Career Center busts myth on correlation between GPA and employment

By Rebecca Wood, Staff Writer

With finals approaching, students might be relieved to hear that the Career Center and various companies hiring Illinois students have said GPA does not always play a major role in hiring decisions post-graduation.

Jennifer Neef, associate director of career and professional connections at the Career Center, said the number of employers screening for GPA is            typically inversely related to the performance of the college labor market.

Neef said when the job opportunities for recent graduates were limited in 2011, 2012 and 2013, a higher percentage of employers screened applicants by GPA. However, when the college labor market is doing well, fewer employers screen for GPA.

“They’re probably just looking for, ‘Did you earn the degree level that they’re looking for?’” Neef said.

Ellen Kapoor, director of talent acquisition and leadership development at Illinois Tool Works, said GPA plays a greater role when the company hires interns than when it hires full-time employees.

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“A year out, if you’ve got full-time experience under your belt, the scale changes from grades to ‘what did you actually do for the employers that you worked for?’” Kapoor said.

Kapoor said Illinois Tool Works particularly looks for relevant work experience and leadership positions in campus organizations.

“If you have a job and you can show progression in a job or consistent performance, you have to be able to articulate that on your resume,” Kapoor said.

She said students’ jobs during their college years do not necessarily need to relate to their majors, but they should showcase qualities such as their abilities to stick to a schedule or attend to a customer.

“They care about character, they care about leadership, they care about attitude,” Kapoor said. “So I’d say don’t omit those from your experiences.”

Kapoor said searching for an internship during the sophomore year of college is critical to making a student a more competitive candidate after graduation.

Neef said employers are looking for someone with the right skills and experiences, where the students can demonstrate they have the ability to do the job.

“Even for employers that screen for GPA on hiring, they’re never going to use that again for people to rise within the organization,” Neef said. “It won’t be a factor to determine upward mobility.”

Daniel Jensen, engineering manager and recruiting leader for Rolls Royce at the University, said anyone with a GPA below 3.0 is not eligible to work for their company.

“In general, if the person meets our standard, (GPA) is not a big differentiator,” Jensen said. “Once the person meets a 3.0 or above, we’re looking at all the other factors more.”

Neef said students should choose two or three kinds of experiences to excel in, instead of accumulating a laundry list of experiences.

She said the Career Center helps students think about what attributes, experiences and skills they have gained that could be important to employers, regardless of GPA.

“I do see students who assume that a lower GPA means they’re not going to be competitive in the job market,” Neef said. “So we spend a lot of time helping students bust that myth.”

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