Interviewing at the Pentagon, Part II (and a Note on Low GPAs)

I recently wrote about a conversation I had had with someone about to interview at the Pentagon.

He emailed me a follow-up after the interview and agreed to let me share:

I had to call the secretary when I arrived at the Pentagon so she could escort me to the office. (Go to the bathroom before you get there because, unless you have the requisite security clearance, your escort cannot let you leave their line of sight. Also, the Pentagon is BIG, so arrive 30 minutes before your appointment. Oh, and you have to bring two forms of picture ID. I was able to bring in my cell phone, no problem.)

Also, two other things I remember my friend [who helped me get the interview] and I talking about…

First, getting a federal job these days is difficult because of the high number of wounded vets coming back from Iraq. For many jobs, there is a point system (70-100) to determine your eligibility. If you are a vet, your get a 5 point bonus; disabled vet, 10 point bonus. Anecdotally: If a disabled vet meets only the minimum qualifications for the job, s/he will get the job before someone who scored a 100 and is not a vet. In a related anecdote (but not exactly the same as that described above), there was an ingtelligence job I applied for in Homeland Security. I scored an 89. The minimum score to be in the category of "best qualified candidates" was 100! And there was a 2nd tier for the vacancy in which the minimum score for the same was 105! Needless to say, I didn't get a callback for that one.

Second, if an undergraduate wants to get a federal job, it is IMPERATIVE that they keep their GPA above a 3.5. It is VERY DIFFICULT to mask a poor UGPA, even seven years and many life lessons later.

He wrote about the interview in more detail on his own blog (note that the posting, including the posting header, includes some "mature language," in case that determines where you read it). His longer discussion about the GPA issue is very important for others to hear -- many college students have no idea how much a low GPA can come back to bite them many years later, whether they're applying to grad school or a job:

[The interviewer] then started talking about the importance of undergraduate GPA as a predicter of occupational performance in his departments. I started freaking out a little bit inside my head. I got my BA in 2001 with a fairly low GPA--really low...2.84 low. I'm a smart guy, but I never learned how to study in high school where everything was a breeze. Anyway, I had a 3.5 during my last three semesters of undergraduate work, so all my shitty grades came from 2000 and before...that's seven years ago. In fact, one of the reasons I came back to grad school full-time was to reestablsih myself as a serious scholar and professional. I'm about to graduate with my MA in three weeks and I have a 3.87. So, he keeps going on and on about the few times he's broken his own rule about hiring someone with a UGPA lower than 3.5 and how he's regretted it every single time. All I could muster was something to the effect of, "Well, sir, my UGPA is certainly not the best part of my resume." He ended the interview by asking me to send him my transcripts. After a great first two-thirds of the interview, the last third sucked ass. The interview lasted an hour and a half.

I left the Pentagon, dejected in the extreme. I grabbed a bite to eat and did a little shopping therapy at Best Buy. I called my friend who got me the interview and told him everything. I said that I wanted to send my interviewer an e-mail along with my transcripts explaining that I was a VERY different person now, more focused and disciplined. (There's a big difference between being 20 and being 28.) I wanted to have my current professors and employers send him recommendations that proved my UGPA is not reflective of who I am now. My friend said that was a great idea, and that my interviewer might have simply been giving me a test to see how I'd react. In fact, given the entirety of the interview, my friend was fairly confident that he still wants to hire me. So I sent my interviewer that e-mail yesterday, and my professors and employers will be sending him their recommnedation e-mails over the next few days.

Good luck -- keep us posted!