How much do grades and degrees matter? Do they really determine who gets a job? Or doesn’t personality actually matter more?

Are grades important? Yes and No

This is not an easy topic. To be quite honest, as a recruiter I have to say that there are two sides to this coin.
Personally, an applicant’s grades are not important to me and I don’t look at them exclusively. However, I know many departments where grades are important. In some cases, that alone is enough to decide who is invited to an interview.

In the job interview, you may well be asked about your grades.

Especially if they were not quite as good. You should therefore prepare yourself for this. If in doubt, admit honestly that you underestimated how difficult your studies were or that certain subjects simply didn’t come easily to you. Maybe you had to work while studying or lost focus for a short time due to private circumstances – there are so many reasons.

Studium Noten

How to turn bad grades into positives

But you can also turn bad grades into a positive! One argument would be that you were overwhelmed with academic demands at the beginning of your studies, but you improved your grades in later semesters.

Maybe you just didn’t like a subject, but you persevered because you had a goal in mind and needed this course of study to achieve it.

In job interviews, you are often asked why you did a master’s degree or other further education. Was it really necessary for professional reasons or was it more a matter of personal interest?

In fact, for some jobs, certain degrees are required by law. In our field of testing, inspection, and certification, it is not uncommon and unfortunately even the most likeable personality can’t change that. So here the degree can be the deciding factor.

Personality – what I look for in a job interview

However, I personally find personality more important than grades. In an interview, I pay particular attention to these points:

  • How would my counterpart appear to customers?
  • Is he or she friendly and helpful?
  • Can the person understand exactly what the customer wants and deal with difficulties empathetically?

To put it bluntly: a person who has already reached a certain age, has his or her degrees to show for it and has gathered experience – at best, he or she is fully developed on the personality level. If, on the basis of his or her behavior in the interview, I have doubts that he or she will do well with our customers or fit in well with the team, then I assume that little will change in his or her character over the coming years.

Grades or personality? A clear winner

As a rule, we look for employees who want to stay with us for as long as possible. And that means that they have to fit in with us as a company and a team. If that doesn’t apply to a person, I’m no longer interested in their grades.
If someone is super likeable and just blows our minds in the interview, but the grades weren’t quite as good, then I would always choose that person. You can learn technical things. Especially if it’s something that interests you.

You simply have your own personality and that rarely changes. It just has to fit.

My conclusion:

Of course, there may be exceptions here as well. There are certainly skills that are so rare that employers are lucky to find such employees. Regardless of grades and personality. In my opinion, however, these positions are more of an exception.


Lisa Melzer

Lisa Melzer

Personnel officer recruiting

Lisa Melzer’s area of expertise as a personnel officer recruiting is the automotive sector. Already during her dual studies at a car dealership, the native of Cologne recruited technicians and engineers. For TÜV Rheinland she is on the lookout for talents in the field of vehicle testing and driver’s license examinations. Besides her passion for traveling, she is a real nature lover and enjoys hiking or spending time in the garden with her dog.

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