For the two years they are in business school, MBAs are students first. But how much effort should they be putting into earning a high GPA?
Based on responses from the employers who hire them, you might think grades should be pretty low on the list of priorities. But the answer is a little more complicated than that.
“Generally we don’t look at GPAs,” says Erwin Chan, an MBA recruiter at Microsoft (MSFT) in Seattle and a 2007 graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “We don’t think it’s indicative of the talent we’re looking for. It’s just one data point.”
Marketing firms never asked for GPAs, says Chan, reflecting on his own MBA job search. In fact, most business school administrators and recruiters say that consulting firms and investment banks are among the few to ask about grades. But even they say that grades won’t make or break an applicant.
“GPA is one component that we’re looking at,” says Chris Franck, principal and national strategy and operations MBA recruiting leader for Deloitte Consulting. “A student’s ability to perform in an academic environment is important to us and our clients.” But Franck adds that students from schools with nontraditional grading systems or that have a grade nondisclosure policy, which prohibits them from sharing GPA with recruiters, can still get hired at the firm. “It’s not an issue for us,” he says. “If we don’t have GPA, we can glean from the résumé the kind of involvement the student has on campus.”
Like most recruiters, Franck stresses that GPA is part of a bigger picture that he and his team look at when considering the employment of an MBA. They also want to see evidence of intellectual curiosity, leadership, confidence, communication skills, professionalism, and a client-oriented mindset, he says.
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