Report: Bosses Favor Social Skills Over GPA

    Although GPA is typically the only concrete number that gauges the academic performance of college graduates, it may not be the most important factor employers look for when recruiting employees, according to a recent report released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

    The report, titled “Job Outlook 2006,” identifies communication skills, integrity and teamwork as the top three qualities considered by employers, with GPA much further down the list. According to the report, which surveyed employers about desired traits in applicants, “The candidate with communication skills has the edge. Since NACE’s Job Outlook 1999 report, employers have consistently cited communication skills (written and verbal) as the most important skill or attribute for job candidates.”

    Forty percent of UCSD students go straight to graduate or professional school after graduation. For the other 60 percent, GPA will undoubtedly play a role in where they are hired after graduation, according to UCSD Career Services Center Director Andrew T. Ceperley.

    “GPA is important, has always been important, [and] will always be important,” Ceperley said. “However, I … would remind students that it’s not all there is.”

    The GPA is the only number to come out of the entire academic career of a college graduate. It provides employers an easy way to narrow the field of possible candidates. Most companies have a cutoff GPA, and applicants with lower GPAs are not even considered. Relevant coursework, work experience, organizational experience and internships all play important roles, but only if the employer reviews them. Although the typical screening number is a 3.0, Ceperley said that certain sectors, such as accounting or engineering companies, may screen at a 3.3 to 3.5 level.

    “Now, this doesn’t mean that the 2.7 student doesn’t stand a chance,” Ceperley said. “It does mean that the student has to find creative ways to tell his or her story.”

    Students struggle to round out their resumes with study abroad programs, volunteer work and leadership experience. Sometimes, more extracurricular involvement means a lower GPA.

    “The competitive applicant for a position ideally has a reasonable GPA … but also has a resume that consists of other activities and experiences,” Ceperley said.

    Marvin Yueh, a 2006 Earl Warren College graduate recently hired by Sony Pictures, said his 3.2 GPA kept him out of more competitive jobs.

    Yueh said that another company, the Triage Consulting Group, told him that a big factor in not granting him an interview was his GPA.

    Yueh developed his communication and leadership skills by joining a business organization his freshman year. This experience helped him land his job with Sony Pictures, but only became relevant during the interview process.

    A high GPA may not be the top factor companies are looking for, but it is still crucial, according to the report, which points out that 70.4 percent of surveyed companies screen candidates.

    Manufacturers are most likely to screen by GPA (81.2 percent), while 66.4 percent of service employers and 48.1 percent of government and nonprofit employers reported that they screen candidates’ GPAs, the report stated.

    Getting to the interview is critical — that’s where the communication skills and relevant experience score points, according to Ceperley.

    “It’s not just a numbers game,” he said. “Really all that the number is going to do is get the student to the point of interview. That’s the goal. Once at the point of interview, it’s all the other stuff that the student has to pull together to become competitive … but that number is often that early threshold just to get paid attention to.”

    More employers appreciate a “broad mix of experiences and somewhat lower GPA” than a student with only a high GPA, he said.

    Ceperley said that many graduates who go straight into employment often return to graduate or professional school after a few years. GPA matters more at this point, but it becomes progressively less important as more time passes after graduation. Business schools and law schools emphasize GPA more, but other experience is still an important consideration.

    “There is a law school for everybody,” Ceperley said, even students with low GPAs.

    Including a major GPA or senior GPA is pertinent if significant change has occurred over that period of time, and Ceperley said resumes should always be accurate.

    “Ethics in the job search has become quite a topic,” Ceperley said. “There are always going to be a percentage of employers who are going to ask for transcripts.”

    According to Ceperley, though its significance fluctuates from situation to situation, a student’s GPA will always be relevant after graduation.

    “If the academic performance is not happening, then the question I would have with the student is, ‘Is this [university] the best fit for you?’” Ceperley said.

    Readers can contact Justin P. Williams at [email protected].

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