As graduating college seniors get prepared for their next steps and new careers, that means one thing: resumes!
Resumes can be intimidating to the uninitiated. So formal and so full of rules. Like what to include and what not to include.
The GPA has always been a polemical topic when it comes to whether or not it belongs on a resume. Some think it’s ok for recent grads to include it, some think it depends on their particular situation.
Here are some schools of thought on the subject:
It’s Ok to Include It If
If you don’t have anything else to put on your resume just out of college, you’re not alone. Students who are just out of school and have no prior employment history need to focus on their college achievements in order to market themselves to employers. And that includes their academic performance and their GPA. Don’t be ashamed to highlight the hard work you did in college. It can help paint a picture of your level of discipline, intelligence and responsibility- all attractive qualities to hiring managers.
If the industry that you’re planning to enter is particularly competitive, like engineering or investment banking, it could be a good idea to include your GPA but only if it’s high (3.5 or above). Such a high GPA for courses known to be challenging may keep you out of the rejected pile until you get a chance to interview. These fields, especially engineering, rely on a candidate’s technical abilities and a high GPA can show that you’ve got the chops to do well in their company.
It’s Not Necessary to Include It If…
If you’ve done a lot of extracurricular activities such as volunteering, working, interning, holding important positions in clubs and organizations, starting your own business and other things, then you may not need to include your GPA. In this case, you’ll have a lot of other experiences to share with potential employers so you can choose to include it or not.
If your GPA is low, then simply don’t include it. There’s no need to advertise your academic struggles. There are lots of reasons why a student may have a lower GPA that doesn’t necessarily reflect their academic skills. If you took a series of particularly challenging courses, or changed your major, a lower GPA is expected. If you were ill for a semester or were dealing with personal problems that affected your ability to focus, it could have caused your GPA to dip. Focus instead on your strong points and successes. Include extracurricular activities, responsibilities, employment and other features. If you’re competent and possess strong leadership skills, unless an employer asks, nobody ever has to know it was low.
That being said, sometimes employers set a minimum GPA in order to be considered for employment with them. If your GPA is lower than their requirement, you should be prepared to make a strong case for why you still deserve the position.
A Way to (Legitimately) Tweak It
If you have a high GPA for your major courses and a low GPA for your other courses and you’re planning a career in the area you majored in, this might work for you. Instead of including your overall GPA, include only your major GPA. An accounting firm might not care that you didn’t do well in your art history class but would love to know you aced your accounting classes. But, you must specify that it’s your major GPA, otherwise, you could be accused of fudging it.
When Is It Time to Leave It Off For Good?
Generally, after you’ve acquired some work experience or your first “real” job where you no longer need to rely on the strength of your college achievements in order to impress employers.
Whatever GPA you got, strong leadership skills, good communication skills and the ability to impress in person go a long way. Good luck with your job search!