At a job interview, how do you explain a low GPA?

Answer by Josh Tolan, CEO of

It’s certainly important to be honest about your grades, but remember that while you may have to discuss some negative aspects of your career history during a job interview, you should always highlight accomplishments alongside it as well. Many college students have low GPAs because they’re focused on other things, like working at the school newspaper, being heavily involved in clubs, volunteer work, or building new organizations on and off campus. Or maybe your grades were low because you were working a job to pay off college tuition or living expenses. Explain this to your interviewer, and transition into more positive aspects of your college experience by saying something like, “Although these activities negatively affected my GPA, I was able to build my skills in other ways and fulfill a number of other accomplishments, including…” and provide some examples. Be sure your interviewer knows you weren’t just slacking off.

Answer by Stuart Liroff, technical recruiter

I agree with telling the truth.

However, I disagree that working part-time, doing other extra curricular activities, (even relevant ones such as student government, fraternity leadership, clubs, volunteering, etc,) are an acceptable excuse. In my opinion, there is no good excuse whatsoever for a low GPA.

If you use such an excuse, you’ll get categorized as a ‘whiner’ and ‘complainer’ and won’t get hired.

I believe low GPA is a function of not performing higher on whatever standardized grading system your school was using. Simply that. Therefore, the excuse is that you didn’t study hard enough or work hard enough to understand what was expected of you so that you could perform higher. The take away message was that you learned from that experience and have compensated for those weaknesses by being humble and by working more studiously at your chosen craft.

Of course, if there are other more accurate reasons, then of course say it your own way, but my point in the previous paragraph is to position yourself and be honest about your low GPA. Say that you’ve learned and are working hard to improve.

I would not get into a long explanation. Keep it simple, straightforward, don’t dwell, and move on to the next topic. I was stupid, I learned, here’s my proof, and I’m improving as a result.

You might be introspective, in fact, and do an assessment. What have you done in your career to improve? These are good data points to cite, as an example, or proof, that you’re doing what you say.

Good luck!

Answer by Brian Gill, CEO of Gilware Inc.

If they cared about GPA you wouldn’t get the interview in the first place. I really only think GPA is relevant for your first full time job application. Many companies have realized that its often the 4.0 perfectionists that are not nearly as successful as the typically more well-rounded(socially) peers with 3.0. That is a massive generalization of course, as I’ve met many 4.0 PhD folks that are very affable and like to party.

A 4-year degree, minimum-GPA and relevant experience are potential table-stakes to get the interview. I can’t ever recall having a post-interview sit-down with all the hiring managers and a candidate’s degree or GPA even coming up in the conversation. The interview is all about attempting to figure out if this person will mesh well with the team, how autonomous and driven they are, what is their overall upside and how quickly will they hit the ground running.

If for some reason your GPA does come up the interview, honesty is the best policy … to some extent. If you were going through some substance abuse issues or general health issues that have been overcome, it’s really none of their concern at this point. Being overly honest might cause an unfair red-flag. A simple explanation that, ‘while I’m smart I’m not much of an academic.. I’m very happy to get out into the real world and put school behind me..’ should be good.

Answer by Bill Florin, writer and entrepreneur

You can’t get around the truth, so think about ways to present your successes in as compelling a way as possible.

Did you get great grades in a particular subject/discipline? If so, you can talk about how this subject area was a particularly strong interest for you. Explain how it will be especially valuable to the employer.

Did your grades get better later? If so, discuss how you learned from your mistakes earlier in your academic career, found a new focus and finished strong.

Did you work on a particular project that was very successful that could mitigate the GPA reality? For example, if you are interviewing for a position in a given field and you did projects/coursework that will be especially relevant, discuss that project. Though it didn’t necessarily improve your GPA markedly, you found it engaging. Connect the dots to explain how it will be valuable to the employer.

Don’t make excuses. As others have mentioned, excuses sound like whining, and that will not help.

Get creative in how you choose to explain your college experience. Good luck!

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are good ways to explain a low GPA during a job interview?

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