

Explaining your GPA in person

You made it to the interview, and think it is all smooth sailing, until your interviewer asks about your GPA. What do you do?

If you were working while going to school, or managing multiple responsibilities, let them know. For example:

“While in school, I was also the Captain of the Soccer team and was very involved in club activities. I wanted to make sure my experiences in college helped me to become a more well rounded person. While this did impact my academics at the time, I also learned how to be a team player, a better citizen and a leader. These experiences, have made me a more valuable employee, for example, while at [name of former internship or company], I [explain value you were able to add, related to non-academic experience].”

If you had lower grades your first year or two, and then your GPA improved substantially (or your major GPA was stellar), let them know. Here is an example:

“In my Freshman and Sophomore years in college, I was finding myself and was admittedly not as focused as I should have been in school. By my Junior year, I decided it was time to change and became a more serious student. In my first two years, my GPA was a 2.1, in my Junior and Senior year, my grade average was a 3.5. While my overall GPA is lower due to my first couple years in school, I was able to bring my grades up substantially, and make the honors list in my last semester.”

Don’t let a lower GPA prevent you from applying to a job, because one thing is for sure: if you don’t apply you definitely won’t be hired. Instead, show yourself as a strong candidate by highlighting your strengths. Focus on work, volunteer and other experience that demonstrate that you would make an intelligent, dedicated employee.

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