Addressing Mediocre Grades in an Interview

Cierra writes:
My son has just graduated and he has C grades how does he deal with this in an interview — if asked?

The Career Doctor responds:
I always love getting GPA questions because even though I am an educator as an employer I was always more interested in a job-seeker’s previous accomplishments and in what skills they could bring to the job. GPA is some measure of academic success but what it really measures is questionable — and there are certainly no conclusive studies that tie academic success to workplace success.
So here are my suggestions for your son — and anyone else that had average grades in college.
First one way around an average overall GPA is to focus on the upper-division courses or courses in the major. This GPA is generally higher. So if you have a 2.1 overall but a 3.1 in your major use your major GPA on your resume and in your interviews.
Second examine mitigating circumstances. Did you hold a part-time (or full-time) job while attending college? If you held down part-time jobs to pay for college or worked full-time while attending college you can talk about the lessons learned from multitasking and balancing work and education.
Third examine your extracurricular activities. Did you participate in an extraordinary number of extracurricular and/or volunteer activities? Use these activities to help explain that you were seeking a well-rounded education that included both classroom learning and experiential learning.
Finally if the employer is so focused on GPA that they cannot get beyond the grades you probably don’t want to work there anyway. The degree is what matters — not always the path one takes to get it.