Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Don’t Focus Too Much on GPA

Recent and soon-to-be college graduates often bemoan or revel in their grade point averages (GPAs), depending on the number, as they apply for postgraduation employment. Even those in the workforce for several years often keep their GPA as an important line item on their résumés.


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This is understandable. For many younger job applicants, a GPA is the primary credential they can offer, having spent little or no time in the workforce. The GPA represents the result of 4 or more years of hard work and study and is a tangible factor in valuing the output of that hard work.

What’s Wrong with a Focus on the Numbers?

According to some experts, a GPA shouldn’t be and, in many cases, isn’t relied upon heavily by potential employers. According to a recent study by Kingsley Leadership Academy, only 12% of those surveyed at the C-suite level think grades are an important consideration when hiring new employees.

The big challenge is that many employers find that there is really very little correlation between a strong GPA and success on the job. After all, the classroom experience doesn’t adequately reflect on-the-job realities of successful performance that are impacted by interactions that simply don’t exist in the classroom. The ability to effectively serve customers—internal and external—for instance, is less educational than emotional.

So, what should employers, HR professionals and hiring managers focus on instead of GPAs?

What Really Matters?

Instead of focusing on GPAs, employers and experts are increasingly putting greater emphasis on indicators of skills. This could obviously include past employment experience. But for recent graduates who are limited in that respect, other activities like volunteering, internship, or experiential learning programs can help highlight nonacademic skills.

Of course, the right focus for assessment depends on one’s chosen profession. Those hiring for positions in certain professions, such as finance, will often place a greater emphasis on strong academic credentials than other professions.

GPA has long been a key factor that applicants—especially recent graduates—like to highlight on their résumés. But top executives and hiring managers often place less importance on grades than many applicants may think. Instead, they are looking at factors that indicate the applicant has the skills necessary to succeed on the job—not in a classroom.

Are you—and your hiring managers—using the right criteria to assess talent and potential?