GPA, Work Experience, Resume, Interview, Internship Experience, Work Environment
JOB HUNT / 14 December 2016
GPA vs. Experience: Which Matters More On Your Resume?
Avatar Image
Changfan Chen

As we’re approaching the internship hiring season, it is evident that students are working hard on their resumes, trying to make themselves look as impressive as possible on a single side of a standard 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper. Let’s be real--there’s so much more to a person than words on paper, so what exactly do you need to include on your resume to stand out? Is your GPA all that matters? Or is your overall work experience more important?



Yes, most recruiters believe that GPA matters, but to varying degrees. If you are interested in pursuing medical, law, or graduate school, then you should probably take your GPA into heavy consideration. Since you are essentially continuing your education, your undergraduate academic performance is important to universities when deciding whether you’ll be the right fit or not. Additionally, some recruiters may also require a minimum GPA when applying for a job. Common GPA cutoffs are 3.5 , 3.3 , or 3.0. However, generally speaking, if your GPA is above a 3.0, it is encouraged to include it in your resume. If your GPA is below a 3.0, it is up to you whether you choose to omit it or keep it on (unless your recruiter explicitly requires it). 

In most cases, the GPA is more important during the early stages of your career, right after you have graduated from college. Since most college graduates don’t have years and years of work experience in their major-related field yet, recruiters use GPA as an indicator of a student’s work ethics and motivation. As you accumulate more work experience, your GPA will likely become less relevant.

Work Experience

Typically, work and internship experience are better indicators about a candidate than GPA. There are so many reasons why it is impossible to completely judge a person based on their grades; every university’s academic rigor varies, some schools face GPA inflation, every student’s extracurriculars differ, and nobody’s personal lives are the same. Regardless, all these factors affect a candidate’s GPA, and one student’s 3.5 GPA may be extremely different from another student’s 3.5 GPA. 

Furthermore, work and school environments tend to be very different. You’ve heard stories of college dropouts who went on to become self-made millionaires (not that I necessarily recommend this path for everyone). These people did not become who they are because of their education or GPA, but because of their ambition and desire to succeed. Similarly, a student who excelled academically does not always equate to someone who will excel at a job. Therefore, most employers usually prefer a solid track of work experience over a perfect GPA.

The Bottom Line

If you can have the best of both worlds, you are one lucky fella. However, for the rest of us, it is important for us to do our best to focus our efforts on both academics and work experience. It is wrong to completely value one over the other, as different companies may prefer one over the other. 

For instance, during my freshman year of college, I submitted my resume to two similar, competing companies. Both had a GPA cutoff on their job posting, but I still chose to omit my GPA from my resume. 

One of these companies moved me onto the interview process because they were impressed with my work experience. The other told me that I needed to provide a GPA since it was listed in their requirements. Different recruiters will value different aspects of your resume.

Start Gaining Experience As Early As Possible

As previously mentioned, what is taught at school isn’t always what is needed at work, resulting in a huge skill gap that many companies are noticing nowadays when hiring new college graduates. Having a solid GPA or a good track record of work experience may look enticing to a recruiter, but in a pool of hundreds of resumes, what will really help you seal the deal to the job? 

Having practical, hands-on, and real-life skills will help give recruiters more confidence in knowing that you’re the right candidate for the position. It will set your resume apart from the rest because unlike other candidates, who may lack the specific skill-set for a job, you will be able to start equipped with previous knowledge and training. As a college student, it’s important to acquire as much work experience as possible, whether that is through an internship or even a projectship

What do you think? What’s your take on the GPA vs. work experience debate? Comment below!