39

EDIT: I have submitted my grades to the CEO. My rationale is that if the failures on my transcript give the CEO pause, then perhaps he is placing value in the wrong places. So either he sees the progress I've made as a positive, or he sees the failures as a negative in which case I don't think our values align and I would not be interested in the position.

I'm a PhD student in statistics. I recently got a meeting with the CEO of a startup in my city for a business/data analyst position. The CEO has asked for my transcripts to review my classes and grades.

Personally, I'd prefer not to. I have not taken classes in two years, and even though my marks are good I've done so much more outside of school that I would rather let that speak to my experience and abilities which includes:

  • Work experience in data science and internships at major banks.

  • Major contributions to open source software for which I have won awards.

  • Interesting side projects which I have published.

My grades unfortunately include a couple of failed classes taken many years ago in subjects that are related to the position but have been superseded by my PhD studies (e.g. I failed basic statistics years ago but have since been using much higher level statistics as part of the PhD studies.)

I just don't think my grades are relevant at this point. How should I respond?

14 Answers 14

142

The CEO has asked for my transcripts to review my classes and grades. Should I provide them?

Only provide them if you want the job.

Turning down this sort of specific request by a CEO is seldom a good way to start off an interview process.

57

Your choice is simple:

  1. Provide your grades and explain them (thankfully, you'll be there to explain)

or

  1. Get defensive. Don't provide your grades. Explain all you want, but the CEO won't believe you and is less likely to want to hire you.

To me, that decision is a no-brainer. Failing a class or two, ten years ago, is more than fine (even if it's in your chosen field).

Unquestionably. I'm just concerned that this person won't take that mark in context, or see the failure as a reason to dismiss me. Though if that is the case, perhaps it is best I don't work for him.

Please don't start thinking that way. You're looking for a reason to reject him before he can reject you. Show your transcripts. I guarantee you. It's all in your head.

Feeling anxious is completely normal, but you need to get over it.

  • 9
    In today's world, school grades are nearly irrelevant when it comes to doing a specific job in practice. As an employer, I have tests to test candidates. It is totally irrelevant for me what grades they have, as they have no practical value. – Overmind Jan 10 at 9:50
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    I agree. It's also possible the CEO just wants to see the courses he's taken, or talk about the Professors he might have taken a course with. It could also be just a request made out of habit. My point is not to overthink this. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 10 at 10:38
  • Professional courses should be in one's CV. – Overmind Jan 10 at 10:52
  • 1
    @Overmind, Not everyone includes them. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 10 at 11:05
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    Grades do have practical value. If the applicant coasted through their program middling out with Cs the whole way it says a lot about the kind of worker they are going to be. – Josh Jan 10 at 18:23
10

Worst Case Scenario

You think the worst case scenario is that the CEO looks at your grades and declines to give you an offer. But that's not the worst case. That's called "dodging a bullet", and you should literally imagine yourself as Neo bending over backwards with inhuman reflexes as you narrowly escape this potential hellhole.

The worst case scenario is that you somehow manage to get the CEO to hire you, but he turns out to be incompetent in ways which were not at first apparent to you. But the fact that he was willing to judge you entirely on your grades from 10 years ago, rather than looking at the context of your entire career up to this point should be a red flag that suggests turning around and running is an excellent strategy.

Opportunity Knocks

You should actually be quite thankful for this scenario, because it gives you a rare opportunity to evaluate the CEO. You take it for granted that the CEO has what you want (a company and a position to offer you) without considering that you have what they want, and they have just as much obligation to demonstrate that they deserve to have you as you have to demonstrate that you will be a good addition to the team.

It sounds like you don't have a lot of experience in industry yet, so I will give you some expert advice that was won the hard way: the person you work for (your boss) is responsible for about 80% of your "work happiness". Get a good boss, and doors will open for you (assuming hard work and strong skills). Get a bad boss, and you could be the most amazing contributor at your company, but all your accomplishments will amount to no more than throwing pearls before swine. So when you are checking out a prospective employer, do not go into the process as a beggar, willing to accept whatever shiny is on offer. By all means, ask about the compensation, perqs, coworkers, culture, benefits, etc. But do as much as you can to find out about the person you will work for. I guarantee that a good boss in a mediocre company beats a bad boss in the best company every day of the week, unless you are able to switch to a good boss (but part of being a bad boss is making it hard to leave the team).

Who's The Boss?

A good boss will listen to the whole story when you have to deliver bad news. They will consider the context, the consequences, and your track record. They will even give you political cover so that you can make a comeback, even when you screw up and make a mistake. Of course, the relationship works both ways: you need to be reliable and deliver results. You need to be a rock star that can help both of you advance. If the CEO is a good boss, they will look at your grades, listen to your story, and come to the same conclusion as you: failing a few classes was an important learning experience that helped shape the person you are today.

If the CEO has rigid, predefined thinking, then that's exactly the kind of person that will demand unrealistic results for a key project, will turn you down for raises and promotions, and will be unsympathetic when you need some leeway for personal issues. So by all means, share your grades, share your story, and judge your future boss on the response.

Colorful Characters

Finally, sharing your bad grades says something about you. It says you are confident in your accomplishments, and not ashamed of your failures. You are humble enough to discuss your failures openly, but driven enough to overcome them convincingly. For that reason, it is important not to paper over your bad grades excessively. Just tell the story straight up and let others make their judgments.

If it makes you feel any better, I never finished college, I failed multiple classes (including Statistics, TWICE!), and worked for two Fortune 500 tech companies for more than a decade. On my resume, I made clear that I was about 2 credits shy of a BS, and never bothered to include my quite pathetic GPA. Not once did a hiring manager or recruiter say those would be an impediment to receiving offers, because what they cared about is what I could do on a whiteboard in front of them, not what I did at a whiteboard 10 years ago in a classroom setting.

  • 3
    "But the fact that he was willing to judge you entirely on your grades from 10 years ago, rather than looking at the context of your entire career up to this point should be a red flag" Why do you think he will only judge by the grades?! – Mark Rotteveel Jan 10 at 8:29
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    @MarkRotteveel That's not what the post is saying, exactly. It was phrased as a hypothetical worst case scenario. – João Mendes Jan 10 at 10:26
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    @MarkRotteveel Understandable, as your reading is entirely valid. (And others agree, judging by the upvotes to your comment.) That said, I'd encourage you to try to read like that anyway, and see if it makes more sense. To my mind, the phrasing "The worst case scenario is that [...] he turns out to be incompetent [...]" points strongly towards a hypothetical. – João Mendes Jan 10 at 10:33
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    @João Mendes I read it like you. Seems like an hypothetical case of what OP fear the CEO will do. – Gainz Jan 10 at 18:48
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    @MarkRotteveel I agree I could have framed it better, but João and Gainz read it as intended. – Lawnmower Man Jan 10 at 21:53
9

Presenting him with the grades should not curtail the opportunity for you to showcase your additional achievement. And in-fact not sharing them may make him presume they aren't good and you are purposely hiding them (which according to you isn't the case).

I'd say you start on a good note by starting the meeting by showcasing him what he has originally requested for. He may have certain criterions to evaluate a potential employee which you may be overlooking. And as you mentioned, with good grades under your belt, you are already covered.

Once he is done past reviewing your grades and is satisfied with them, it better puts you in a place to showcase your additional achievements.

Thinking about the situation from a different perspective, hiding the grades from him (despite them being good and him requesting you share them) may not better present your other achievements.

  • 6
    One thing probably worth adding: since the CEO has requested the grades, if they are not provided it's likely that the CEO will presume they are bad. (Just like if a new college grad omits their GPA, most companies assume it is bad.) – dbeer Jan 9 at 21:54
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    @dbeer, No, the situation is worse than that. If a new grad omits their GPA, most companies assume it is bad. But if a new grad omits his gpa after being specifically asked by the hiring manager to bring his gpa, that's much worse. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 10 at 7:56
  • @StephanBranczyk this doesn't make sense in context. He has a PhD. What is the mechanism by which he'd have horrible grades but still earn a PhD in the same field? – iheanyi Jan 10 at 20:40
  • @iheanyi, I don't know. Maybe he earned his Ph.D. from a no-name school? Maybe he earned his Ph.D. from an online school? Maybe his parents donated a ton of money to his grad school? I'm not a mind reader. Does it really matter what this CEO is thinking? The quickest way to find out is to bring the full transcripts and see what he focuses his questioning on if anything. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 10 at 23:55
  • @StephanBranczyk The school no-name, online, etc is the institution that issued the PhD. That is known - no transcript needed. Yes, one can try to figure out what the CEO is thinking. Or just walk away, having concluded that whatever the CEO is thinking, one doesn't want to be a part of it. – iheanyi Jan 12 at 1:35
6

I don't see any harm in doing so.

Not providing the requested information would probably block your chances of getting a position with the company.

You can present your other achievements and experience as well.

  • Some grades are from nearly 10 years ago. I failed a couple classes, and I don't want this person to conflate those failures (which happened nearly 10 years ago, I'll stress) with my present abilities. – Demetri Pananos Jan 9 at 21:43
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    Given the general weirdness of startup founders and execs they might be looking for failed classes in the past for all you know – Victor S Jan 10 at 0:27
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    @VictorS Indeed. In my experience many CEO's love to hear stories about failures and how that has laid foundations for future success. – Laconic Droid Jan 10 at 3:31
2

I just don't think my grades are relevant at this point. How should I respond?

You may not think that it is relevant but for whatever reason, this CEO thinks that those grades are relevant. How relevant would be up to him if he is the one hiring you. You need to determine if not providing your grades is worth potentially missing out on this job. Giving the CEO your grades should have no bearing on your other experience and accomplishments.

2

The CEO has asked for my transcripts to review my classes and grades.

Did they literally say this?

Transcripts are most often requested in order to prove that your resume is not fraudulent.

Getting a transcript from your university/universities is usually requested to verify 2 things:

  1. You attained the degree(s) which you've listed
  2. If applicable, you attained the grades which you've listed

Many positions require a certain degree or level of education and there are countless cases of people getting hired and fired shortly after because they lied about their qualifications. The employer would rather not waste time and hire a qualified person right away.

If your grades are less than stellar and the employer cares about grades then there is unfortunately little you can do.

So far, I've found that my post-education experience has been the greatest source of my employment success because I focus on it during my interview.

  • Yes, the ceo has said it is to check grades – Demetri Pananos Jan 10 at 18:04
  • @DemetriPananos good, so he wants to verify whether the grades you provide are correct with your educational establishment. Given the amount of diploma fraud going on, that's not really a surprise. It can also mean he doesn't trust your credentials but thinks you'll make a good match if they check out anyway. – jwenting Jan 13 at 5:26
1

You should consider that the CEO wants to look at your grades to evaluate your progress so as you point out those failed stats grades are superceded.

Give the information asked for or find a job elsewhere...

  • @Walfrat the OP should do the considering... – Solar Mike Jan 10 at 9:31
  • yes my bad, I meant the CEO "might want". – Walfrat Jan 10 at 10:15
  • @Walfrat removing your original comment makes this look like one of us is challenged in the use of English... – Solar Mike Jan 10 at 16:07
1

There is nothing wrong with showing your grades to a potential employer. This may be fallen out of use nowadays, but is still a perfectly legitimate and traditional demand.

Generally, that's what grades are invented for in the first place.

In a lot of cases (e.g. applying in a lot of countries for a government job where an educational grade is required), it is implied to attach a copy of your "diploma" to your application. With all your grades listed.

  • 1
    I have been asked to provide them even for jobs where they were not relevant to the nature of the work and in my case they were taken quite a long time ago too. Over here (UK) it seems expected you will show said results even for non-relevance at least for the ones I have applied for over the years. Some might argue to leave the bad grade results off any CV , must admit I have done that with one subject as it bearer no relevance to the job. One would hope the employer would be more interested in the skill set rather than what some bits of random papers say. – AndyF Jan 11 at 22:26
0
  1. if you do not provide them, it would be only human nature for him to see that as a red flag. So, provide them, and either offer an explanation, as you did to us, to put them in context, or wait to see if he raises any questions and then explain.

  2. it is common practice these days to google candidates. If he has not already done so and does now, your somewhat distinctive name, with which you chose to post, returns links to your S.E profiles, from which this question would be easy to find. In which case, he already knows about your grades & other experiences, and no good can come of trying to obfuscate things.

The moral of the story is: real name can be useful for site where you can gain professional kudos; but, on sensitive sites, like this and interpersonal skills a burner account might be advisable.


tl;dr - the truth will out. Question after question after question on this site ends with an accepted and well upvoted answer which can be summarized as "tell the truth".

Good luck; I hope you land the job :-)

-1

I failed basic statistics years ago but have since been using much higher level statistics as part of the PhD studies.

Do you mean as an undergrad? If so, I wouldn't really stress it so long as you were never put under academic suspension due to your failing grades.

However being that it was years ago and you taking more classes, I can't really imagine it would be held against you. I would believe the CEO would be interested if you had a habit of failing classes.

Also keep in mind they might ask for an official transcript from your college/university. It will include your entire history at the school that also includes your grades. So your grades will be revealed no matter what. Once you graduate, they can see you graduated as well.

-1

As a PhD student in statistics, you should respond by saying your grades are a small population sample that are not necessarily indicative of your knowledge and ability. Or whatever language a statistician would use to declare something statistically irrelevant.

I know that sounds irreverent, but it has the advantage of 1) being true, 2) displaying knowledge and aptitude in your field, and 3) showing you aren't afraid to push back against a CEO who is overreaching. Will this work in your favor? That largely depends on the CEO. It's worth a shot.

-1

Remember that the CEO isn't just interviewing you. You're interviewing him. Offer your transcript in exchange for the CEO's transcript. You'll both learn what the other is good at.

-2

Provide a full professional resume / CV.

Include the grades on the CV, somewhere toward the bottom below your recent accomplishments.

Send the CEO the resume and note that the grades requested are listed therein.

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