Grit vs. Grades: What really matters to hiring companies?

When you’ve been on the other side of college for a couple of years (or decades), it’s not so shocking an idea that grades carry little clout. Just last week, Google’s head of HR, Laszlo Bock, made headlines for (re)affirming that Google doesn’t assign much weight to school names and GPAs. Why? Because the data doesn’t match up. There often isn’t a clear relationship between these things and actual job performance. But when you’re still in the college mindset, it’s hard to come to terms with this. A just-graduated job seeker recently told me, “I put my school and GPA at the top of my resume because it’s the most impressive thing about me.” I agree that her admittance to a great college and her near-perfect grades were impressive. I disagree that they’re enough to get her a job. Here’s how I see it now. Grades do matter. But grit matters more, especially when hiring. The term “grit” has taken on a new meaning in recent years – much of it thanks to the research of Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Psychology. Duckworth defines grit as the “quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time.” Sounds fun, right? Fortunately, in our experience, the definition of grit goes further than that. From the 40+ high-growth companies Koru partners with, we’re constantly hearing that “grit” is the most important thing they look for when hiring. How do they define grit? Tenacity and resilience in fast-paced, often ambiguous work environments. People who are gritty are people who will do anything to get the job done. They do not let the prospect of failure deter them from trying and trying again. They will be relentless in pursuit of their goals. Having grit means having an indomitable spirit. Now, back the the GPA thing: of course having good grades shows grit, especially if your grades stay high regardless of the subject matter (read: good grades in subjects you’re not naturally interested in or good at are a terrific indicator of hard-working tenacity, which is just a fancy way of saying “grit”.) It takes perseverance to succeed in school, so you shouldn’t discount a great GPA if you have one. However! If you don’t have a perfect GPA, fear not — because for some, a B in one subject might have meant more hard work than someone else’s A (because let’s face it: for some folks, studying just comes easy). The good news for those of you out there who had to work hard for that B: the professional world wants to talk to you. So keep on with your hard-working self — it pays out in the end.

Malena Harrang is a Customer Success Manager at Koru, the leader in predictive hiring based on what really drives performance. She’s been with Koru for three years, working closely with college students and employers to help them find the right fit.

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