Addressing low grades during interviews

Posted February 05, 2016 by
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Joe Flanagan, guest writer

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, there’s a crisis in the USA with only 46% of students finishing college. Whether you have dropped out or graduated with low grades you are not alone. Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience, particularly your very first one, but if you are leaving college with low grades, the prospect of interviews can seem even more daunting. It is important to remember that despite low grades, you have still been invited for an interview, so the employer is interested in you. If you are worried about explaining your low grades, these tips can help you deal with this without it becoming a major issue.

1. Bringing it up

Depending on the emphasis placed on the grades, your interviewer might not even bring it up. However, if they do, it is important to be truthful about low grades during interviews, as they may ask for your qualifications at some point during the process. It is not really advisable to go into interviews and start by explaining the grades; only discuss it if the interviewer wants you to explain it.

2. The wrong subject

Many people start college courses and realize it wasn’t really the right subject for them and there is no shame in admitting this. In fact, there are hundreds of students who end up doing a range of different courses before deciding on what they actually want to do. If you chose the wrong subject, simply tell the interviewer you felt it was the course you wanted to do, but you found that you didn’t really enjoy the subject.

This can be a perfectly reasonable explanation for low grades because if you don’t enjoy something, it can be difficult to perform well. The aim is to de-emphasize your failures and try to shine a positive light on your positive “can do” attitude. If you did seek out new qualifications or extra courses outside your curricular activities, mention this during interviews.

3. Other commitments

If you were attending college but had other commitments, such as working long hours in a part-time job or caring for a family member, it is a good idea to explain this when asked about your low grades. Of course, it might not instantly impress the interviewer, but at least it shows that you were working hard in other areas of your life, rather than just not being good enough or putting effort into your studies. The interviewer may recognize this and be willing not to judge on your low grades alone.

4. What you learned

If asked about your low grades during interviews, you may want to steer the conversation in a positive way by explaining what you learned from the experience. Everyone makes mistakes and it is far better to admit this and show how you have improved, rather than trying to ignore it or lie about it. You could say that you were really disappointed that you got low grades and you realize you didn’t put the effort in, but that you have taken a lot from it and have realized that you need to work hard to achieve what you want from life.

You might want to use examples for this, such as it made you more focused on getting a job and working your way up and that you realize you might have something to prove but are more than willing to do so. Receiving low grades in college is by no means the end of the world when searching for your next job. You should always focus your other achievements whether that be extracurricular such as volunteering and social activities or the hard and soft skills you have learned. But be prepared; always have that back up explanation of your grades if the interviewer ever asks.

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Joe Flanagan has over five years experience in the career services industry. Joe is currently based at Velvet Jobs helping clients create a resume with their resume builder. When he’s not providing career tips you can find him getting taken for a walk by his two Jack Russell Terriers.

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