Monday, November 3, 2008

Creative Rounding, Doctored Transcripts and Other Questionable Application Tricks

If you've been using Chicago Career Connection, or if you used its predecessor, InterviewTRAK in previous years, then chances are you were "activated" to use the CAPS' on-line job search system and signed an "OCR Activation Agreement." That agreement includes this information: "Students are required to present themselves honestly and ethically in all interactions with CAPS, the University and employers including but not limited to resumes, unofficial transcripts, and test score documentations as well as during phone and face to face interviews."

Even if you've never been to CAPS and you haven't signed one of these agreements, the notion of presenting yourself "honestly and ethically" during interactions with employers is an important one. Here are a few points to consider:

Cumulative GPA vs. Major GPA: This one is tricky and can depend on the type of position that you are applying to. In general, here are some guidelines:
*For most business and consulting positions, recruiters are most interested in your cumulative GPA, so be sure to include that on your resume. If you'd like to include your Major GPA, that fine, but it must be labeled as such. In other words, don't put try to pass your Major GPA off as your Cumulative.
*For most other positions, if your GPA is over a 3.5, put it on your resume, as it shows that you are excelling academically at the University of Chicago.
*If a job description specifically asks for your GPA, always include it. Again, if they are asking for a Cumulative GPA, use that, not your Major GPA. If you include your Major GPA as well, make sure it's clear which is which.
*For medical school applications or research positions, you might be asked for your BCPM. That's the GPA for your biology, chemistry, physics and math courses. If you're not sure when to use a BCPM, or you're not sure how to calculate your BCPM, contact CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 and make an appoinment with one of the Chicago Careers in Health Professions (CCIHP) staff members.
*The inclusion of your GPA (cumulative or major) should always be dictated by the job description and what the organization is asking for in your application materials. In some industries, GPA is not as important as in others. For example, during a recent discussion with some University of Chicago student journalists, Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice-President for Civic Engagement, said that when she would consider candidates for positions at the Chicago Tribune, she "didn't much care" about GPA, but past experience working on student publications and in internships was very important. This doesn't mean that GPA isn't important - but it means that in some industries, your experience can outweigh a GPA that isn't as strong as you would like it to be.

Creative Rounding: This one isn't as tricky. If you're rounding your GPA, be sure you are doing it correctly. In general, two decimal places is appropriate when listing your GPA. So if you have a 3.142, then you should round to a 3.14 - NOT a 3.2. Believe it or not, creative rounding on resumes has led recruiters to reconsider candidates for positions - and it damages the reputation of University of Chicago students in the eyes of those recruiters. Bottom line - use your math skills and be honest about your GPA.

Altering Transcripts: No ifs, ands, or buts about it - when you submit an unofficial transcript to an employer, the expectation is that it will show your correct grades for each course that you've taken. Do not, under any circumstances, alter your grades, remove your grades, etc. Just because the transcript is unofficial does not give you license to change the information that you are pulling out of CMore.

These are extreme circumstances, and we know that most students would never think to misrepresent themselves on a resume or in an application for a position. But please remember, it is important to be completely honest about your GPA, as well as all of the other information that you put into a resume or cover letter.

If you have concerns about your GPA (i.e. you missed a quarter because of a family emergency and your grades suffered, or you ended up in one class that lowered your otherwise strong GPA) please call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 to make an appointment and discuss how to talk about these concerns in your interview. You want to put your best foot forward when applying for positions - and your best foot forward is always the honest one.

Questions, comments or concerns? Post them here.

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