Interview Low GPA

How To Explain A Low GPA In An Interview


You finally get the interview for your dream job. You’re looking good, feeling confident, and then you get hit with what could be a fatal blow. The interviewer says, “The other candidates for this position had a much higher GPA.”

Related: #1 Reason You Get Interviews But Not Offers

How To Explain A Low GPA In An Interview

But this does not have to be “the end.” There are a several ways to recover and come across as the strongest candidate you can be – even securing the role. Here are some tips:

Stay Confident

Don’t let an objection shake your confidence. If you were not considered to be a serious contender, you would not be sitting in the interview seat. Interviewers often hit you with one or more tough questions or challenge you with statements to see how you react. They want to know if you will be crushed by the pressure or if you will mount an argument to show that you deserve the position. How you handle responding to a low GPA provides insight as to how you might behave on the job.

Always Have a Plan

It is critical to sell yourself. After a major sports event, the athletes are often asked, “What was your plan?” Invariably, the athlete will detail his initial plan and then explain how he went to a plan B when circumstances changed.  The same strategy holds true in an interview; winners always have a primary plan and the contingency plan when the inevitable happens: Plan A goes awry. If a low GPA is your Achilles Heel, make a plan in advance to overcome that weakness. It is foolish to ignore your weaknesses. Have a game plan for handling any objections, challenges, or tough questions thrown at you.

Sell Your Strengths

Don’t spend a lot of energy explaining your weaknesses. Instead sell your unique strengths. It does not matter that you are up against competition with near-perfect GPAs. That does not mean someone else’s entire profile is perfect. In what areas did you shine? Were you a leader on campus? Were you an athlete at a Division I school? Did you complete a high-profile internship? Convey your top strengths.

Provide Valid Reasons

Everyone hates excuses. You will need to share a valid reason or reasons for your grades. Maybe a couple of math courses really hurt your GPA. If math is not a necessary skill in your career, that may be worth sharing. If you do, be sure your GPA in your field of study is excellent.

Another factor worth mentioning is how your time was divided. Were you juggling campus activities, tutoring other students, community service, or a work-study program? Were you on a sports team, dance group, or orchestra that required you to practice 16 hours per week? Suddenly, that less than stellar GPA is looking like you were juggling multiple priorities – all with a certain level of importance and commitment level.

The main takeaway is this: Do not allow a single issue or question to knock you down. Evaluate yourself and prepare a case for why you are the strongest candidate. Present a portrait of your whole self and the value you offer the hiring company. Play to your strengths and make sure you are prepared to answer challenging questions with grace and aplomb.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

Why Your Experience And Education Won’t Get You Hired
Resumes When You Don’t Have A College Degree
How To Address An Incomplete Degree On Your Resume

Debra Wheatman | Certified Professional Resume Writer & Career Coach

About the author

With 20+ years as a strategic career advisor, Debra helps clients obtain highly desired interviews for competitive positions, including preparing results-oriented resumes, and providing guidance centered around interview preparation, salary negotiations, and overall career management. Visit her website at!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Debra Wheatman

Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write, is globally recognized as an expert in advanced career search techniques. She helps clients obtain highly desired interviews for competitive positions.


  1. Thank you :) So far there has only been one job, that I applied for, that requested my transcripts. Unfortunately, although unknowingly to me the transcripts hadn’t uploaded correctly, and came out on their end all scrambled, causing me to loose out on a potential interview, due to the job closing. Other than this, I have not been asked about my transcripts or GPA. (which isn’t great, but isn’t really bad either.)
    Although I may not at this point know, other than being honest, how to explain the low parts, I think I will stress about that procedure when and if the time comes.
    Thank you again for the great advice.
    Pam D

  2. It’s always important to be honest in your interview. Chances are, the interviewer already knows all about you before you step in the room. As you noted, counter things like low GPAs with real results, experiences, and skills which will obviously benefit the organization. This helps you to sell your strengths, even if you have something like a low GPA.

  3. GPA? Who worries about a GPA after graduation? I’m a fairly recent graduate who I’m sure had a good GPA but I don’t know what it is nor do I list it on my resume or anywhere else… I’ve never heard of carrying the GPA beyond the classroom…

    • Amy Altenhaus, Ph.D

      The question was how to explain a low GPA in an interview. In today’s economy people want to present themselves the best light and many people wonder what matters in these interviews when interviewers are looking to screen out people. Another way to look at the question is how does one deal with the stuff we feel insecure about in this tough market. Asking about GPA may be one way interviewers look to screen people out. Of course, GPA may say little about how someone performs in the particular job in question. I think you can confidently show what you can add to a job even when you may have had some ups and downs in life. I think it is how you present yourself in addition to the skills you have.

  4. Amy Altenhaus, Ph.D

    Debra–I do career counseling with clients. I tell clients I work with to take apart the GPA. That is, maybe you had a low overall GPA but a 3.8 in your major. Also, maybe the overall GPA was pulled down by lower grades your first year in college, a very common occurance but is higher now. Present your GPA by first two years and last two years or by semester or each year to show how you progressed if you did. If your GPA was pulled down in one semester that was in a later year, show what your GPA was in the surrounding semesters if it was higher and explain what accounted for this as you stated above. Also whatever your weak areas are, show how you are addressing it eg other courses you are taking and the grades you are currently getting in those courses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *