GROUP DISCUSSIONS (GD) is one of the standard selection tools at some organizations.
While your academic record and scores in the entrance test qualify you for an interview call, your final selection depends largely on your performance in the ‘last mile.’
There are two things - What the moderators/ interviewers are looking for, and how students should prepare for success.
We will also bust some myths while we address these questions. Let’s look into the situation:
A group of students is assigned a topic for discussion for 15–20 minutes. The panel is looking for an effective combination of knowledge and skills in the candidates. Knowledge comprises some understanding of the topic assigned, and also a good level of awareness of the world around us. Now what helps the students the most is the right preparation – the only way to prepare is to read more, develop a keen interest in current affairs and seek opportunities to discuss these in groups. Knowledge gives the ‘content’ in a discussion – without good content you cannot score well.
Now, there are some myths weighing on students’ minds as they sit for the preparation:
MYTH: Candidates perform well because they are smooth talkers.
REALITY: Candidates perform well because they talk sense and there is sufficient ‘meat’ in what they say.
Recruiters seek a variety of skills in the aspirants. These comprise analytical skills, communication skills, team skills, ability to handle stress, decision-making skills etc. Let’s talk about the first three. Management is an applied discipline – students need to use their analytical skills to apply theory effectively to solve day-to-day problems. The panel wishes to see whether the candidate is able to think clearly about a situation, dig into his treasure of knowledge and apply it usefully in the short time he has to make his point.
Preparation - students can train themselves to think analytically – it is an attitude that one can develop as opposed to not ‘think’ at all. Make it a habit to get to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of issues – don’t take things at face value – think about them before you form an opinion.
MYTH: Academic brilliance equals analytical skills.
REALITY: Students with lower academic achievements sometimes demonstrate better capability to relate their learning to practical situations.
Communication skills are perhaps the most critical attribute of the modern manager. These include listening and articulation skills. Moderators look for the candidate’s keenness and ability to listen to others – mature managers are very good listeners because every time you listen, you learn.
Preparation - train yourself to be a good listener – develop the patience to listen attentively. Acknowledge that everyone has something valuable to say. When speaking in a GD, your job is to articulate your point of view in a way that is easy for others to comprehend.
Preparation - inculcate the good habit of structuring your thoughts and presenting them logically. Writing essays on a variety of topics is good practice developing thought structure.
MYTH: Good communication is about speaking a lot, speaking in a stylish accent and using ‘big’ words.
REALITY: Good communication is about listening, speaking at the appropriate time, using easy-to-understand English and getting your point across in as simple a manner as possible.
The GD is the first test of how good your team skills are. Do you listen to others? How do you handle points of view different from yours? Are you able to get across your point of view without appearing to be trying too hard?
Do you cross the line from being assertive to being aggressive? If you are a good team player, the other members of the group will tend to connect with you. This will be evident to a moderator even amidst the chaos that marks a typical GD.
Preparation – learn to respect others for what they are. Learn to be open-minded and recognize the fact that people think differently about issues. Seek opportunities to discuss topics of mutual interest in diverse groups.
MYTH: People who dominate a discussion and reduce others to submission do well in GDs.
REALITY: Candidates who work with the group, accommodate diverse viewpoints and assert themselves without aggression score high.
In short, the GD panel is testing whether you know the topic well, are able to present your point of view in a logical manner, are interested in understanding what others feel about the same subject and are able to conduct yourself with grace in a group situation.
- Train your mind to think analytically
- Your GD arguments should have ‘meat’
- Respect other people’s views
- Listening is important. Practise patience
- Writing essays can improve thought structure
- Starting with the phrase – Myself XYZ – there’s no better way to put the panel off.
- Getting into details about siblings and cousins – especially the ones who seem to have done well. We wish to know about you, not about your extended family.
- Citing –‘making friends’ or ‘meeting new people’ – as their hobby. Wonder how one pursues a hobby like ‘meeting new people’!
- Saying things like – I studied this in my first year – as an excuse for not knowing some basic stuff related to their subject of study. The panel members studied this about 20 years back – they still remember it!
- ‘I will get to learn how to manage people’ as an answer to the question – ‘What do you expect to learn in your business management education?’ An MBA is a technical course that teaches you the fundamentals of a number of functions of running a business.