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How to Explain a Low GPA in an Interview

Dear J.T. & Dale: My son is about to graduate from Auburn University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He just had a second face-to-face interview with a big company, and at the very end, one of the engineers who interviewed him said: "Your GPA is a 2.5. We don't usually hire guys with GPAs that low." He has never done well on tests. His cover letter stresses he's a guy who's not afraid to get his hands dirty and will use elbow grease and ingenuity to get the job done. How should he answer, "Why is your GPA so low?" - Lisa DALE: Consider for a moment what the engineer was REALLY wondering - I suspect it was something like, "Are you going to be able to keep up, or are you going to be one of those employees who needs things explained a second and third time?" J.T.: Which is why your son is doing the right thing in positioning himself as an effective worker. I think he should go on to say: "I really want this job. I wish I could change the GPA, but I can't. So, if you hire me and in the first 90 days you don't feel I'm meeting your expectations, you can let me go, no questions asked." This will show them that he's totally confident in his abilities and that the GPA doesn't bother him. DALE: I like that. It would be even better if he could precede it with a quick rehabilitation of his GPA. He needs to look at his GPA year by year, and also by subject, and find ways to re-frame it. Also, a retired Duke University professor put together a site at www.gradeinflation.com. There your son can see that while the average GPA nationwide is 3.1, things are tougher at Auburn, where the most recent data has it at 2.75. With a bit of analysis of his GPA, he perhaps could truthfully say something like, "The average GPA at my school is 2.75, and if you look at my junior and senior years, after I got serious about school, my GPA was well above average." Start with that, then make the case J.T.'s suggesting, and I don't think your son's GPA will hold him back. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Explain GPA interview image from Shutterstock