So you’ve graduated from college with your diploma in hand. Congrats! For most Average Joes, unless you’re thinking of grad school, that C- you got in “Advanced Planetary Quantum Biology” is a thing of the past–you’ve got that paper in hand and you’re on your way. Right?

Not quite.

I was surprised recently when, while interviewing for a marketing position with a tech startup, the CEO of the company asked for a copy of my college transcripts. This was a first for me. In business school, I’d been told that only finance jobs would ask for transcripts. Yet here was a tech startup asking for my transcripts. I obliged, but the exercise of digging up my academic history and handing it over to a potential employer made me reflect: what do my grades and the classes I’ve taken say about me as a potential employee?

It turns out, they say a whole lot. That recorded history of the two to four (to eight) years you spent running to classes, churning out term papers, and sweating over exams speaks volumes about you. Here are the three things your college transcripts say about you as a potential employee:

employers look at college transcripts

1. Work Ethic

This is a no-brainer, right? How many credit hours you took per term, which classes you took, and how well you did in each–all of these speak to how much work you’re willing to take on and how well you complete that work.
Overall, employers will interpret higher credit hour loads as a sign of high work ethic (if not as delusions of grandeur). Also, certain courses will sound more challenging—”Advanced Third-world Microfinance Theory” beats “Underwater Hemp-weaving.”

Of course, your course grades will send the strongest signal about your ability to accomplish work. One low grade won’t kill you, but a string of sub-par grades—especially in relevant courses—signal that you don’t have the wherewithal to follow through.

2. Focus/Diversity

This one’s all about how you slice it.

One goal of a college education is to not only prepare you for a specific career, but to form you into a well-rounded human being. However, there may be such a thing as being too well-rounded. If your transcript shows that you changed majors every term, for some hiring managers, this could be interpreted as a lack of focus on your part. These organizations value employees who are laser-beam focused on what they want.

On the other hand, other organizations place more importance on hiring people with diverse experience, education, and viewpoints. With these hirers, switching from Film to Geology to Humanities is a good thing and implies you have a useful, diverse skill set to go with your education.

3. Personality

Believe it or not, the courses you take, credit hours taken, and the grades accomplished in each give employers a macro view of who you are as a person. Before you start groaning about this one, consider this example…

Imagine a student who maintains a steady stream of passing grades—B’s and C’s, we’ll say. Now, barring some kind of learning disability, imagine what kind of person would yield these types of grades. We can be sure this person is okay with missing a few assignments, maybe not getting every exam question right, perhaps missing a few lectures. Certainly not the perfectionist hard-driver that some organizations will want.

Does this make this candidate a bad person? No. But it does provide irrefutable proof that, in a traditional, structured “command-and-control” organization, this person would be very comfortable with only middle-of-the-road performance.

So, if you’re still in school, beware of what you’re putting on your transcript. If you’re out of school, knowing how employers may see your transcript allows you to make sure you search out organizations that will value your record and emphasize the best parts.

So, has an employer ever requested your transcript? What does your transcript say about you? If you could remove part of your transcript, what would that be? Discuss below!

One comment on “3 Things Your College Transcripts Say About You

  • I’m 30yrs old and I’ve been incarcerated for 13yrs of my life. Since I’ve been out I’ve earned my CDL through a college certificate course. I decided to continue with my college education. I’ve kept full course loads each semester and my GPA 3.84 and above. Yet to everyone’s amazement no employer will give me a chance. I stay clean kept, dress well, extremely respectful, talk well. The problem is everyone does applications and recieves resumes online now. They don’t get to see and actually hear me. My transcripts can be “perfect” yet my past haunts me endlessly.

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