Do you think your grades are a good indicator of your ability to succeed in business?

Why Ask This Question?

Ah, tough question! But it certainly gets right to the heart of the matter. After all, every interview deserves its challenging moments. As a matter of fact, some employers choose to really lay on the pressure with queries such as Why are your grades so erratic? Why didn't you get better grades? Did you really think that a psychology major would qualify you to land a job in company like ours?'' and the like. These pressure cookers, however, can unnerve even the most self-confident candidates. Unless you're looking for someone who can really take rejection and deal in a boiler-room environment, you're better off leaving these nasty questions out of your interviewing agenda. They build little goodwill and test nothing other than the candidate's ability to tell you what you want to hear.

Analyzing the Response

Are grades in and of themselves clear indicators of potential job performance? To answer that, think about your own career experience. If you were clearly a C student and now rank within the top fifth percentile of sales producers in your company, then your need to locate a straight-A student will probably be negligible. If, on the other hand, you were a straight-A student and made a stellar transition into an insurance company as an actuary, then you might logically reason that academic grades necessarily correlate to logical thought patterns and self-imposed discipline.

Red Flags

The point is that most people hire in their own image. Grades, consequently, may reflect an individual's potential performance, but that's not guaranteed. What's more important in the interview process, though, is how the student feels about the correlation between grades and work potential. If the candidate immediately begins to apologize for less-than-stellar grades, beware: You might end up with someone lacking self-esteem and confidence in his abilities. On the other hand, if the individual fails to come to terms with his flagging academic performance, then you may be faced with a graduate who fails to assume responsibility for his actions and who bends the truth to subjectively paint pictures in his favor.

What s the ideal answer? An open admission of the individual s shortcomings. Few graduates sport straight-A grades. For example, consider someone who responds like this:

''I was a B- student and took five years to complete my degree, but I worked thirty hours a week to finance my education, and I was the first in my family to attend college. I'm proud of my performance and did the best I could with the time and resources available to me.''

This individual accepts her shortcomings and reveals a healthy ego. Similarly, a response like the following accounts for what the student was doing when not studying:

''I had a C average as an English major, but I was awarded the Freshman of the Year Award in the marching band and served my fraternity as president in my senior year.''

There s a very healthy trade-off between time at study and time holding leadership roles on campus, so that balance atones for a less-than-perfect grade point average.

By contrast, beware the student who blames others for her failures. A nagging and complaining tone like, ''Well, I could ve had better grades if I didn't have to work all the time'' or ''My 2.5 GPA corresponds to a 3.5 GPA if I hadn't participated in so many community-based activities and had as much time to study as everyone else portends poor performance. After all, no one needs to apologize for less-than-perfect grades. More important, no one should blame others for circumstances beyond her control. That s a trait that definitely translates from academia to business, and it's a headache that you need to avoid.

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