Do GPAs Even Matter?

Summary: GPAs are no longer as reliable of a marker for selecting candidates, since there are multiple outside factors which could affect one's grade, including a job, a prestigious internship, or even grade inflation. Many employers rely on job experience, knowledge within the field, and related skills, rather than a GPA.


College is a major investment of both time and money. Almost every position in the job market today requires a college degree. But is a 4.0 GPA worth the same as a 2.5?

Sadly, it just might be.

When recruiting students, most hiring managers expect to see a GPA listed on the candidate's resume; however, after the first job within an individual's field, an applicant is no longer expected to include that information, according to CareerBuilder. In fact, a study by Black Collegian shows that almost half of employers don't require a minimum GPA for applicants and of the remaining 54%, only 38% expect a GPA above a 3.0. It seems that most employers understand that students have different circumstances which may affect their scores, but not their ability to perform in the workforce.

Why Grades Aren't Important


Why aren't grades important? The short answer is because job experience is even more relevant. Ultimately, employers want to hire someone who can step in and work immediately. Someone with a stellar educational record may have never held even a part-time role and may require excessive training before being able to handle work responsibilities.

Employers understand that even a part-time job during college may negatively affect one's grades. However, that work experience - however limited - is worth the drop in GPA to hiring companies.

Other reasons that might make a GPA unimportant to employers include:

●     Organizations feel that accessing college transcripts is cumbersome and can slow the hiring process.

●     Students with connections in their field of choice often find it easier to land a job than those with a 4.0 and no network built from work experience, internships, or group memberships.

●     The practice of grade inflation makes someone with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average just another A student.

Grade Inflation


According to a study by the Teachers College Record, A's are given 43% of the time. What was once a top-2%-of-the-class badge of honor is now the norm. According to the Harvard Crimson, the daily newspaper in Cambridge, Massachusetts, grade inflation is not only real, it's occurring in America's biggest and best colleges, or at least it's happening at Harvard. 

The Crimson reports that according to Jay M. Harris, Dean of Undergraduate Education, "The median grade at Harvard College is an A-, and the most frequently awarded mark is an A." His comments seem to support long-time suspicions about grade inflation at the College going back to a 2001 report in the Boston Globe that refers to Harvard as "the laughing stock of the Ivy League" due to their soft grading system.


As an HR professional, requesting GPAs when reviewing candidates becomes a matter of choice. However, considering work experience seems to be the path to finding a successful fit for the company.

In the past, an individual's GPA represented not only one's grades, but could help a hiring manager gauge the student's drive, resourcefulness, and commitment, particularly in the absence of work experience. But today, it is questionable whether a high GPA is representative of those qualities. In fact, students who support themselves with full-time jobs may complete college with lower marks, but the fact that they achieved a degree despite hardships is in itself a testament to their ability and drive

When hiring students for internships or entry-level roles within the organization, it is often necessary to base one's decision on their college grades and involvement, particularly if no work experience is available. Otherwise, though, hiring choices should be based on equivalent work skills.