While selection tools and techniques like tests, interviews etc. provide good data about an individual, they fall short in providing real life data of how an individual would be performing in a real life situation especially a group situation. Team work being an integral part of the any work profile, it is important to ascertain group and inter-personal qualities of an individual. Group discussion is a useful tool to ascertain these qualities and many organizations use GDs as a selection tool along with Personal Interviews, aptitude tests etc. A GD is an activity where
Groups of 8-10 candidates are formed into a leaderless group, and are given a specific situation to analyse and discuss within a given time limit, which may vary between twenty minutes and forty-five minutes, or
They may be given a case study and asked to come out with a solution for a problem
They may be given a topic and are asked to discuss the same
1. Preparing for a Group Discussion:
While GD reflects the inherent qualities of an individual, appearing for it unprepared may not augur well for you. These tips would help you prepare for GDs:
Reading: This is the first and the most crucial step in preparation. This is a never ending process and the more you read, the better you are in your thoughts. While you may read anything to everything, you must ensure that you are in good touch with current affairs, the debates and hot topics of discussion and also with the latest in the IT and ITES industry. Chances are the topics would be around these. Read both for the thoughts as well as for data. Also read multiple view points on the same topic and then create your point of view with rationale. Also create answers for counter arguments for your point of view. The electronic media also will be of good use here.
Mocks: Create an informal GD group and meet regularly to discuss and exchange feedback. This is the best way to prepare. This would give you a good idea about your thoughts and how well can you convince. Remember, it is important that you are able to express your thoughts well. The better you perform in these mocks the better would be you chances to perform on the final day. Also try to interact and participate in other GD groups. This will develop in you a skill to discuss with unknown people as well.
2. During the Group Discussion:
What do the panelists assess:Some of the qualities assessed in a GD are:
Leadership Skills - Ability to take leadership roles and be able to lead, inspire and carry the team along to help them achieve the group's objectives.
Communication Skills -
Candidates will be assessed in terms of clarity of thought, expression and aptness of language. One key aspect is listening. It indicates a willingness to accommodate others views.
Interpersonal Skills -
People skills are an important aspect of any job. They are reflected in the ability to interact with other members of the group in a brief situation. Emotional maturity and balance promotes good interpersonal relationships. The person has to be more people centric and less self-centered.
Persuasive Skills -
The ability to analyze and persuade others to see the problem from multiple perspectives.How do I take my chance to speak:
GD is a test of your ability to think, your analytical capabilities and your ability to make your point in a team-based environment.
These are some of the sub-skills that also get assessed with the skills mentioned above:
- Clarity of thought
- Group working skills (especially during a group task of case study discussion)
- Conflict handling
- Listening and probing skills
- Knowledge about the subject and individual point of view
- Ability to create a consensus
- Openess and flexibility towards new ideas
- Data based approach to decision making
While, it is not possible to reflect all these qualities in a short time, you would do well if you are able to show a couple or more qualities and avoid giving negative evidence on others.
Participating in the GD:
Generally, with the topic you are given 2-3 minutes to structure your thoughts. Make good use of this time. Note down all the points that come to your mind. This would help you not to forget any important points and also to listen to others during the discussion. If you have been given a case, reading it carefully, underline salient points and make notes.
Should I start or not:Start the discussion only when you are thoroughly conversant with the topic/case or else let others speak first. If you decide to start, it is best to elaborate the topic and put forward various dimensions of the subject in front of the group. If it is a case, list down the facts briefly, mention what needs to be done and details factors that you think are crucial to decision making in that case. Do not put forth your opinions, arguments and conclusions to the group as the next speaker might argue against them leaving you with a feeling that your best points have been knocked off. Elaborating the topic for discussion would reflect upon your clarity of thought, holistic approach and leadership skills (providing the group an approach to discuss a problem thread bare). Speak for not more than a minute as others would be too anxious to speak and you might be interrupted in-between. If you decide not to start, make sure that you are amongst the first 3-4 speakers. After that, the best points would already have been taken and you would not be able to create an impact. Some effective ways to initiate a discussion would be to make/give:
iv. Facts, figures and statistics
vi. Short stories
vii. General statements
Trying to interrupt others while speaking would only harm your chances. Instead, you may try to maintain an eye-contact with the speaker. This would show your listening skills also and would help you gauge from his eye-movement and pitch of voice that he is about to close his inputs. You can quickly take it from there. Also, try and link your inputs with what he has spoken whether you are adding to or opposing his arguments. This would reflect that you are actually being participative rather than just doing a collective monologue.How do I communicate in a GD:
Be crisp and to the point. Be fact based and avoid making individual opinions that do not have a factual base. Make eye contact with all the members in the group and avoid looking at the panelists while speaking. The average duration of the group discussion provides an average of about 2-3 minutes per participant to speak and you should try to speak about 3-4 times. Hence, you need to be really crisp to reflect the most in those 30-40 sec. slots.How do I convince others and make them agree to my view point:
A lot of candidates make it their mission to make the group reach to a conclusion on the topic. Do not forget that some of the topics have been eternal debates and there is no way you can get an agreement in 15 mins. on them. The objective is not to make others toe your line but to provide fact based, convincing arguments which create an impact. Stick to this approach.Do leadership skills include moderating the group discussion:
This is a myth and many people do try to impose their order on the GD, ordering people when to speak and when not to. This only reflects poor leadership. Leadership in a GD would be reflected by your clarity of thought, ability to expand the topic in its different dimensions, providing an opportunity to a silent participant to speak, listening to others and probing them to provide more information. Hence, work on these areas rather than be a self-appointed moderator of the group.Listening:
This is a key quality assessed during the GD about which many participants forget. Active listening can fetch you credit points and would also provide you with data to discuss. Also, if you have an average of 2-3 minutes to speak, the rest of the 20-25 minutes is required to spent in active listening. For this, maintain eye contact with the speakers, attend to them (like nodding, using acknowledging words like -I see ok, fine, great etc.). This would also make you be the centre of attraction as you would appear non-threatening to the speakers.Behaviour during the GD:
Be patient; don't get upset if anyone says anything you object to. Stay objective and don't take the discussion personally. Also, remember the six C's of communication - Clarity, Completeness, Conciseness, Confidence, Correctness and Courtesy. Be appreciative & receptive to ideas from other people and open-minded but do not let others to change your own viewpoint. Be active and interested throughout. It is better to participate less if you have no clue of the topic. You may listen to others and take clues from there and speak. You would be assessed on a range of different skills and you may think that leadership is key, you need to be careful that you don't dominate the discussion.Quality Vs Quantity:
Often, participants think that success in group discussions depends on how much and how loudly they speak. Interestingly, it's the opposite. Also, making your point on the topic, your views are important and the group needs to know. This will tell you are knowledgeable and that you participate in groupsSummarizing:
If you have not been able to initiate the discussion, try to summaries and close it. Good summarizing would get you good reward points. A conclusion is where the whole group decides in favour or against the topic and most GDs do not have a closure. But every GD can be summarized by putting forth what the group has discussed in a nutshell. Keep the following points in mind while summarizing a discussion:
Avoid raising new points.
Avoid stating only your viewpoint.
Avoid dwelling only on one aspect of the GD
Keep it brief and concise.
It must include all the important points that came out during the GD
If you are asked to summarise a GD, it means the GD has come to an end.
Do not add anything once the GD has been summarised.Some Positive Task Roles in a Group Discussion:You may want to play one or more of them:
SummarizerNegative Roles to be Avoided
ClownSome suggested GD Topics:
Is coalition politics here to stay?
Does India need a dictator?
What ails Indian sports?
Success is all about human relations
Borderless worlds - Dream or reality?
Quality is a myth in India
Will China overtake India in IT
India - the back office to the world by 2020
Does Indian IT industry need to focus on products rather than services
The BPO age - heralding a new employment revolution
The BPO revolution and its impact on the society
Education and success - Is there a correlation?
We don't learn from history, we repeat it
Do we need a global policeman?
Indian villages - our strength or our weakness?
Management Education - Is it necessary to succeed in business
Kids today are not what they used to be
Repeated elections - Who should pay for them
Indian bureaucracy - foundation strengths or colonial hangovers?
In India, the whole is less than the parts - Do we lack in team spirit?
"Dot.com" companies - Is there room for everyone?
Artificial Intelligence - Will man be ever replaced by machines?
Materialism - Have we sold our souls to the Devil?
Role of ethics in tobacco industry, liquor industry etc.
Are we unfit for Democracy?
Survival tools for the new millennium
Examinations - has it killed education
Should doctors be tried in Consumer Courts
Is E-Commerce the best thing for India
Feedback template: While doing mocks for GD preparation, you would get benefited by the feedback of others. For the purpose, we are providing a template for feedback - both quantitative and qualitative. The items described over there are a suggested list and not a complete one. You may make changes in it depending upon your need.