Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, explains “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong” and the crux of his argument is that grades are not a predictor of career success. He cites research that shows “the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years.” But does your GPA get you hired in the first place? Does it belong on your resume? While there are some companies – largely consulting firms like Bain and McKinsey – who not only care about GPA, but actually use it as criteria for hiring, most companies just want to see that you earned a degree. It often doesn’t even matter much what you majored in. Therefore, I find that putting your GPA on your resume is like your mom putting your report card on the fridge. You’re smart; we get it.
But actually, a high GPA doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re smart. Or creative, or anything other than someone who put the goal ahead of the play, or who took easy courses, or who studied 24/7 and as a result, has no social skills. In fact, Grant references a 1962 study of America’s most creative architects and learned that most of them had uneven grades in college. He reports that these students “paid attention to their curiosity and prioritized activities that they found intrinsically motivating.”
I can truthfully state that among all the hundreds of individuals whom I hired, I never once asked for their GPA or paid attention if I saw it on the resume (other than being turned off by it being mentioned). And I don’t think I’m atypical among employers in wanting to know more about group projects, case studies, and internships a recent graduate took part in than their GPAs.
Your undergraduate GPA matters for graduate school, and it may be an important metric for some professions, but for most of us, the answer to “does your GPA get you hired,” is “no.”
Here are some samples of recent college graduates’ resumes.
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