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So Much Depends On…GPA?

9 March 2010 8,273 views 3 Comments

I hope you caught my attempt at referencing William Carlos Williams The Red Wheelbarrow in the title. ANYWAYS…back to the point.

Since graduating I have been applying and interviewing to various positions in multiple companies. Much to my dismay I have been playing the waiting game like many of my friends and other college graduates around the nation. Before graduating I heard it a lot from older peers, but have experienced it time and time again while going through the interview process. It is a trend many companies have adapted to, but is it right or wrong? What I am talking about is a graduate’s grade point average, otherwise known as GPA. The two questions I have are: Should GPA be used to weed out potential employees by prospective employers? And is GPA a direct indicator of ones one’s ability to perform in the workplace? The answer to both of these questions, in my opinion, is a mild yes and a strong no.

To answer the first question “Should GPA be used to weed out potential employees by prospective employers?,” I believe it’s a decent safeguard used by the human resource departments but not the best practice. For example purposes only I’ll use California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) in comparison to California State University of Bakersfield (CSUB). Let’s take a look at a Cal Poly graduate who applies to a company, gets to be interviewed, and is told a job offer is being written up. Human resources hadn’t seen this graduate’s GPA yet, but this graduate has worked for the company part-time for the last year and has done his job exceptionally well. Once human resources saw this graduate’s GPA, slightly under a 3.0, it was set in stone that this graduate would not receive a job offer regardless of the circumstances. Why? Because there are policies the human resource’s department must follow. Is this implying that a graduate with above a 3.0 GPA from California State University of Bakersfield would get this job instead? I can’t answer you that since I don’t work in the human resource department! The point I’m trying to make is that ALL colleges and universities vary between the caliber of their courses and coursework.

Not only does the caliber of courses and coursework vary from colleges and universities but so do the professors. At every college and university there are multiple professors that teach the same course. With multiple professors teaching the same course you’ll have a similar curriculum but completely different personalities and level of difficulty in the course. I experienced this multiple times during my time here at Cal Poly. I had a finance professor who used to teach at Northwestern University and expected an introductory level finance class to perform and execute at the same level of difficulty as he could. Nonetheless I learned A LOT by the end of the quarter, but I spent twice as much time studying and completing practice problems for the course versus the other courses I was taking. At the same time I had a friend taking the other professor for the same introductory finance course who never had to study because “the class was a joke and an easy A.”

Someone who allocated less time, energy, and effort into the same course with a different professor got that easy A which boosted their cumulative GPA. While I on the other hand struggled alongside my classmates and received a C- in the course, but learned a hell of a lot more than our peers with the other professor. Sure, some of us choose to take the professors everyone tries to avoid because they’re more difficult but that’s because we hear great things about those professors and how much more knowledge previous students walked away with after taking that course with that professor.

Let us take a look at the second question “Is GPA a direct indicator of ones one’s ability to perform in the workplace?.” My answer and personal opinion to this question is absolutely not! After explaining my opinion above I hope you understand why my answer is what it is. My cumulative GPA isn’t above a 3.0, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not a hard worker, won’t be able adapt to a fast working environment, or set goals and continuously accomplish or exceed them. Depending on the major, GPA could be used as an indicator of one’s knowledge on a particular subject especially with the “Learn by Doing” aspect incorporated in many of the architecture and engineer courses here at Cal Poly. But like I said this doesn’t take into account the intangibles and characteristics of an individual.

Many companies are missing out on candidates that would perform and excel in the workplace by setting GPA requirements in order to land a job with their company. Okay, so yeah there’s thousands of applicants to some companies. But as a company wouldn’t I want to at least go through most if not all of those applicants to find the best one to fill a position? Most of these companies have personnel, usually in the human resource department, being paid full-time salaries to do this vary job. They’re getting paid no matter what to go through resumes, cover letters, and writing examples to find the best employee. At least go through every application and/or resume because you might just find that needle in a haystack. Setting GPA requirements is a form of discrimination, not too extreme, but something I think companies should strongly reconsider lifting if they have that kind of a policy in place.

On another note, I’d love to hear your comments and opinions about GPA requirements used by companies. Feel free to post them down below in the comments section!

Painting by Ann Altman
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  • max said:

    point taken… but GPA does say a couple things about you: you MIGHT be a little more intelligent than someone with a lower GPA, but more importantly (and probably a stronger correlation) it shows you have your shit together, and you know how to set priorities, buckle down, and get it done. And THAT is something a prospective employer looks for.

    You mention this, and say it’s not necessarily true… well if you had two kids that both really wanted to do well in a class, but only one did, he either worked harder, worked smarter, or had some more raw talent. Bottom line he figured it out while old C- didn’t.

    If you we’re an employer, all things being equal on an application, would you prefer to spend time interviewing the kid with a high or low GPA?

    Having said that, I do agree that the less obvious candidate is often better. As long as you can land an interview, you always have a shot at impressing an employer– business is still based on relationships, gut feelings, and emotions. And lower GPA kids have more personality sometimes (grades certainly aren’t indicative of likability).

  • Panther said:

    No matter what others say, I think it is still interesting and useful maybe necessary to improve some minor things

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