Are you the same person you were in college?   

If you’re in college now, do you imagine that you’ll always be exactly as you are now?  

Of course not.

Life experiences change what you think and know about yourself and the world around you.  

So why should recruiting professionals focus on a candidate’s GPA as a predictor of the kind of employee they’ll be?  

It’s foolish to think that a single number can indicate someone’s aptitude for a given industry or position within an industry.  

Don’t believe me?  

It’s true. In fact, some industry giants are no longer considering GPA as a significant part of their hiring strategy.  

According to the former SVP of People Operations at Google Laszlo Bock, “some data is essentially worthless in assessing job candidates: G.P.A.s. for instance, except for recent college graduates, and test scores.”  

What GPA cannot measure

Most tests are based on memorizing facts and figures. Therefore, a GPA could be defined as being a measurement of how well an individual can memorize material.   

It cannot measure their intelligence, nor can it define their ability to get along with others, solve complex problems or do a job well.  

What is a predictor of success in the workplace?  

In his book Work Rules, Bock shared that “…learning ability is the leading predictor of success — No. 1 above intelligence and education.”  

Given the fact that we’re talking about Google – arguably the world’s biggest tech giant – hiring managers in every industry should sit up and take notice.  

In an interview for HR Dive, Mike Knapp, CEO at SkillSmart, said that “skills-based hiring is more efficient, less risky, and better suited to today’s skills economy than job boards or traditional resumes.”   

He says further that “as more workers pursue self-guided learning and online courses, the skills-based model will become even more relevant, and GPAs less so.”  

What about new grads?  

In an interview with HR Dive, Bill Kushner, manager, Administrative and Human Resources Direct Hire Division at the Addison Group, offers advice for recent grads.   

“Skills acquired through hands-on projects, volunteerism, extracurricular activities, or internships/work experience are far more valuable indicators of the skills they would bring to the workplace – and not reflected in a GPA score.”  

Recruiters and hiring managers then should pay close attention to candidates who show a propensity towards lifelong learning in both their personal and professional life.  

Cost of using GPA in hiring protocol  

Kushner stated that “unfortunately, using the GPA as a screening method often takes qualified, skilled applicants out of the candidate pool.   

“When employers rely on traditional – and often unnecessary – proxies like degree or GPA requirements, they shut out entire portions of the workforce from opportunity and limit their access to a skilled labor pool.”  

Benefits of lifelong learning as a hiring metric  

IBM has predicted that as of 2020, “human knowledge will be doubling every 12 hours.”  

As you can see in the image below, the growth of human knowledge has been doubling faster and faster.  

Source: Modern Workplace Learning  

But an increase in knowledge is only part of the picture.  

When you factor in what’s called the “half-life” of skills, the importance of a lifetime of learning as a hiring metric begins to be seen.  

According to Wikipedia, “the half-life of knowledge or half-life of facts is the amount of time that has to elapse before half of the knowledge or facts in a particular area is superseded or shown to be untrue.”  

Learning must be constant  

In her website, Modern Workplace Learning, author Jane Hart says that “According to some the half-life of skills is also diminishing fast, with some skills having only an 18-month window.  

Knowledge and skills now have such a short shelf-life that it is frequently said that a college degree will be out of date before the loan is paid off.”  

In his article, Want Top Performing Hires? Learning Ability May Be The No. 1 Predictor, HR thought-leader Dr. John Sullivan states that “Rapid change requires rapid learning — the new reality is that your team’s learning speed needs to match or exceed the rate of change in your field.”  

Dr. Sullivan explains that because of the need for businesses to keep up with the inundation of new ideas, technologies, and innovations, “every employee must continuously be on the leading edge of knowledge.”  

So what is the obvious conclusion?  

Businesses that engage lifelong learners will have a distinct advantage over their competitors who are solely focused on GPAs.   

The recruiting landscape is changing  

More businesses are getting the message that grades aren’t as reliable of a hiring metric as once thought.  

Kingsley Leadership Academy commissioned a study of over 200 C-Suite staff to determine what businesses are looking for when filling roles.  

The study found that “only 12% of staff view grades as an important aspect when hiring a new employee”.   

All this discussion about the benefits of lifelong learning as a hiring metric is good, but let’s talk about how to find candidates who have shown that they’re lifelong learners.  

Take a cue from Google and…  

Change your interviews  

To understand more about a candidate than what a resume provides, Google now uses “behavioral interviews” as part of their hiring process.   

They focus on interview questions that are designed to assess skills that can’t be reflected in grades, such as how a candidate responded (or would respond) to different situations.   

Include questions such as “what’s the most recent thing you’ve learned” and “how has this benefitted you?”  

This will help you spot people who are both curious and determined to sate their curiosity by learning more and then using that knowledge to improve themselves and their work.  

In effect, answers to these types of questions will reveal those candidates who are lifelong learners by nature.  

Take time to evaluate a candidate’s ability to think  

Critical thinking skills can be evaluated with the use of specially designed tests that analyze an individual’s capacity for solving problems.  

A well-designed test should be able to assess:  

  • the skills used to solve problems and make decisions (critical thinking skills)  
  • an individual’s critical thinking mindset (measurement of internal motivation/willingness to use critical thinking skills) (critical thinking mindset)  

Critical thinking skills   

Being able to recognize a problem is only one part of critical thinking; having the ability to analyze why our attempts at fixing the problem have been unsuccessful is equally important.   

Critical thinking involves concepts such as interpretation, inference, analysis explanation and evaluation, so when a candidate possesses these valuable skills, a smart recruiter and/or hiring manager will champion this individual, even if they lack a particular skill and/or educational criteria the organization is seeking.  

Critical thinking mindset  

Internal motivation is huge when it comes to critical thinking skills. Instead of a blind focus on what are often arbitrary “credentials”, smart recruiters look for candidates with a “critical thinking mindset”. These individuals seek solutions to problems in an organized manner, keeping an open mind and listening to all points of view in their efforts to resolve problems.  

Recruiting needs to change  

The bottom line is that if businesses want to find top talent, they need to think outside of the “GPA box” and look for individuals who have proven to be lifelong learners.  

Instead of checking someone off your list who doesn’t present with the “right” GPA number, you’ll have to dig deeper and look closer at each candidate.   

When you dismiss someone because they didn’t attend the “right” school, or obtain the “right” GPA, you’re very likely to eliminate a candidate who could have been a huge asset to your organization.  

In short, let the candidate’s qualities and skills carry more weight in your analysis, because it will be the individual doing the work, not their resume’.