Addressing a group of graduating students in the spring of 2001, George W. Bush uttered the now infamous comment, “To all the C students, I say, ‘You, too, can be President of the United States.’” Bush supporters got a big chuckle out of the remark, as they felt it demonstrated the man’s sense of humor. For those detractors already convinced the former Texas Governor was a few brain cells short, the comment served as further evidence that the wrong presidential candidate was occupying the White House.
Regardless of which side of the political fence you reside, Bush’s comment opens the door to an important conversation: Should a person’s GPA really matter when they are applying for a job? Is it truly an accurate predictor of what kind of employee they will be?
Naturally, it depends who you ask. According to a CareerBuilder survey, just half of employers have a specific GPA requirement. Of those that do, 25 percent received a GPA of 3.0 or higher, while 12 percent required higher than a 3.5. Just 1 percent was looking for a perfect 4.0.
Some fields prize a high GPA more than others. These include accounting, nursing, and highly technical fields like engineering and computer science, where a mastery of the body of knowledge is necessary. Large companies which are likely to receive thousands of applications for each opening may look to GPAs to help them weed out less-desirable candidates.
Where you are in your career also matters. A recent graduate may be judged by their GPA simply because they don’t have much else for the employer to review. However, an experienced professional is far more likely to be judged on their experiences and accomplishments than a two- or three-decade-old GPA.
Increasingly, employers are looking to factors other than GPA when reviewing applicants. They are more interested in a potential employee’s relevant professional experience (including internships), portfolio, presentation skills, and writing skills. Time management is also a key indicator, as is how the employee learns, their ability to give and receive feedback, and their ability to apply theory to real-life situations.
Regardless of whether your GPA was stellar or lackluster, don’t leave it off an application if an employer asks for it. Such an omission will only lead them to assume the worst and you may find yourself eliminated from the running unnecessarily. Never inflate your GPA, although you can fudge things a bit by listing your Major GPA, rather than your overall GPA, as long as you designate it as such.