The Job Market: Professionals weigh in on what your GPA tells employers

Some employers have begun to use the grade point average of applicants as the key indicator for employability.

“GPA has always been important, but the post-downturn job market has raised the importance of GPA,” said Jason Aldrich, executive director of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business Career Management Center.


How fields look at GPA 

Technical and business are the most common fields in which employers hold an applicant’s GPA over job experience.

“Typically, the more technical the field, the more importance employers place on GPA,” Aldrich said.

Fields in non-profit, government and private affairs also look at GPA and sometimes pay employees more for higher GPAs.

According to Calvin Green, owner of the Midtown office of Express Employment Professionals, GPA is relevant in positions where companies are “looking for the brightest of the best.”

Most companies utilize a software application called the applicant tracking system (ATS) for online recruitment and applications.

“GPA is one of many valid screening criteria for employers,” Aldrich said.

However, the way companies use the GPA to filter applicants differentiates, according to William Bogner, Associate Professor of Managerial Sciences.

Companies may establish a bare minumum requirement for GPA in order to rule out seemingly unqualified applicants.

“Someone who is making a serious hire may have a mean or low GPA they use as a filter to say ‘if you don’t clear this minimum hurdle, then I’m not going to look at it,’” Bogner said.

Once applicants meet minimum grade point average requirements, companies look at more qualitative measures, such as the rigor of classes and related work experiences.

What a GPA says about an applicant


To employers, an applicants’ GPA does not only define the type of student, but also implies the type of employee the applicant will be.

“A GPA is a reflection of ability,” said Maggie Tolan, rofessional and director of Graduate Career Services and Student Life in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. “Your GPA is answering for employers quite quickly what you can do.”

Based upon the skills and tools needed to maintain a solid grade point average, it can showcase skills such as detail, attendance, academic behavior and maturity.

However, a GPA is not always the most accurate indicator of a student or applicant’s skill sets. Throughout college careers, many students undergo situations that force them to make decisions that can affect their grade point average.

In this case, Bogner said looking beyond the GPA and at what “drives that number” is best.


Experience vs GPA

Many career fields focus less on the grade point average of an applicant and more on work experience, networking and common knowledge.

The qualification a college graduate going into the business of music industry needs differs from those of a graduate going into the technical, public policy or business industry.

Instead, Bogner said “things that would get [the graduate going into the music industry] into networks, even small part-time jobs that he can put on his vitae” would be more valuable for the student.


What professionals suggest for students

After graduation, many college students only have their college degree and GPA for employers to judge in most entry-level positions.

“A GPA is all you have,” Tolan said. “You need it to be good.”

The GPA is also sometimes the only way for applicants to move further in the job search and to receive an interview.

“GPA is in the top three for everyone, in highly technical fields it is number one or two to ensure you are considered for an interview,” Aldrich said. “Once you land the interview, you must continue to demonstrate you have the skills, experience and interpersonal qualities employers seek.”

The interview is an outlet for the applicant to make a more personal impression on the prospective employer than the GPA would.

Bogner said once students receive the interview, “everything on paper is off the board.”

However, Green said once college graduates make it through the application process, GPA-based or not, they continue to struggle at the next step: the communication.

“In my business, I am shocked at how many college graduates have called looking for work and do not know how to present themselves on the phone,” Green said.

This error stems from college graduates not understanding the actual job search.

“The way you come across over the phone, depending on the culture of the job, may come across as the right fit for it,” Green said.

Ultimately, the showcase of a solid grade point average on a resume is sometimes the only way to enter into entry-level career positions due to the competitive job market.

“I think within one year or less of being in the workforce, no one is going to give a shit about your GPA,” Bogner said.