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Suppose in an interview somebody asks you about your undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA). If it is very low what should you say? Also suppose your graduate school GPA is very high. Could I somehow use this to answer the low undergrad GPA?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Masters? PhD? Immediately after undergraduate? – enderland Jul 22 '14 at 22:03
  • The key is to demonstrate that you have been becoming more mature. Doing well as a grad student shows that you are growing and becoming more responsible. If you didn't go to grad school but your grades in the last 1 1/2 years were dramatically better then you could focus on that. If your major GPA was much better than your overall then focus on that. If you were just skating by throughout your 4 years then I don't have any idea how you'd spin that in a positive light. It isn't uncommon for people to get poor grades their first year or two, but by year 3 some maturity should start to kick in. – Dunk Jul 23 '14 at 17:21
  • Hi Inerguyeorij, and nicely done with your first question on the Workplace! I have added a link to the GPA definition and tagged this United States to make it more clear in regards to @JanDoggen's comments and hopefully get you more responses and votes. Please feel free to edit your question if I have messed it up in any way. – Matt Giltaji Jul 24 '14 at 0:18
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You can always try:

I don't feel that my undergrad GPA accurately reflected my abilities, and here's how I fixed that in my graduate studies...

Everyone makes mistakes, the important thing is to acknowledge that it happened and explain how you fixed it going forward. You will eventually make mistakes at work, but gracefully recovering from those errors is a much more valuable skill than never making the mistake in the first place because it impresses clients and/or management.

In terms of businesses and customer service, this is called the Service Recovery Paradox.

The other nice thing about a bad undergraduate GPA is that it eventually doesn't matter on your resume, and chances are it won't come up in interviews after you are out of school for a few years.

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    A good graduate record should fix the problem. If they ask about your undergraduate experience, explain that you've grow and matured. I really don't pay much attention to degrees and GPAs. They aren't really that much of an indication of a person's ability. Your attitude and examples of your work are more important. Go to the interview wanting the job. Let them know you do, and why. A lot of places ask you to code during the interview process. If you can do that, you can work under pressure. Be ready for that. The very best of luck to you. – System 360 Jul 23 '14 at 3:40
  • @System:For a new grad, why wouldn't GPA be "much of an indication of a person's ability"? Most people are FAR BETTER at talking a good game than actually performing up to their talk. – Dunk Jul 23 '14 at 14:51
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Usually, the grad school GPA counts for a lot more than the undergrad GPA, assuming that you can make the case that your grad education is relevant to the field you work in. I had a pretty good grad GPA in engineering, and I can't remember a single prospective employer who did Oooh's and Aaah's over it.

Don't volunteer anything about your undergrad GPA, unless you like coming across as defensive, apologetic and possibly pathetic. The more explanations you give, the more you look like you're making excuses. If someone asks about your undergrad GPA, mention it with a pained grimace and immediately refocus the subject by saying that your grad GPA is a lot better.

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You tell them your GPA. That's it. Never start defending yourself unprompted, because you're actually attacking yourself.

"My GPA was 2.5 [and my further silence indicates that this is a total non-issue that has no relation to my ability.]"

Or:

"My GPA was 2.5, and now I will nervously talk about how bad of a student I was and make revealing excuses."

Now of course if they prompt you to explain, you can answer in about two sentences, using your grad GPA to definitively prove that you improved and grew. If you spend more than two sentences, it really only raises the question of why that wasn't a sufficient explanation.

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    I disagree that you cannot answer that question in such a way to alleviate the asker's concerns. There are ways to answer questions which are factual to help with concerns the asker obviously has. Simply saying "My GPA was 2.5" is not one of them. – enderland Jul 22 '14 at 22:15
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    I think that regardless of what you say or do not say, the interviewer will have their own opinion about what it means anyway... – Michael Lai Jul 23 '14 at 4:45
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I think regardless of the actual GPA score, the important thing is to provide some explanation so the interviewer can put it in the right context.

For example, a bad GPA score may reflect that you are not good at exams if you can back it up with good practical knowledge and work experience.

Alternatively, a good GPA score may reveal some lack of practical knowledge but at least shows dedication to learning and commitment to achieving to your potential.

So the important thing is to bring out the positive aspects no matter what the score is, and address the concerns that the interviewer might have with any perceived shortcomings as reflected by the score.

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You don't.

But if the interviewer brings it up, you have to tell him, and your silence after that should underline that the GPA doesn't matter.

But still, there are few companies obsessed with GPA. In this case you must have good student projects, or any other experience in your resume to vouch for you. I mention my great graduation project, for example.

  • This post adds nothing new to the already posted answers. Please remember to not repeat others, particularly when you are resurrecting a question which is 2 years old. – David K Aug 30 '16 at 12:38
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You take a leaf out of the politicians interview playbook and answer with the Grad school GPA - answer the Q the puts you in the best light even though its not the "exact" Q asked.

  • As it's not a very important question, one might get away with that, especially with good grad GPA. If one gets caught, the interviewer will be admiring the politician interviewing skills. Only some less appreciative companies may pass on the candidate... – ya23 Aug 30 '16 at 12:55
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You can always say that there was so much to do and so many things that interested you at the time that you didn't always have time for academic stuff! It shows your interests. Bonus points if you can name something that can actually help you with this job or something you have in common with the interviewer. Or makes you an interesting person.

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    "I went to school but once I was there, I was not into school". Not sure that this rationalization would fly unless the outside interests were compelling e.g. "I was consumed with fighting human trafficking" After all, a prospective employer such as myself would be asking "What's to prevent the candidate from doing to the job what they did to the school, given that the job could be even less exciting than school?" – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 23 '14 at 13:51
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    You often have to do a lot of things that don't interest you as part of a job (hopefully you do a lot of things that interest you as well). This excuse only raises concerns that you will slack off on projects you find boring. – WetlabStudent Jul 24 '14 at 6:27
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    Right. I didn't realize that. Thanks, it's actually really reasonable. – wtrmeln Jul 24 '14 at 15:16

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