Hiring Top Talent: A High G.P.A. Doesn’t Guarantee Employee Success

by Sandra Hess June 7, 2016
June 7, 2016

When Hiring Top Talent, a High G.P.A. Doesn't Guarantee Employee Success

Not too long a ago, Google recruiter Laszlo Bock revealed in an interview with the New York Times that his team rarely looks at G.P.A. scores during the frontline hiring process, asserting that “G.P.A.’s are worthless criteria for hiring.”

This is a bold statement, considering more than 50% of top employers automatically eliminate job applicants with a G.P.A. lower than 3.0. However, research shows there is little evidence that G.P.A. is directly linked to a company’s quality of hire. During his interview, Bock went on to point out that “academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment.” But not necessarily in the real world.

Perhaps Bock knows something these other employers have missed. In many ways, relying on G.P.A. is a stumbling block that stands in the way of hiring top talent.

G.P.A. and the Talent Acquisition Process

Having an accurate understanding of the skills, expertise, and qualities of your candidates is critical when it comes to making workforce decisions. Yet despite its vital importance, many organizations fall short when it comes to harnessing predictive hiring tools to drive their hiring strategies, opting instead for less accurate methods of judging candidates like interviews, resumes, and grades.

Trudy Steinfeld, New York University’s director of Wasserman Center for Career Development, implores organizations to broaden the criteria upon which they base their hiring decisions, and to look outside of a candidate’s G.P.A. and resume.

Employers want to know who will be able to hit the ground running, and according to Steinfeld, “[Businesses] assume a high G.P.A. will make someone successful. But being a successful employee requires social and communication skills.”

Steinfeld adds, “Nobody even cares about G.P.A. after a few years.”

Additionally, one study suggests G.P.A. is a greater indicator of self-discipline and effort than it is intellect. The study revealed the correlation between G.P.A. and self-discipline to be 67%, while the correlation between G.P.A. and intelligence was 32%.

As a static metric in talent acquisition process, G.P.A. cannot determine an applicant’s work ethic, fit with a job, and tendency to persevere in the face of various personal and social challenges.

Global accounting firm Ernst & Young learned this lesson the hard way. After evaluating more than 400 employees, they found no indication that strong academic success translated into a higher job performance.

There are several reasons why G.P.A. isn’t the best measure of a job candidate’s potential job success.

  • Varied Environments: There is an undeniable difference between a structured classroom setting and a work environment. A candidate’s success in school is not, in most cases, indicative of his or her success in a frontline role, as different skillsets are requred for these different settings.
  • Differing Standards: Another major problem is that not all G.P.A.’s represent the same high standard. For example, a 3.6 G.P.A. from a college that maintains an average G.P.A. of 3.0 would not be equivalent to a 3.6 G.P.A. from a university with a 3.7 G.P.A. average. Unfortunately, most employers don’t take these factors into consideration when taking a candidate’s G.P.A. into account.
  • KPI Alignment: Many of the skills critical for academic success – such as memorization and note-taking – are not as important in the workplace as they are in the classroom. Intangibles like team-building skills, problem-solving skills, or leadership capability cannot be easily quantified by a G.P.A. or resume.

  • Negative Attributes: While attributes like perfectionism often lead to a high overall G.P.A., these same qualities can undermine an applicant’s success in certain roles that entail large workloads, high amounts of pressure, and speedy service.

Companies want individuals who mirror skills important to their work, achieve results and stay for an extended period of time. However, a resume, interview, and grade point average are not enough to determine whether or not your candidate is the right person for the job. To do this, you must measure the skills required for success in the role.

Identifying KPIs in Talent Selection Process

Identifying the desired traits and actions of candidates is essential in developing and deriving key performance indicators. It’s not the grades of a candidate organizations should be focused on, but their skills, motivations, and abilities.

KPIs focus on specific outcomes of a job that are important to the company as a whole, like sales, average handle time, customer satisfaction and productivity. At a minimum, KPIs should be quantifiable and reflect the company’s overarching goals. A contact center, for instance, might consider an employee’s quality of service, first-call resolution, and average handle time in its evaluation.

Organizations with the greatest ability to build an effective workforce are those that measure the underlying qualities of top performers to determine what leads to success in any given role, then use validated pre-hire assessments to pinpoint those competencies in their candidates. These tests provide an accurate and efficient way to identify many vital traits before even meeting the candidates.

At the end of the day, when you build a talent selection process using predictive hiring tools, you don’t need to factor in a candidate’s G.P.A. as a measurement for specific characteristics like leadership, learning ability, and multi-tasking – let the data from your assessments do that for you.

This way, you can help to eliminate candidates that wouldn’t be a good “fit” for your company, or those that do not have the skills required to flourish within your specific work environment.

Companies can forecast the impact employees have on their future and more easily adapt to changes in the labor market by making quality of hire evaluations a rule, not exception. Learn more by downloading your free copy of Developing a Quality of Hire Report Card for A+ Results.


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