Rules for Recruiters, Vol 1: GPA Doesn't Matter If You Have a Ph.D.

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 with tags jobs , academic , recruiters

Tech jobs are hot in New York right now. Last year while sitting in LaGuardia Airport waiting for a flight I was hacking on some code for work in Eclipse and guy who was shoulder surfing me tried to persuade me to interview for positions he had available at his hedge fund. If you visit any Meetup in the city you’ll hear from dozens of people who are looking for the best and the brightest. When I combine these with a publicly visible Github profile, a resume that’s sitting on my web page, and a fairly complete LinkedIn profile it means that messages from recruiters are constantly flooding my mailbox.

They’re nearly all amateurish wastes of my time.

In this series of posts I’m going to chronicle why they’re such a waste of my time. Here’s a paraphrased recent message I got:

Dear Dr. Wagstrom,

I work for MegaHyperTech, a leading technology placement firm in New York City. We came across your profile on GitHub and later found your resume and think that you may have the talent that our client Quanttastic Solutions is looking for. They’re a hedge fund that makes it feel like you’re working at Google. They hire only the best and the brightest from schools like MIT, Berkeley, CMU, and Michigan. We’d love to send your information over there, but we noticed that you don’t list your GPA on your resume and they only hire individuals with exemplary GPAs. If you’re willing to update your resume to include that information for all your degrees we think that you’d enjoy the challenge.

The recruiter is entirely correct, I don’t list my GPA on my resume. This si done for a couple of reasons: first, my degrees are intertwined. It’s really hard to differentiate the GPAs for computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering bachelors degrees. They’re all in the 3.5 - 3.9 range, but really I don’t remember what they were. Likewise, my masters and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon are also intertwined and probably have a similar range.

But the bigger issue is that a Ph.D. isn’t about classes. In fact, while working on a Ph.D. if you’re taking a required class that isn’t directly related to your research you probably shouldn’t spend enough time to get an ‘A’ in the class. The measure of the work for a Ph.D. is the thesis and the publications that come out as a result of doing the research. I think of all the times that I met with my advisors I was asked my grades only once, and it was over a concern that I was spending too much time on my homework for my machine learning class.

So here’s my hope that maybe at some point a recruiter will read this. If you ask me for my GPA you’re not going to get it. If your client insists on GPAs for their candidates, then they don’t know what they’re getting.