The Undergraduate: Why grade-A grads often make awful bankers

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As I immerse myself deeply in the midst of my graduate job hunt with financial institutions, I realise that one criterion they commonly list is: "We look for individuals who like challenges."

A's above everything else

Yet, if I look around me, I see peers choosing classes on the basis of how easy it is to score an A+ in a particular module. This can't be helped because more often than not, a near-perfect grade point average (GPA) on a resume always screams "pick me!". This begs the question: what is the value of tertiary education? Do we go to university with the aim of pursuing knowledge - taking classes to fill in the gaps in our abilities - or merely to get good grades? Perhaps we should now step back and think about this issue.

A tale of two students

At one end of the spectrum are individuals who recognise their own weaknesses and choose professors who are difficult, in a bid to improve their conceptual knowledge. Yet this often produces less-than-stellar grades, which reduces their GPA. On the other side of the fence are students who recognise their weaknesses and lean towards 'easy' professors to avoid exposing their Achilles heel and to continually secure their As. At the end of the day, a higher GPA always holds greater value, ceteris paribus (other things being equal).

Easy-A graduates will crash and burn at your firm

Is the prestigious finance industry doing itself an injustice by picking these 'stellar' students? This often creates an HR nightmare of recruiting the wrong person to the job. If firms are hiring graduates who shy away from challenges and are accustomed to picking the easier way out, then it's very possible that they may replicate such behaviour at work. In times of crisis and challenges, these people are ill-equipped to take the bull by its horns and are more likely to end up looking like a bull in a china shop. Food for thought for employers: match the right people, not the right GPA, to the job. While this might make hiring a more drawn-out process, with the right recruits, it would most definitely contribute to the longevity of the firm.

The author is a final-year finance undergraduate.

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