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I am graduating with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from a target school (top 5) and am having the amazing opportunity to interview with some companies that I am extremely interested in working for.

I never listed my GPA on my resume because I am afraid of being pigeon-holed without the recruiter giving my previous internship experience and side projects any weight in the decision.

I've never failed a class, but my cumulative GPA is a 3.1 and my major GPA is lower than a 3.0. The worst part is that when viewing my transcript: my grades get worse as time goes along. I feel like to a recruiter this is a red flag and will have my application tossed.

I struggled with some health issues in college, socially isolated myself and didn't build a support network. My grades are a product of that behavior, and I didn't realize for a very long time that I was making my life very difficult by being afraid of my professors and peers around me.

However, I truly enjoy and am passionate about what I have studied here. I can talk in depth about algorithms and data structures and complexity and memory management and C++, etc. I have side projects, and internships where I've received offers and made wonderful connections. I've done well in every technical and character interview I've participated in. I've been invited to several on-site interviews. I feel confident in my field, and not as though I've been slacking for the past three years.

I just know that the question will pop up, and I will be asked to send in my transcript riddled with C's and B's. If I am asked to explain it I run a risk of telling a story about unfinished personal development or making excuses for poor behavior with a 'promise' of doing better in the workplace.

I know that I am capable and knowledgeable and ready to take on challenging work, and I want to be fully prepared to display that to an interviewer. How do I go about this?

  • Do you have extracurricular work, or senior-year work, that you think better illustrates your capabilities? How were your grades on finals? (My own grades were mediocre due to skipping homework when I felt I didn't need the practice, followed by rescuing myself with a high finals grade. If I had it all to do over again, I'd have fixed that and gone CS rather than EE ... but hindsight is 20:20, and IBM did hire me anyway.) – keshlam Sep 29 '15 at 3:47
  • I generally do well on finals, but those grades are not recorded anywhere to my knowledge, I am in my senior year now which just began and I feel on top of everything I am doing (I put issues behind me). My bigger concern is how to communicate this. – shane Sep 29 '15 at 3:51
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    I'd tend to believe that it won't be an issue if you have relevant, good side projects. Those are much more valuable to an employer than grades on an exam that is not so representative of problem-solving skills. At least, I guess you wan't to work for an employer that values problem-solving skills rather than pure academic knowledge. – Puzzled Sep 29 '15 at 8:56
  • So if I were you I'd pitch it like that : "i mostly liked practical/applied knowledge" and prefered investing in my times in side projects rather than studying for exams." As long as it is true, of course. I would not tell about the part where you isolated yourself. You learnt your lesson, but that could make the potential employer think that you might reproduce this behavior in their company. – Puzzled Sep 29 '15 at 9:02
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    Proven experience in side projects and real contributions to code bases are probably far more important to employers than grades. As for university grades: I've known many great programmers who didn't do well and many poor programmers who did very well. Most employers are aware of that - so once you got the interview you should be fine. The problem is usually getting the interview. – Reut Sharabani Sep 30 '15 at 6:01
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In my experience of facing interviewers for a job interview, I was seldom questioned about my poor grades. I was mostly questioned about my projects and research. And as my math grades are exceptionally poor, and I was applying for a data scientist opening, I did face this question: Why are your math grades so low?

And this is how I responded:

I did have a poor record in math during my freshman years, because I mostly liked practical/applied knowledge rather, and all those theoretical classes haven't really taught me their practical applications in real world problems. I, however, managed to cover it up by taking various online courses(MOOC) and also have done several side-projects and research projects where I used my math skills for solving real-world problems. In that way, I have managed to learn the concepts better.

I did convert those interviews into offers.

So, if you have valid reasons for your poor grades, you can share them in the interview. And companies would love to have problem solvers, or the ones who have valid and nice reasons for covering up their bad grades.

So, include your CGPA. Be honest. And do flaunt your projects and internships. Those are the ones which really matter to a nice interviewer. So, include 3-4 bullet points about each. Write about all the technologies you've learnt from the projects and your takeaways and learnings from them.

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    I had good grades but don't include my gpa on my cv. I don't think anyone cares. only include selling points on your cv. – emory Sep 29 '15 at 4:51
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    @emory Some do. But, you are right. Only include selling points on your cv. Having no negative points is definitely a positive. But, if you can successfully overturn a negative to a positive, then there's nothing like it. – Dawny33 Sep 29 '15 at 4:53
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How to communicate to recruiter GPA does not reflect my abilities

You talk to them.

If asked, you explain just as you have here, your feelings about your grades. You also explain your passion for the field, your side projects, etc. You emphasize what you have done well, and your strong abilities, rather than dwelling on what hasn't gone as well.

You talk about what you have learned over the last few years, and you point to your dramatic improvement in your senior year (hint, hint) as evidence of how you understand yourself better and will excel going forward.

GPA is only one factor. Potential to succeed on the job is the most important factor.

These things happen. They can be overcome.

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Be honest. If your low GPA really shouldn't be a deciding factor for real reasons, you know what these are you can communicate them to potential employers. Don't make too many excuses; rather accept the GPA for what it is and focus on self-improvement.

Buffer it with other qualifications. You want your interviewer to ask (perhaps rhetorically) "You seem like an outstanding candidate in every way except your GPA. Why on earth is it lower than I expected?" Make it obvious that you're passionate about the work you do and focus on extracurricular activities and projects. Find your strengths and advertise them.

Judiciously not including your GPA could be helpful, especially if you studied at a prestigious school (then again, potential employers may be somewhat understanding about low GPAs and such schools).

Don't dwell on it. If you are asked this question, answer it briefly and concisely (but don't rush). Once you've explained your basic reasoning, talk about the things you did to overcome that problem and your goals for the future (including continual learning). Show that you personally won't let your GPA affect you more than it should.

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When I was in the final year of my undergraduate course work, I started to add many CEO's and HR people both on my Facebook and LinkedIn. I got a call from an Human Resource (HR) person from a company that they are interested to interviewing me. She also mentioned they don't care about my GPA. Since than which ever companies I applied to, I never mentioned my poor GPA. My projects were what excited them the most. If you have good projects on your resume, you can build stuff, they would likely hire you.

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