Navigating OCR with a Low GPA: Networking & Persistence are the Keys to Success

This blog was written by a May 2010 graduate who, despite a low GPA, landed a great job through the recruiting process.

My GPA at the beginning of senior year was far from perfect. While I had a great resume in terms of community achievements, extra-curriculars, and work experience, my GPA consistently kept employers at bay. It’s not very surprising that I received only a meager handful of interviews (I estimate about 3) with my resume alone. I can probably attribute another 3 interviews to my networking efforts at On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) events (like the Career Fairs being held this week.)

My tips for OCR networking would be to 1) formulate and ask questions that you would have if you were really planning to work for the firm, and 2) to bring something to the table — if you run a business on the side or a non-profit, offer up a board or advisory position.

Regarding 1), it doesn’t help to ask a recruiter whether they like their job or about the projects they’re working on — most likely, they’re bound by confidentiality agreements and can’t tell you much. Instead, I liked to ask for a rundown of a day-in-their-life, or ask them about specific metrics and tools they use on a daily basis. These are questions that give a more tangible answer that can help you better understand the profession and prepare for the job. As for 2), I happened to work for a non-profit consultancy at the time and we were looking for people to fill our Board of Directors — I ended up being more memorable than most people because I could leverage that offer and talk up my involvements at the same time.

However, the bulk of interviews that I scored (about 10 or so) resulted from waking up early each day, dressing up as if I had an interview, smiling grimly to myself, massaging the tired bags that lingered persistently beneath my eyes before heading out, and working my way through the Recruiter Add-On Interview process where employers fill open interview slots on the day of their on-campus interviews by accepting “Recruiter Add-On Interview Requests”. (see the link for instructions)

Overall, OCR was an extremely humbling experience, and I ended up making some contacts (which I keep in touch with via LinkedIn) that truly believed in my intellectual worth. I also picked up valuable communications skills and learned how to effectively “sell” myself as a candidate. If anything, it amply prepared me for the interview that did land me a job, as I am now happily employed at a firm that has given me the exact opportunities I originally planned to tackle 3 or 4 years down the line. So, if you are in my shoes, I wouldn’t expect to get a job offer early in the process — but when you do, it’ll most likely be a better fit than you ever imagined.

To be fair, I had a somewhat excusable reason for my low GPA (something that can be considered an extenuating circumstance.) And I inherently believed that I had something to offer companies. So this is by no means the go-ahead to dive into OCR with a low GPA and some poorly timed drunken escapades or a reckless freshman year to blame. You really need a strong emotional support network (friends, significant other, family, mentor etc.) — because you will break down occasionally — and a healthy, unwavering sense of self-confidence to take this OCR approach. However, I hope this will help prospective job seekers with low GPAs understand the truth — companies do not look lightly upon a poor GPA. It does not matter how life-threatening your circumstances, you’ll still deal with the skepticism and have a hard(er) time getting your foot through the door.

Despite this, don’t let a low GPA deter you from participating in the OCR process. Build on your strengths and have an arsenal of positive accomplishments to offset that GPA. Make sure companies understand you are hard-working, but not necessarily in the traditional sense.  And most importantly, you just have to work harder than other OCR-goers — and unfortunately, that’s just something we have to accept.

This old blog post offers tips on preparing for a career fair.

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.

3 thoughts on “Navigating OCR with a Low GPA: Networking & Persistence are the Keys to Success”

  1. other meaningful things you may have done on the side certainly do help cover the gaps a low GPA can leave behind. I also do agree with you that companies do not look down lightly on low GPA. However, a low GPA does not necessarily mean low competence like you yourself proved. I think companies need to give less weight to GPA and a little more to the potential a candidate has top offer. Of course each company will always maintain a cut off but I just feel that GPA should not be ‘THE’ deciding factor on a candidate’s admission or rejection to the vacant position.

  2. I do agree that your GPA should not be the deciding factor for a canidate because your overall hands on knowledge can overide your GPA.

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