Image courtesy of Christina Wocintechchat
You’ve crafted the perfect resume—your skills and achievements are tailored to fit the dream job you’re after, your profile is impressive, and even the length is spot-on, with not a typo in sight. But wait! Your GPA is missing.
Is that a problem? Do employers care about applicants’ grade point averages? Should you include your GPA in every resume you send out? Does it make a difference if it’s rather low or particularly high?
We’ve asked the experts to weigh in, and here’s what we’ve found.
Yes, no, and maybe
Job search strategist and executive resume writer Maureen McCann responded to our query with a question of her own: “What do you call a medical student who graduated at the bottom of their class? Doctor.” In other words: “If you’ve graduated, you’ve earned the title regardless of your grade point average.”
More to the point, McCann has “yet to hear about an employer asking for a GPA score on a resume.” Still, she adds, an impressive GPA of 3.8 or 4.0 is a huge accomplishment.
“Does it need to be there? No,” she continues. “Does a great GPA make you stand out as a candidate? Yes. It implies hard work, dedication, persistence, commitment and other attributes that may impress or at the least influence a hiring manager.”
The way you can include your GPA can be part of a phrase (A+ student 10 years running) or in title format (Bachelor of Science | ABC College | 4.0 GPA).
When you don’t have a great GPA
If your GPA isn’t good enough to feature proudly on your resume, McCann says to switch focus. The absence of your grade point average on your resume won’t make you less attractive as a candidate, she explains, but you should feature other things that play to your strengths. These might include academic subjects that you did well in, plus any extracurricular activities including social clubs, athletics, arts, and community work.
In fact, your low GPA might be at least in part attributable to your involvement in those activities. If you also held a part-time job through college, your ability to focus on getting high grades would have taken another hit. Be ready to address the reasons underlying a low GPA in your interview.
When you list those extracurricular activities on your resume, make sure to include the skills you learned from them. These could be numerous, including how you developed leadership ability, communication skills and learned how to provide great customer service. Align those skills with the job you’re applying for.
Read more: How to Make a Resume for Your First Job
When to drop the GPA
Omit your GPA from your resume if you think it’s too low to help or might even hurt you. Generally the cut-off point is 3.0, which is the average nationwide; anything below that isn’t going to help. Don’t lie about it though. It’s too easily checked by prospective employers and getting caught in a falsehood could definitely cause more harm than good.
After you’ve been working for a few years, your work experience and accomplishments become more relevant than your GPA. When your professional experience is limited or non-existent, as it often is for recent college graduates, your GPA could be seen as a kind of performance indicator by certain employers especially when applying for extremely competitive positions.
If you’re a woman, you might also want to drop your GPA from your resume, even if it’s 4.0 or higher. We’ve looked at this blatant bit of discrimination and sexism before, but the bottom line is that it’s still probably better to highlight your marketable skills than that stellar grade point average—especially if you majored in math.
Consider this: A Wharton study “found that for jobs in STEM fields, women and minority candidates with 4.0 GPAs were treated the same as white male candidates with 3.75 GPAs.” The researchers attributed this to implicit bias, and note that the same did not occur in humanities and social sciences.