Should you include low grades on a job application?

With the ever-increasing competition for jobs, there's a growing pressure to complete a perfect job application. But what if you haven't achieved as well as you had hoped in an exam?

The grades you achieve really depend on how you perform on the day, and might not give a clear indication of your knowledge and abilities. It's understandable that many people are reluctant to include them. Here are a few useful rules of thumb to help you to decide what to include...

  • If you failed the exam and have not repeated it, leave it off. Statements like 'I studied for xxxx' without stating the qualification achieved raise alarm bells for employers.
  • Likewise, if you dropped out before attaining the qualification, don't include the course on your application. It looks bad.
  • If you passed exams with low grades, you can include the name of the qualification without stating the grade e.g. 2000-2004 BA Marketing University of Sheffield - there's no need to state it was a third class honours.
  • But be careful that leaving the grades off won't look suspicious. For example, if the exams were for your GCSEs, listing the subjects without giving the grades would look odd. Employers would assume that you didn't do very well - defeating the purpose of leaving them out.
  • If you have attained a qualification at a higher level than your low grades, it's fine to leave them off altogether.
  • Select the most impressive of your grades and highlight these instead. For example, 'GSCEs - Subjects included English (A) and Maths (B).'
  • If there is a valid reason why you underperformed, like a prolonged period of ill health, it's possible to include this on your job application. This can actually look good as it show that you stuck at your studies through hard times.


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