More than a number: How much does Google care about GPA?

Gayle, I'm currently a junior at Cal Poly, and my GPA isn't great. I estimate when I graduate it'll be between a 2.7 and 3.1. Will that put me out of the running for Google and Microsoft? Do those companies really have a minimum GPA requirement? Is there anything I can do to offset my low GPA to increase my chances of getting hired?

~ Alex

Not only is there not GPA requirement, but you don't even necessarily need to have gone to college. I worked with a number of people at Google who had dropped out of college. Does that mean GPA doesn't matter? Not quite.

Both Google and Microsoft will try to use any available metrics to predict whether or not you'd be a successful employee. Once you've interviewed, your interview performance matters much, much more than anything on your resume. In fact, I never even remember GPA being discussed after someone's interview.

In the resume selection process, GPA can certainly have an impact, but it's not the only factor. Ultimately, companies are looking for a "track record of achievement," or signs that you're smart and that you can code. That can be one or more of these factors:

  • Attending a good school
  • Internships / jobs at other "good" companies
  • A strong GPA (above 3.0)
  • Big / cool projects (course projects, open source work, things you've done 'for fun')
  • Other technical work: TAing, etc

If you don't have a great GPA, that's okay. Many people get interviewed with low GPAs, but they compensate with other projects and work. In fact, that's exactly what I did (my GPA varied between a 3.0 and a 3.3).

One final thing: if you're trying to compensate for a lower GPA with other projects, the quality of your resume tends to make a bigger difference. After all, if the numbers are telling a great story, it's that much more important that you learn how to.

Read our resume tips on the links below, or check out CareerCup's professional resume review service.

Less Is More: How I Cut My Resume To One Page

I (very) recently wrote about Eight Reasons Why You Need a One Page Resume.  As an example of how you can cut down your resume, I wanted to provide an illustration of how you can, in fact, fit a lot of content on one page - without making your margins tiny. Here’s what I manage to fit on one page of my resume (view here):

  1. Three internships at Microsoft
  2. One internship at Apple
  3. Three years at Google
  4. One year at a start-up
  5. Founder / CEO of CareerCup
  6. Founder / Co-CEO of Seattle Anti-Freeze
  7. Author of Cracking the Coding Interview
  8. Author of The Google Resume
  9. Masters in CS from UPenn
  10. BSE in CS from UPenn
  11. Minor in Mathematics
  12. MBA from Wharton
  13. Former instructor for 1 CS course as an undergrad at UPenn
  14. Former instructor for 2 CS courses at the University of Washington
  15. Various activities: Principal at Wharton Ventures (VC Group), Yearbook Chair, Social chair of cohort, Finalist in venture capital competition

How did I fit all this on my resume?  By being very, very selective:

  • CUT: College projects.  They’re coding projects.  I’ve demonstrated that I’m highly technical by having other software engineering positions.  It just doesn’t matter any more – particularly as I’m not applying for coding jobs.
  • CUT: TA / Head TA at Penn for 4 years.  While being a TA / Head TA does show some valuable communication and other skills, I have already demonstrated that through other activities (such as being an instructor at UPenn / UW).
  • CUT: Hobbies.  It’s not that no one would care that, say, I enjoy playing squash, but a lot more people will care about almost anything else still on my resume.  Any that goes for most people - don’t waste time with your hobbies.
  • CUT: Advisor to various start-ups.  Again, it’s not that it doesn’t matter at all, but it doesn’t matter as much as other stuff.
  • REDUCED: Microsoft and Apple jobs.  Although I’ve already demonstrated technical skills through my position with Google, there is something compelling about the fact that I’ve worked at Microsoft, Apple and Google.  I don’t need to spend a ton of time discussing these jobs.  Just listing them is enough.  I put one bullet under each company, covering four internships total, and that’s enough.

See my “one pager” resume: Technical College Resume (2005)Non-Technical Professional Resume (2011)

Sure, it hurt a bit to cut that stuff.  But by removing or reducing those less impressive accomplishments / roles, I ensure that everyone who glances at my resume will see the most impressive things.

Again, if you need more convincing if you aren't convinced of why you can and should have a one page resume, read this post Eight Reasons Why You Need a One Page Resume.