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How GPA affects job prospects?

Is it fine for a software company to reject freshly-graduated candidates on the basis of their GPA?

I've personally seen that students with higher GPAs are not necessarily good at programming. For their entire lives as students, they've been only studying and studying and studying. They usually can't learn programming (and related) on their own and are usually good at memorizing stuff. Obviously, this isn't always the case. But most of the times it is.

On the other hand, students with lower GPAs may not be as good in their studies but they might be good at programming and learning on their own. Probably, they've been doing "interesting stuff" instead of studying "uninteresting stuff". But as always, most of the times it doesn't hold true.

One more thing to consider is that your GPA is not entirely made up of your Computer Science courses (and non-theoretical courses with in Computer Sciences). So may be a candidate is only good at non-theoretical computer sciences stuff so he wasn't able to perform well in overall studies.

So, is it a safe bet for an employer to just reject candidates below a certain GPA? Or should they go a bit further and filter out candidates on their learning and programming skills? As an argument we can say that students with higher GPA are "willing to learn" and can be directed anywhere the employer wishes to. As a counter argument, if a candidate with a lower GPA knows more about programming than a candidate with a higher GPA, he should be preferred as he would require less or no effort to become productive rightaway.

Green Pajamas
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Thing is, you have to judge new candidates based on *something*.  And if they are fresh out of school and have no job experience, GPA is about the only objective piece of information you've got.  Unless you've got the resources to send all your prospective employees through a battery of tests like MS.

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I think using GPA as a veto criteria is a Bad Move, personally. However, I will also venture that if we're talking about new graduates, and they have a lower GPA but demonstrate excellent knowledge during the interview, then in hiring them you should be prepared to mentor them on prioritization and work habits (people who are smart but have problems getting things done that need doing generally have those problems).

I'd also look at their transcripts if you can - they can tell a story by themselves. Then you just have to decide if you like the story they tell.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Also of importance is how low of a GPA we're actually talking about.  There's not much value in comparing two candidates solely by GPA if they were a 3.4 and 3.6.

However, I would say anything under a 3.0 is definately questionable.  If you're really that smart, then you should have been smart enough to figure out that your 2.5 GPA wasn't going to get you in the door of the companies you thought you were going to work at ;-)

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

It depends entirely on the college. An employee with a 'B' average from MIT is probably better than an 'A' average from Podunk Local College.

Rob
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ah all this GPA stuff is 90% crap.  My overall (4 year) GPA was 3.12 - it could have been closer to 3.8 or even a 4.0.  Why wasn't it?  I realized (or guessed, whatever you like) way before (sophomore year - GPA was closer to 3.6 at the time) that all I was getting out of a Comp Sci B.S. was a bunch of theory I already knew enough about for what I wanted to do.  So I jumped ship, went into a CIS program at a smaller school.  Learned what technology/methodologies/whatever I wanted to learn outside of class, and coasted through to my 3.12 GPA. 

Oh if anyone wants to nitpick - how my GPA went from 3.6 to 3.12, I flunked 2 classes because of personal circumstances/problems at the tail end of my sophomore year. 

But the gist of it is, I had no trouble finding a job, mid 2001 - working for a small consulting company.  I then moved to a big city sometime last year, worked with a bunch of really smart folks from MIT/Darmouth going through a thorough interview process (interviewed with 9 people on various levels - technical & non-technical.)  I wound up leaving a few months later, back to the small consulting company in my hometown (3-4 months of 80+ hours weeks is not my panache.)

These folks had never heard of **** State College, it was all about evaluating the candidate's talent - not some subjective number (A 4.0 GPA from MIT != 4.0 @ X State U.)
Only having spent a few months there, I held my own with these folks.  No - I don't think I'm special.  I'm just into what I do for a living.  And school meant very little to my 'success'.
</RANT>

...
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

> (A 4.0 GPA from MIT != 4.0 @ X State U.)

4.0 GPA from MIT is a B average. MIT uses 5.0 as highest GPA.

GG
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

So what?

anony
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

As Joel has pointed out, the person people want to hire "Gets Things Done".  If you are hiring straight out of college, the GPA is a key part of showing this.  So are some good example projects you've completed as part of your college experience.

I also agree that a 3.5 vs 3.8 isn't enough of a descriminator, 2.5 to 3.5 probably is, and my analysis of a GPA is adjusted based on the prestige/quality of the university awarding it.

I also agree the lower GPA person is valuable, they may just need more development, and as long as the hiring manager can go along with that, it shouldn't be a show stopper.

However.  I did not do very well in my undergraduate studies, it took getting a 3.8 GPA Master's to wipe that out, and I want people to know it does make a major difference.

Now that I'm out of college more than 10 years, it is no longer an issue at all -- except for the access to projects I might have had with a better starting position.

AllanL5
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Anything above a B average should be acceptable.  I'd definately be weary of people with C averages.  It indicates they only put in enough effort to "get by" which is probably what they'll do in your company.

chris
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

>>>>>
It indicates they only put in enough effort to "get by" which is probably what they'll do in your company.
>>>>>

Or, maybe, the said candidate actually got laid in college.  A lot.

Hmmm, a project is due or this hot 3 way during the prime years to explore is about to happen ...

homework (weighing in one hand)
3 way (weighint in the other hand).

homework.  3way.  homework.  3way.  Fuck it, I'm getting laid .. GPA be damned!

Actually got laid in college
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

>>>>>
It indicates they only put in enough effort to "get by" which is probably what they'll do in your company.
>>>>>

Or, maybe, they were working 40+ hours a week trying to pay for college.

Leaves a little less room for studying!

Had much less time to study
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

For another perspective, I have a friend that doesn't like to hire 4.0 students.  As an earlier thread ("Monumental Incompetency- Part TWO") started to show, sometimes the "best" (as determined by highest GPA) students only know how to get the right answer if you ask them a straight question.

His argument was that some of the lower GPA students (just over a 3.0) had that GPA because they were more rounded, and did stuff outside of school.  Thus they had less time to devote to a perfect GPA.

For instance: I got a 3.5, and ran an open source project for the last 2 years of my B.S. degree.  The 4.0 students I know didn't do anything but study.

Andrew Hurst
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Don't put your gpa on your resume. Nobody will
probably miss it. If you can't figure out who to
hire without resorting to a GPA then you
are hopeless anyway. Same if you expect
to get hired on your GPA.

son of parnas
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

On the topic of "school prestige" -- unless you know something about state college XYZ, don't assume it's worthless.  Often times smaller schools provide more teacher-student face-to-face time, as opposed to sitting in a lecture with 400 other students.  There are lots of arguments on both sides in the small school vs big school choice.

And just because someone didn't go to MIT doesn't mean they weren't good enough to - just that they couldn't afford it, didn't want to move that far away from home, etc etc etc.

Also, I agree entirely that a student should not dedicate their life and being to getting the highest possible GPA.  If all you were doing was blowing off classes to have 3-ways, then that's one thing (since you may also blow off work in the morning after having wasted so much energy trying to get laid the night before, if those are your priorities).  But there are lots of good educational experiences outside the classroom that can be just as valuable to making one a well-rounded candidate, and those things should also be listed on one's resume.

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Similar to the above comment about the transcript being much more meaningful than the GPA...

My GPA (from Carnegie Mellon) sucked.  When I graduated, it was either a 2.6 or a 2.8 (I don't remember).  The interesting part was that it had been 0.4 lower at the beginning of my final year - while I didn't do well academically at the beginning, I got my act together near the end.  Shouldn't a prospective employer favor that over someone who started strong but started drowning as the material got more complex?

(Incidentally, in my case, I wasn't terribly interested in lots of the material until later on, when stuff that I wanted to do depended on it.  This may not be the kind of attitude you'd like to hire, but I think it's often inaccurate to extrapolate school attitude/performance to workplace attitude/performance.  In the absence of other data, it may be the best you've got, but it shouldn't have nearly the weight of actual verifiable accomplishments...)

schmoe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Funny...of all of the people I have hired, i have never even looked at their GPA. I agree having a certain level of a GPA should indicate how hard the person is willing to work. But, I rely on my gut feelings to help me decide to hire. Does this person have energy, how open minded is he/she. Does he/she have knowledge about non-SW subjects?

I have hired all sorts..drop outs from college, those with graduate degrees...some with no education at all. I have had wonderful success with these people. If I used GPA as a first line filter, I would have missed out on working with some great people!

woodenboat
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

So, schmoe, what do you do when you get handed a project at work that doesn't interest you?

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Come up with a program that makes the task (and as many others of its type as possible) as quick and painless as possible.

not schmoe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I would only reject a low-GPA resume (during the resume filtering stage) if I was flooded with resumes AND I was hiring an intern or entry level programmer.

For anybody with any experience, I'd decide to interview based on the experience.

At the interview, I always select based on the interview results and never on GPA.  If somebody had a low GPA, I might ask them to explain it during the interview though I'd probably accept the explanation at face value.

If somebody with experience put a low GPA on their resume, that'd be weird.  I'd expect people with low GPAs not to advertise them and I usually don't even notice if GPAs are missing.  I probably wouldn't even ask.  Their experience is what differentiates them.

To be honest, hiring interns or entry level programmers isn't a really important hire in the scheme of things.  For somebody with no experience, you don't expect a whole lot and are more hiring for potential, not useful skills.

Daniel Howard
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

It would be interesting to see if there's a connection between a person's college GPA and the degree to which they use GPA as a screening tool in hiring. 

I suspect a pretty strong correlation.  We tend to look for people like us.

Cognitive Dissonance
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

can someone explain GPA - I know it means "grade point average" - mmm so whats a "grade point" ... presumably some sort of marking scheme - marked out of 5?

blargle
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

>> So, schmoe, what do you do when you get handed a project at work that doesn't interest you? <<

I just get it done, because it's my job.  Not sure why I didn't approach school with that attitude, but I had the same (good) attitude when working summer jobs & stuff while in school.  I'd never show up late for work, but I had no problem showing up late (or not at all) for class if it didn't seem interesting.

My guess is that it's something to do with not wanting to take advantage of other people.  And/or that I didn't see a strong enough correlation between high GPA and job prospects...  :)  I was hired straight out of school by exactly the company I wanted to work for, making a lot of money (back then), based on performance in one of my later classes (they had hired the TA 4 months earlier) and based on a thorough technical interview process.  YMMV

schmoe
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

GPA -- Grade Point Average.
You take the grades you made in classes.
4 for an A, 3 for a B, 2 for a C, 1 for a D, and 0 for an F.

You add them all together, average based on the number of classes, or number of class-hours.  The result is your GPA for your degree.

Apparently, MIT uses a 5-point scale.  Some colleges don't count classes that you failed, then took again and passed -- some do.

AllanL5
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

For any C student that might be reading this and looking for the nearest bottle of whatever as a result - don't take any of this too seriously.

I was a C student in school, not due to lack of intelligence, but lack of focus - maybe if I'd been born 10 years later, I would've been diagnosed with ADD - regardless, it resulted in me having a C average.

BUT - knowing I needed to differentiate myself in other ways, I made sure to get involved with the co-op program, and keep on top of new technologies that the college was probably 10 years away from teaching.  I was able to go into interviews with experience, and demonstrate that I was willing and able to learn new tech without being led though a lesson plan.

I got a job straight out of school, and I've been (mostly) well employed since then, starting a new job as a sr. developer in the northeast at the end of this month.

My point?  You may need to make your own path, but it's possible to come out on top.  At this point in my career (just 4 years in), I've got my university and major w/ no GPA listed at the very bottom of my resume, just to satisfy any HR-screens - I haven't been asked about it once since I graduated.

A C student walks among you
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

When you are coming straight out of school, your GPA is going to carry a lot of weight.  However, when I was doing a lot of interviewing, GPA was just one item (albeit important) that was looked at.  Honestly, a 2.5 did not make it into the consideration pile.  However, 3.0 and above always did.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to be able to meet with every candidate, so you have to use something to screen a hundred resumes.  On the other hand, if there was a high 2.x AND the transcripts showed some mitigating circumstances (Chem Eng refugee into Comp Sci or MIS), then they might be considered, if they finished strong.

Now, after school and looking at Job #2, #3, etc, I have never seen GPA considered.  Sometimes people with really high GPAs keep them on their resume, but most don't.  Which now points to the post made by "A C student walks among you".  The three things that REALLY matter are experience, experience, and experience.  A relatively lower GPA (say 3.2) with experience always trumped a super high GPA (3.8 and above), assuming the interivews went well. 

Finally, if you have a degree, ALWAYS list it.  Some folks will think you don't have one and will automatically exclude you.  Not fair, but it happens.  One of the best and brightest developers I worked with did not have a degree and had minimal college.  He learned that if he was up front,  put the interviewer on the spot on the issue (before it was raised) and emphasized his experience, he could overcome most prejudices.  However, he has to deal with the issue on every interview and every promotion consideration.

Jim L
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I was never asked for my GPA in an interview.  However, some companies that did on-campus interviews would only interview students with GPA's above a certain threshold.

Yet another anon
Thursday, June 10, 2004

If someone had no experience, GPA means quite a bit. A low GPA is not a good sign. A high GPA doesn't mean one is a good programmer, but a low GPA means one is not.

As far me, I got a 3.92 GPA, was president of the student council, heavily involved in a fraternity, lettered in sports, ran my own successful and highly profitable consulting business, played in a band that got for-pay bookings, and got laid practically every night.

The secret? I don't watch TV or play video games, I am smart and I like to get things done.

Guy who gets things done
Tuesday, June 15, 2004

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