Do’s and Don’ts of a Group Discussion in B-school Admission

In spite of how well we prepare for the Group Discussion (GD) round—an important assessment stage towards admission to the B-school of our choice for the MBA program—we tend to commit certain mistakes, which in turn can break our chances of securing admission into a premier Business institute. This makes it absolutely necessary for MBA aspirants to know the essence of a good group discussion, how to tackle it, and the do’s and don’ts of the process.

The group discussion is meant to evaluate whether you possess some skills or personality traits that are ideal for a manager. So, candidates aspiring to be managers should know how to deal with a group discussion topic, and what to do when the GD goes directionless. Basically, what the panel is looking out for is not just knowledge, but good leadership skills and the ability to extract the best from everybody in the group without being aggressive, domineering or ignorant. The mistakes committed during the group discussion might appear trivial, but the GD panel is quite likely to take them seriously if they feel that the candidate is missing out on the basic quality set expected from a future manager.

The Purpose of Group Discussion

A future manager must be dynamic, and possess all the essential qualities that most organizations look for. The ability to work, manage and contribute efficiently in a team is a prerequisite to climb the ladder of success in the corporate sector, and group discussion precisely aims to test these skills in the candidates.

The panel members are looking out for qualities such as the ability:

  • to facilitate ideas for the discussion to flow,
  • make individual contribution yet take other team members along,
  • facilitate good decision making,
  • bring up many perspectives,
  • evaluate pros and cons of various options, and
  • route for a balanced, win-win solution.

The first round of written examination only helps to evaluate the reasoning and quantitative skills of a candidate but hiring companies may not want a manager, who just excels in reasoning or quantitative areas. In reality, most companies look for those managers, who not only excel in specific areas but demonstrate their strengths in interpersonal, leadership and communication skills to be able to bring out the best from their team once they are exposed to the real business world.

Let’s begin by identifying some common mistakes that students tend to commit during a group discussion.

Common Mistakes in the Group Discussion

Sudden Outburst of Emotions

Some candidates may want to grab the attention of the panelists by showing their anger or frustration if they disagree with other candidates’ opinions. This approach will not go well with the panelists, as losing your composure is the last thing expected out of a good manager.

Egotism 

The desire to impress the panelists might lure you into giving out fake information and figures presuming that the panel would not notice. Experts, however, suggest that you give out facts only if you have the correct information.

Talking Excessively

Some candidates think that if they talk too much during the group discussion, they have a good chance to impress the panelists, but in reality most panelists do not appreciate candidates, who talk excessively without making much sense. So, make it a point to talk moderately while expressing your views and thoughts succinctly in line with the topic of the GD.

Things You Should Do In a Group Discussion

Introduce Original Points

A candidate should try to bring up fresh ideas that have not been mentioned by other candidates. It would demonstrate your skill of thinking and responding well and would give an impression that you can think on your feet.

Provide Logical Conclusions   

It is a good idea to build upon another candidate’s point by providing rational conclusions to his views. This approach would give an impression that you are supporting others’ views by strong logic and unvisited perspectives.

Use Statistics and Examples

Candidates who use correct statistics and examples to strengthen their statements have a good chance to get attention in a group discussion. Panelists would feel that you have really prepared well for the discussions.

Provide Direction

If you feel that the group’s conversation is going in the wrong direction or drifting from the main topic, then it would be good on your part to try and bring the conversation right on the track by making meaningful statements that are also in line with the expected flow of the GD.

Build Strong Rapport

It is a good sign to build camaraderie with the group during the group discussion. Demonstrating a positive body language that projects good leadership qualities can help to make a lasting impact on the panel members. Listening carefully and giving meaningful cues could be one such example.

Communicate Efficiently

Communicate in the best possible way by making your point through short and simple sentences. Try to communicate effectively by speaking precisely to the point without uncluttered ideas. According to experts, effective communication also involves actively listening to what the others have to contribute. So, the advice is to listen carefully before and after you speak your part.

Things You Should Not Do In a Group Discussion

Don’t Negate

A candidate should not completely negate the views or thoughts of other candidates. This would give a bad impression as if you do not want to listen or you do not have the patience to listen to the views of other candidates. It is a good gesture to be open to opinions and ideas of other candidates even if they are different from your own ideas.

Don’t Get Radical 

You should try not to express radical views in a group discussion such as conclusive remarks about religious beliefs, political situations or economic policies. The arguments should only come in the form of possible suggestions and personal opinions and not definitive inputs. Statements or sentences that tend to have drastic or double meaning should also be avoided. The idea is to facilitate the flow of the group discussion positively.

Don’t Get Biased

Gender-based, caste-based or racist sentences should not be spoken in a group discussion. This can negate your chances of being selected.  Experts advise that the candidates should maintain a cordial tone throughout their participation in the group discussion.

Don’t Try to Speak for the Maximum Length of Time

Candidates who are silent during the group discussion must be encouraged to speak so that they also get to express their opinions on the GD topic. It is not wise to speak alone and not allow others to speak. So, make it a point to encourage others to speak as well in order to have a healthy discussion.

Don’t Get Critical

You should not make sarcastic or critical statements in a group discussion as this would give an impression that you find mistakes or shortcomings in the people around you. Be polite and maintain a gracious tone while speaking without hurting the sentiments of others.

Don’t Get Personal

Making personal statements or anecdotes about a person is certainly not the right way to proceed in a group discussion. Avoid using these sentences and make puposeful statements as per the topic.

Things to Keep in Mind 

Demonstrating good communication skills is a good way of improving your chances to succeed in a group discussion. But, you also need to listen carefully and then talk precisely according to the theme of the GD, which is more important. Bringing out useful information and relevant statistics can help you make a lasting impression on the minds of the panelists. You need to lead by example. So, experts suggest that you display good leadership skills by leading the discussion to reach acceptable outcomes.

Moreover, you need to treat every candidate in the group discussion with respect and humility. Dressing up in formal attire can also go a long way in helping you make a lasting first impression on the panel members.

Candidates can have a good chance to crack the GD if these simple tips are kept in mind during the preparations. A final word of advice from experts of the field is to pay attention to the topic and assess how to speak in front of the group with all the correct information and statistics to be able to provide result-oriented conclusions.

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