I have a below-average academic record. What do I tell employers when they ask about my grades?
This is usually only an issue for recent graduates. Chances are good that you won’t be asked about your grade point average (GPA). Most employers just want to know if you graduated. So don’t bring up your GPA; don’t include it on your resume.
But be prepared in case you ARE asked about it during a job interview. Here’s how:
First rule: don’t lie about your grades.
Second rule: give a brief explanation (not an excuse), and then shift the focus to your strengths.
1. “I wasn’t focused on my classes during my first two years, and even though I improved later, those early grades pulled down my overall average. I feel that what I’ve learned since then has enabled me to become an ideal candidate for your position. For example…” [talk about a noteworthy accomplishment that’s relevant to the job].
2. “I wish I could give you a good reason for my low academic scores from four years ago, because they don’t reflect my current work ethic. I’m a different person now, and I’m sure my references will back that up. For example…” [talk about a noteworthy accomplishment that’s relevant to the job].
3. “My overall grades suffered because I got bored with theory. I scored higher marks for the practical courses and hands-on lab work, which I feel is more relevant when it comes to doing the type of work required in this position. For example, I excelled in…” [talk about courses that are relevant to the position].
4. “I flunked some classes during my sophomore year because of some temporary personal circumstances. Those have long since been resolved and I’m eager to use my knowledge and skills with graphic design [name a strength that’s related to the position] to help your company create the best marketing materials in the industry…” [name a goal the company is likely to have].
5. “I had some difficulties juggling my studies with…” [give the reason, such as: working a full-time job to pay my way through school, or to support my family; dealing with a personal or family illness; etc.]. “That’s not an excuse. It actually helped me to learn the importance of time management and multitasking. These came in handy during my work at XYZ Company, where I …” [talk about a relevant accomplishment].
Only talk about bad grades if you are asked about them. Don’t shift the blame, don’t make excuses. Just briefly explain the situation that negatively affected your grades, and then focus on your skills and abilities as they relate to the position for which you’re applying.
Be confident and enthusiastic. After all, if you made it to the interview, you are already ahead of most other applicants! The selection will be based on how well you sell yourself during the interview, not on how well you studied in school. Tell them how you can help their company, and they’ll forget all about your grades!