If you have a low GPA, is all lost in the interview? No, but only if you handle the issue properly.
There is no question that a low GPA can and will impact your ability to interview successfully. However, what’s important is that a low GPA is much more likely to affect your ability to get the interview and is less likely to affect the interview itself. If an employer has scheduled you for the interview, then GPA is not one of the qualification gates, which it can be for many employers.
First of all, what is considered to be a “low” GPA? That depends on the employer. Some employers have a minimum of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, although more common is a minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (i.e. a B average). Yet many college students graduate with a GPA below that threshold. So how do you handle GPA if it comes up in the interview?
As mentioned in a prior blog post, it is recommended to not include your GPA on your resume if it is under 3.0. However, you can list your Major GPA if it is higher than 3.0 and your overall is less than 3.0. The absence of your GPA on your resume may prompt the “What is your GPA?” question either in a screening phone interview or the in-person interview. You need to be ready to answer and qualify that answer.
First, you will need to explain why your GPA is lower than your peers. If you were working concurrently with attending classes, say so. If your GPA was lower in your first year or two, say so. If your GPA is higher in your major classes (which are the most important to a prospective employer), say so. If there is something lacking, own it, then move on in a positive direction. If possible, pivot to the positive side of what makes you a good candidate for the job. Here is an example answer:
“My GPA is 2.8. My first year of college I did not yet have the focus on my classes that I now have. As a result, my GPA was lower, but I have since brought it up with the classes in my major, which are actually the most academically challenging classes. I have been working part-time to help finance my college expenses. That work experience has helped me become a better candidate. Would you like to hear more about my work experience?”
Pivot from a potential weakness to your strengths whenever possible in the interview. A low GPA can be a potential negative, but if you handle the question appropriately, you can use it as an opportunity to talk more about what makes you the best candidate for the job.