The two major elements on your resume that represent you and your competency are your academics – your GPA – and your experience – what you have done in the real world of your career field. But it is a tossup as to which is more important. They definitely create an interesting balance, but it really depends on the career field or specific position you are pursuing.
Let’s take a look at a couple scenarios.
First consider a student graduating from a middle-of-the-road school with a 3.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale majoring in finance, who has worked at a fast food restaurant, a gas station, and a grocery store.
This person has not had career-building jobs or internships and he certainly could have done better with gaining relevant experience. Still, there is nothing actually wrong with where they have worked. If an employer is looking at this student’s resume, he or she will realize that they have very strong skills in finance (because they did so well in school) but they have no job experience. Some employers will disregard the lack of job experience and realize the potential of the individual.
On the flip side, consider a student from the same school with a 2.5 GPA majoring in finance, but during the past 4 years they have interned at JPMorgan, HSBC, and PWC. His strategy is to play up this experience as much as possible on his resume: he has listed all of these positions, but has decided to leave off his GPA.
When this student gets interviewed he brings credibility to the table – he has succeeded in real world financial companies. This impresses a potential employer in the same way a 3.8 GPA does. If you have both the GPA and the experience, that is great. If you only have one, play to your strengths, and hope that your employer values that strength.
Let’s asses a completely different situation. This example was about someone going into a financial career. What about someone that is going into a job that is based less off of skills and knowledge gained through course work? Take someone going into a forestry position. The GPA is not as important as it would be elsewhere. Customer service positions are also a great example of a field where experience counts for a lot: you can read about how to deal with customers or clients all you want, but until you go out and practice it, adapting to different situations, the know-how won’t be as impressive.
An interviewer or potential employer basically wants to know if you have the skills needed to perform well on the job, and if your major GPA is high that can sometimes answer their question. But GPA is not the determining factor in many hiring situations. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to do well in academics; but don’t sweat it if you don’t do so hot in a philosophy class when you know you’re going to be applying for a job in marketing.
With that being said, it is also important to remember that you should really only be putting items on your resume that directly help you. If you think your GPA will not help your chances at landing the job, then leave it off.
Know yourself, know your strengths and know your future industry. Everything you do has an effect on whether you get hired. Make sure you are living your life with a goal in mind and work towards that goal – both in school and out.