How do you deal with a company's request for a transcript if your grades aren't that great?
April 6, 2007 8:59 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with a company's request for a transcript if your grades aren't that great?

My friend is applying to a software developer position at a software company. She's fresh out of university with a degree in computer science and the company wants to see her transcript, but her grades aren't that great, mostly in the C range. Grades were not a concern because she figured she wouldn't be pursuing computer science in grad school and figured that she'd never face a company asking for a transcript. Does anyone have any suggestions for dealing with this situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How far along is she in the interview process? If she's nearly to the point of a job offer, they're probably only interested in verifying that she has the degree she claims she has. That's the only point I've had to cough up transcripts.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:08 PM on April 6, 2007

I don't think there's a way around it, but as jacquilynne points out it might not be fatal.

The circumstance in which I'd counsel doing anything other than just sending the transcript is if your friend has a really excellent excuse for some of the bad grades (like, contemporaneous death in the family) in which case she should send that along with the transcript. But that doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by grobstein at 9:23 PM on April 6, 2007

Just bring the transcript. Any company that hires software developers based on their Computer Science grades isn't worth working for. Her CS degree has as much to do with a real-world programming job as my Literature degree does with mine.
posted by jacobian at 9:40 PM on April 6, 2007

She should be prepared to talk about her low grades, though. If they ask, "well, I didn't think my grades mattered, so I didn't try very hard" isn't going to cut it.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:11 PM on April 6, 2007

Seconding Mr. President: she needs to be able to be frank about what happened. Has she learned from it (i.e. "I realize now that while my grades don't reflect what I've learned in college, I should have tried harder to make them an accurate measure of my knowledge and skills"), or does she really not care, as it sounds she doesn't?

If she doesn't care, then I don't know: many companies won't care about grades, but they will care about some performance metric somewhere, and if she's flippant about those too, then the transcript is just a bellwether of problems to come.

I disagree with jacobian: people that do things like this, half-assing college courses because "they doesn't matter", half-ass their programming and design as well. I've worked with those kids both in-class and in part-time jobs, and they suck in both situations.
posted by CipherSwarm at 10:25 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with everything CipherSwarm says, including disagreement with jacobian. CS degrees do indeed overlap with real programming jobs, and grades in general are indicators of work ethic. If I was interviewing her, I'd want a really good excuse.

Something that could make up for the grades, IMO, would be some sort of personal project that she could show off. It's easy just to say "I was a bit of a slacker, but I'm better now"; it's another thing entirely to be able to prove it by demonstrating some neat stuff you've been doing on your own initiative.
posted by equalpants at 10:50 PM on April 6, 2007

She should either apply to a company other than google, or go for a QA position.

I wouldn't ask for grades when interviewing an SDE at a tech company, but I also wouldn't seriously consider anyone that I knew received straight C's.

Personally, I half-assed my Comp Sci classes, and walked away with a BS and MS in four years. If C's are the best you can do in college, I don't want you on my team.

There are people who have been extremely successful with dismal or non-existent college grades. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison all dropped out of college before starting their respective companies, but they still look for people with decent college records. Who am I to disagree with them?
posted by b1tr0t at 11:36 PM on April 6, 2007

My rough appraisal of the whole situation is that success in CS classes correlates strongly with success in a corporate environment, but not so much with being an accomplished engineer. I'm guessing your friend will be one of two types. The first type will be happiest in a startup or small office setup. The second type is in trouble, because she actually is of mediocre ability and/or enthusiasm. In this case she is in entirely the wrong field because, well, successful software development is an elitist and cutthroat affair.

So the good news is that all of this sort of works out in the long run, though it can be a nerve-wracking bumpy ride at first. Your friend won't be happy in the sort of stuffy circles that think her grades are really important, and conveniently, they won't want anything to do with her, either. Problem solved.

Oh yeah, so the advice : Your friend should be honest. She should try to speak enthusiastically about whatever it was that excited her enough to capture her attention and time, and not so much try to explain why whatever it was wasn't something else.
posted by Bokononist at 11:48 PM on April 6, 2007

Grad school aspirations or not, I'm wondering how your friend got through university assuming that she'd somehow get out of having anyone care about her transcript post-graduation. Even the least desireable companies routinely ask new grads -- or even internship applicants -- to divulge their grades, and it's one of those metrics that holds somewhat more weight if you're in CS or engineering rather than the humanities.

If it's pre-screening, let's be honest -- there's a good number of (sometimes misguided) HR people who'll automatically cull applicants with 60 averages. Now, if they let her explain herself after seeing her marks, either having either co-op experience or doing CS-type stuff recreationally is pretty much the only way to make up for that. If she can't show that she has anything like that to offer, then, well, she's in the wrong field.
posted by thisjax at 1:19 AM on April 7, 2007

If she's bringing them to the interview, she will, at least, have a chance to explain.

Does she not test well, but could she show she did better on assignments or in classes where the grades were more based on assignments than tests? Can she demonstrate strong interests/involvement in something else (preferably CS related, like an open source project) while she was in school that would justify having spent more time on getting the most out of college and less on actual classes? Was she in a hyper competitive program full of alpha geeks where being there at all was an accomplishment and getting Cs was just getting killed by the curve?

Speaking knowledgeably and enthusiastically about what she learned in specific classes, might help as well. To demonstrate that she did take something away from her college experience besides minimal passes.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2007

It's true, in my experience of both applying for and hiring for software development positions, that grades don't matter much, but only when applying for your second, third, fourth job. Professional experience and references are worth so much more. By then, the transcript is a formality to prove you went to college and the grades on it become more irrelevant over time. Straight out of college and applying for a first job, however, there's often very little to separate candidates and grades can make all the difference.

Someone who talks enthusiastically about the field, can demonstrate some genuine commitment by knowledgeable discussion about projects they've been involved with, and who generally otherwise interviews well will often beat cardboard cutout candidates with better grades. But all Cs and not much else to show for it might be challenging.
posted by normy at 10:20 AM on April 7, 2007

Funny, I made the same assumption as b1trot.

She should bring the transcript, and she should concentrate on the rest of the interview. While the HR people may be a barrier to entry, personality and chops will overcome any prejudice they have due to marks or else the company in question isn't worth working for (in that they have hired very poor HR, not in the oblique fight-the-power sense.)

My personal experience has been entirely startuppey, and the brightest stars have been, to a person, B- average folks. I agree with the above speculation that A-students probably thrive in a more corporate environment, but I don't usually hire them.
posted by abulafa at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2007

I agree with jacquilynne that if the grades/transcripts are brought to the interview, there is an opportunity for explanation of the courses taken, grades, etc. An employer might also want to see what specific courses your friend has taken to see how relevant her coursework is to the specific job for which she's hiring.

Different people (companies) have different reasons for wanting to look at the grades and unless you can find another person who has been through the interview with the same company it may be difficult to know exactly what their reasons are until the interview.
posted by jurczyk at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2007

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