Tough Interview Question - Are your grades a good indication of your ability?

Are your grades a good indication of your ability?

Similar interview questions:
What were your SAT scores?
Why is your GPA not higher?
Were there any classes in college where you struggled to get good grades?
In which university classes did you do particularly well compared to your other classes?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer will typically not ask this question as a standard question for all candidates. It is likely being asked because there is an apparent disconnect between your grades and your abilities. More specifically, it is because you, as a candidate, have lower grades compared to the others candidates being interviewed.

The best approach to answering this question:
If you have good grades and are at or near the top of your class, this question is easy to answer. The answer is yes and give an example of one of your best classes and how it translated into your ability to successfully deliver in your work life. However, for most, this question is being asked because there is a gap between a lower than ideal GPA and the expectations for the role. In this case, you need to pivot from your grades to your ability to perform in the role. If there is a specific reason why your grades were lower than indicated by your abilities, explain it, but do not dwell upon it. Move on to the positive.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"My grades in college were lower than I would have liked due to working while going to school. I needed to pay my way for my schooling and sometimes my work impacted my ability to get the best grades in each class. Yet some of my best experience in college was gained through my concurrent work experience. As an example, I had a summer internship where they invited me back to work part-time during the school year. Even though I knew it would stretch me very thin on my ability to do well in my classes, I accepted the role, since it would help me better develop my professional skills. As a result, I was able to pass the industry certification tests before I had even graduated from college…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I didn’t have very good grades my first year of college, which brought down my overall GPA. However, once I got into my current major, I have been at or near the top of my class with my grades. So yes, I would say my grades are a good indicator of my ability for the classes that are directly aligned with my profession. As an example…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I spent a lot of time partying in college. I didn’t really have my head on straight. A couple times the Dean even threatened to kick me out. But I somehow managed to finish my degree and not a minute too early. School was just not my thing. Well, at least the classes part…"


Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!


Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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