International students often focus on GPA in the job search. I hear a lot of questions like:

Does GPA matter for engineering jobs?

Do employers look at your GPA? 

How important is GPA in the job search? 

The truth is that GPA isn’t nearly as important in your job or internship search as you think. Companies that hire international students and sponsor h1b aren’t looking for a good GPA. They’re looking for experienced students with specific skills. Even entry level OPT jobs for students require more than just a GPA.

I recently ran across this GPA job search question on Quora. Below is a modified version of the original question and answer: How important is GPA when it comes to landing an internship in the US as an international student?

ANSWER:

Overall, not very important. Employers evaluate you on many different parts. GPA is only one of them. Below are the other attributes employers look for in a candidate.

Experience

You still need experience to get an internship as an international student. So start working on projects outside of the classroom now. Build, create, write, or lead something. Show the employer you are qualified for the internship by working on projects that relate to your area interest. In the image below, US employers rank the most important qualities they want to see in job seekers like you. At the top of the list? Experience.

GPA job search

Source: NACE Job Outlook Survey 2018

Skills

Employers hire candidates with the skills to do the job. Below are the skills you need to show employers to get hired. Notice, communication skills are at the top. If you have a 4.0 GPA  but can’t tell a company why you’re skills qualify you for the job, your GPA doesn’t matter.

GPA Job Search Skills

Source: GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2017

Culture fit/Curiosity/Drive

Employers want more than good grades. Intelligence has many different signals. Here’s Lazlo Bock, former head of hiring at Google, on what they hire for at Google:

“Four things.” He lists them, in order of importance. First, “general cognitive ability… Not just raw [intelligence] but the ability to absorb information.” Second, “emergent leadership. The idea there being that when you see a problem, you step in and try to address it. Then you step out when you’re no longer needed. That willingness to give up power is really important.” The third thing, Bock says, “is cultural fit – we call it ‘Googleyness’ – but it boils down to intellectual humility.” He says you don’t have to be nice. “Or warm, or fuzzy. You just have to be somebody who, when the facts show you’re wrong, can say that.” And fourth? “Expertise in the job we’re gonna hire you for.”

The Exceptions

Most companies won’t ask for your GPA. There are exceptions, of course. If you are an international student pursuing an MBA and want to work in the big 3 consulting firms (Bain, MCK, BCG), you need a top GPA, and it should be on your resume if it’s above 3.7. Some firms may ask for your transcripts later in the interview process. Never lie about your GPA. If it’s low (below 3.0) make sure you’re doing practical projects during your time at school so you can show your qualifications. 

Remember: Your GPA isn’t the only thing you offer

As an international student in the job search your GPA is not the most important part in the candidate package. So if you have a lower GPA don’t worry so much. If you have a high GPA, make sure you don’t rely on only a high GPA to get you the job.

You offer a company subject matter knowledge, a set of skills, and a unique perspective. Employers are evaluating you in all of these areas.

Use the figure below to evaluate your resume. Are you showing these attributes on your resume?

Learn more about why companies hire international students.

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