As a college graduate, you have one number that you can’t change when you’re applying to new careers: your GPA.
The GPA is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of recruiting for many students, especially those with a lower-than-average GPA.
Each of the Big 4 firms receives countless applications from straight-A students, so if your GPA is not your strength when applying, it is important to find other ways to leverage your background and experience to stand out.
Below, we’ve detailed three stories from members of our network about how they earned interviews and eventually offers, despite their low GPAs.
Landing a PwC Offer via Meet the Firm Events
“When I was about to graduate, I had an overall GPA of just 3.3 so I knew that my resume was not going to rise to the top of the pile just based on that. I spent time attending every single ‘Meet the Firm’ event that I could find to make as many connections as possible. Eventually, a partner passed my resume to a recruiter and I got an interview.”
This story is one of the most common ways for an applicant to get to the top of the pile, with or without a low GPA.
References or recommendations from current employees hold a lot of weight with recruiters, especially when they come from someone in a position of authority. That being said, that person is putting their name on the line for you, so they need to be confident you’ll do well.
“Each time I went to an event, I made sure to introduce myself to as many firm employees as possible and make real connections. Many people there are asking the same questions about work-life balance, growth opportunities, etc. I tried to find something to connect with each person on and then asked for their information.”
Once you meet some of the employees and make a connection, you’ll need to turn that into an opportunity to have your name surface again from them.
Be sure to grab and ask for their information or business card and follow up with them after the event. Thank them for their time and ask if they have any suggestions for the application process and you may find they’ll help you get in touch with recruiting.
Strong Extracurricular Background Lands a Deloitte Offer
“My college often had opportunities for business students to get involved with the faculty department in each major. As an accounting major with a low GPA, I got involved with all of the professional development organizations on campus.”
There are plenty of things to do in college besides just going to class. Taking the initiative to get involved in professional development groups and business societies gives you a great chance to meet people and also offers leadership opportunities.
Big 4 firms are not simply looking to fill seats with college graduates – they want to find people who are dedicated to doing their job extremely well, but also spending time to make their team and firm better.
“When I finally got to the interview, the recruiter told me that my involvement as the Secretary of our accounting society was what made them bring me in. I didn’t think it would have as much of an effect as it did.”
Taking a leadership position in campus groups can be a great way to showcase your work ethic and desire to build and lead a team. This can be a differentiator between you and the other candidate’s recruiters are deciding between for an interview.
One additional thing to consider is that these business groups are often responsible for organizing the on-campus visits from firms. Being the point of contact between campus recruiting and your school can be a huge way to meet a lot of people at the firm who are actively involved in the hiring process.
Networking into KPMG
“I had no luck applying for an internship through the firm websites my junior year, so I knew I had to take a different approach for my full-time offer. I spent a ton of time going through my sorority alumni network, my high-school alumni network, and even friends of friends to find Big 4 employees to talk to.”
If you don’t know anyone and haven’t had any luck at events, there is no reason not to reach out the old-fashioned way.
Many high schools, colleges, and organizations like fraternities and sororities have a great record of all of the people that have come through their doors and where they are now. This is a great starting point for finding people with experience in the Big 4 that have some connection to you.
If you were not a part of any groups like this, you can try to reach out to professionals that you find online. This takes some tact and perseverance, but there are tons of accountants that are more than happy to take some time to help a student get where they want to go.
“Eventually, I resorted to LinkedIn. I sent personalized messages and connection requests to employees that I found in the office and group I wanted to work in. I politely introduced myself and asked if they would mind spending 5 minutes talking to me about their experience. One of the Senior Associates I reached out to put me in touch with his manager and I got the interview and job.”
This strategy takes some salesmanship and effort, but don’t underestimate the power of cold networking. You may get in touch with the right person at the right time that is willing to help.
Each year, the Big 4 hires hundreds of students with low GPAs who stood out because of their experience, their effort, or their personality and ambition. Spend some time researching your network and crafting some outreach templates.
You can find examples of how we’d reach out to employees on our site and in our interview toolkit. If you need more advice, we can provide custom plans for giving your resume a better chance of getting to the top.