Tough Interview Question - Why is your GPA not higher?

Why is your GPA not higher?

Similar interview questions:
What is your GPA?
What is your GPA in your major?
Why is your GPA so low?
Is there a reason your grade point average is not as high as your peers?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
Because your grade point average (GPA) matters. Many employers use the combination of major, school and GPA as their initial gating and screening criteria for whom they will interview. So in some cases you won’t even be asked the question, you will be screened out before any interviews take place. But even when you do clear the minimum requirements, you may still be lower than some (or possibly even most) of your competition. The interviewer wants to know if there is a reason other than sheer brainpower for why your GPA is lower than others.

The best approach to answering this question:
Be very careful in how you answer this question. There are very few acceptable responses. The fact that the question is being asked means that you are already at a disadvantage to other candidates. Dig deep to understand and then communicate the specific reasons why your GPA is less than ideal. The best answer would include working while going to college, if that applies to your personal situation. Another lesser approach is that you pulled up your GPA after a slow start the first year or two.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I do understand that my overall GPA was less than ideal. While other students were full-time students and could focus exclusively on their classes, I was also working two different part-time jobs to help pay my way through school. This made my schedule very difficult and, at times, it negatively impacted my grades. However, I am extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish on my own during college and ended up getting A’s in all of my capstone classes, due at least in part to what I learned in my work. In the end, I feel that my concurrent work experience helped me to better prepare for the world of work after college."

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"My first year of college did not go well for me in terms of grades. I was not yet clear on my major nor my career aspirations and struggled with some of the general classes. However, once I entered my major curriculum, I was able to bring up my overall GPA considerably and my GPA within my major is a solid 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. So while the classes got tougher as I went through college, my grades also got higher."

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I guess I was in over my head when I went to college, probably too immature to be away from home that young. I failed a couple of classes my Freshman year and I really didn’t want to retake them, so my overall GPA has suffered because of that. I guess grades have never really been that important to me. I’m really not very good at academics. I’m the guy who sits in the back of class just doing what he needs to get by…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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