Do marks matter in job hunt?

University District

Grade point average isn’t a top criteria for many companies when hiring

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said it’s difficult to compare Queen’s to other institutions because cultural, social and economic variables factor into students’ performance.
Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said it’s difficult to compare Queen’s to other institutions because cultural, social and economic variables factor into students’ performance.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
Career counselling co-ordinator Jane Good says although some employers are interested in applicants’ marks, many are not.
Career counselling co-ordinator Jane Good says although some employers are interested in applicants’ marks, many are not.
Photo: 
Mack McCallum, Queen’s director of compensation and benefits, stands with Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Roderick Morrison, right, in Morrison’s office in Dunning Hall.
Mack McCallum, Queen’s director of compensation and benefits, stands with Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Roderick Morrison, right, in Morrison’s office in Dunning Hall.
Photo: 

You’re told you need them to get into university, into graduate school, to get a good job and to have a
secure future.

You have probably spent years of your life worrying about whether yours are up to par.

But once you get out of school, how important are marks to the people who are hiring you?

Career counselling co-ordinator Jane Good said marks can be important in some job searches, but
only to a point. “They’re one indicator of performance—emphasis on one,” she said. “Not everyone you meet will be at all interested in your transcript. Some will be interested in your marks; most will not. They would be interested only as a sorter, trying to sift through the amazing number of applications they get.” If an employer were recruiting at Queen’s, Good said, he or she would be more likely to look at grades as an indicator of merit and as a way to narrow down the list of academic candidates from the University.

Good said that, more than grades, most employers are looking for applicants to demonstrate strengths that relate directly to the position for which they’re applying.

Good said employers use high marks to make their decision when marks indicate skills that would apply to the position they’re hiring for.

“What would make top marks a predictor in a field?” she asked. “The job for the employer is to figure out what those great marks mean. The candidate can, to a certain extent,explain to an employer what those marks mean.

“It’s up to a candidate to contextualize the marks they have in light of the expectations of the job,” she said. “You have to meet the employer at the same place.” On their own, high marks aren’t enough to secure a job, Good said. “If I were a student coming out of university and I had fabulous marks … I’m going to make sure they know the implications of those marks. I’m going to say, ‘I’m standing in the top three in my class’ … So, what does your sound academic performance say about you?
“You translate your life into terms that are meaningful for them.”

Julia Rabinovitch, director of communications for Kingston company FocusFit HRD technologies, said they tend not to look at an applicant’s grades. “We don’t generally look at grades, so if a student indicates in their resumé what their GPA is, and it’s high, then obviously that reflects positively,” she said. “We do ask skill-testing questions, so as long as they’re able to answer that, and we do look at samples of work so as long as they bring a portfolio. Those kinds of things are more helpful than their grades.” Rabinovitch said FocusFit gets applications from a number of people from diverse walks of life,
and not all of them have university grades to ask for. “We’d have to look at the whole picture because ... certain people are not great at school but they can really apply themselves,” she said. “We wouldn’t hire someone based purely on their grades; they also have to demonstrate they can apply their theoretical knowledge to practical applications.” Tom Kelly, a spokesperson for the federal government’s Public Services Commission, said that as long as a job applicant has the degree or formal education required for the job in question, the applicant’s GPA isn’t an issue. “We’re bound by law to hire based on merit and a whole bunch of values, making sure that our staffing is done in a transparentbasis, that people are given proper access to jobs and that it’s done in a fair manner,” he said. “[It’s] not just based on marks but knowledge and experience come into play as well as language and those kind of things.”

With some of the government’s special recruitment programs, however, there are much higher expectations. “We’re looking for doctorate, masters or law degrees, plus various language requirements and then scholarships such as Trudeau, Rhodes, Fulbright,” he said. “There are some times when it’s not necessarily GPA but, you know, you’re looking for some academic excellence.”
Fraser Whale, a spokesperson for the consulting firm Ernst and Young, has recruited for the company at Queen’s. “To be honest, your grades are a pretty good indicator of someone’s abilities, technical abilities, when they apply themselves,” he said. “But they can’t demonstrate all qualities we’re looking for. Someone may get very good grades, but it maynot tell us they’re a good leader or a good team person.” The one mark cutoff Ernstand Young has is the minimum average needed in certain courses
in order for applicants to qualify for a chartered accountant exam. In Ontario, that’s a B-minus. Kelly Callon-McLean, director of student and associate affairs at Aird and Berlis Barristers and Solicitors, said they’re looking for well-rounded students with interesting work experience.“We’re looking for candidates who are involved in extracurricular activities outside of school, but still keep their grades at a reasonable level.” Callon-McLean said the firm has no “magic formula” when deciding whether or not to hire an applicant. “A well-written cover letter is important,” she said. “It is the first thing we see and it is a chance to see a person’s ability to get your attention. Even before I look at a person’s resumé and grades, I want to know what kind of person they are. I want to say, ‘Wow, I’d like to meet that person.’ ” Callon-McLean said it’s important for applicants to proofread their applications.

“I have had resumés where the candidate put the wrong firm name down, or they spelled the firm’s
name wrong,” she said. “That is something that can move you to the bottom of the list.”

Compared with U of T

Queen's UniversityUniversity of Toronto
Principal/President$306,425.04$354,117.49
Vice-Principal/President (Advancement)$279,147.14$235,514.85
Dean of School of Business$236,520.50$350,000.10
Dean of Faculty of Law$149,909.50$139,322.21

Sample of employees earning $100,000-plus (2006)

•David Walker, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences—$320,073.32
•Roger Deeley, Director, Cancer Research/Professor, Pathology—$217,951.71
•Suzanne Fortier, Professor, Chemistry—$210,070.00
•Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Professor, Oncology—$206,210.50
•Tina Dacin, Professor, Business—$191,446.48
•Kee-Hong Bae, Associate Professor, Business—$183,908.92
•Timothy Childs, Assistant Professor, Pathology and Molecular Medicine—$177,782.32
•Robert Stanley Brown, Professor, Chemistry—$150,704.50
•Robert Beamish, Head, Sociology/Associate professor, Health Education—$145,650.80
• Kim Richard Nossal, Head/Professor, Political Studies—$140,389.96
•Donald Stuart, Professor, Faculty of Law—$133,496.02
•Irène Bujara, Director, Human Rights Office—$115,615.00
•Anne Marie Claire Godlewska, Head/Professor, Geography—$112,976.66
•Dean Tripp, Assistant Professor, Psychology— $106,788.98
•Ronald Holden, Professor, Psychology—$104,393.04
•Robert Morrison, Professor, English—$103,496.97
•Michael Beyak, Postdoctoral Fellow, Gastroenterology—$100,000.02

—Source: fin.gov.on.ca

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