Grades aren't everything 

By Khalil Hajjarah 

Staff Accountant, Audit and Advisory

“You need to finish your homework; I want you to be my doctor one day.” That’s what my grandma would always say to me when I was young. She meant well, so I wasn’t really bothered. I’m sure everyone at some point has heard the same message: studying leads to good grades, and getting good grades gets you into a good school, and a good degree will get you a good job.

You’ll hear this “helpful” phrase from everyone. But does it really help? I’m not going to start spewing names of famous men and women who didn’t need high grades to be successful, but what I want to prove is that in an ever evolving world, grades are not as powerful as they used to be.

Realistically, as your career progresses, grades don’t hold as much weight as you think they do. Experiences, communication skills and creativity are some of the traits that begin to differentiate you. As much as firms say they care, grades are only one item on a checklist of things they look for. Basically, even if you’re grades are fantastic, they’re just one part of your profile. Too many university and college grads these days underestimate the value of being a well-rounded individual.

When a firm meets a candidate, they don’t just look at their qualifications. They also look at their personality: can he or she work well with others? Is this person good at dealing with conflict? Does he or she have experience in a similar role? With increasingly complex competition in today’s job market, your network, experience and character are becoming more important. What students are doing today to get into a decent college/university or secure a well-paying job is very different than what generations did before us.

Now don’t get me wrong, you need good grades or you may not even have a fighting chance. You need a good base in high school and college, so that your grades don’t limit you in any way. A recruiter once told me, “judging you by your grades takes a second, so hiring you by your grades takes a minute; judging you by your personality takes a second, but hiring you based on personality takes a while.” What I’m trying to say is that if your best friend was an employer, they’d hire you on the spot because they know you and what you’re capable of. But in real life, you may never get the chance to move ahead unless you pass the first screen: good grades. But remember this, the next time you go in for an interview, and all you can rely on is your 3.9 GPA to get you in, you may be disappointed by the result.

Khalil is a recent graduate of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, majoring in accounting and minoring in economics. He is currently a Staff Accountant on Report Issuers and Related Entities-Financial Services in our Toronto practice.

Khalil Hajjarah - Staff Accountant
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