Group Discussion

Group DiscusssionGroup Discussion and Personal Interview is one of the litmus test to get through a premier B-school. I still remember how I had to dress myself for success. I still remember how introvert I had been and how difficult it gets to crack a GD-PI. I knew after clearing entrance exam, GD-PI is like a do-or-die situation for me: it is either you are in or you are completely out for another whole year. I knew if GD-PI is not cracked this time then the whole 1 year of hard work is going to go complete futile. So you can see the amount of pressure mounting on me at each ticking of time. Well, the first thing I did was to get rid of this pressure which I was building on to myself. I first made myself understand that it was a “DO” situation and there is no question of “DIE” situation. Now, how exactly did I “dress myself for success”?

Reading Magazines, Newspapers and Books: Yes, the first and foremost thing I started doing was keeping my self abreast with current affairs. This was done by reading newspapers like Economic Times, Business Standard and any other journal I could thing would be relevant, I would grab it. Then I would get few business magazines from friends and buy it from stores. Having completed reading magazines I would ensure I spent time enhancing and brushing-up my general knowledge. For me this was very important as I could relate many crucial events with my GD Topics. This would help me in putting across relevant points on the table. In short, keeping updated of current affairs gave me a shot of adrenaline – an air of confidence! This was mainly as I could see my points at the discussion were not only relevant but also short, precise and multiple unique points.

Reading books mainly some of the best sellers was another boost to my confidence. Books like Alchemist, The monk who sold his Ferrari, Rich Dad Poor Dad etc has shaped my continuity in talk, coherence in thought, and concentration in listening. It made me believe that there is another point of view, there is another outlook and approach to the topic. This helped me think out of the box, this taught me that imagination has no limit and I would come with new points. Reading such books is a boost for topics which are complete abstract: “Roses are red, violets are blue”, “Come to a full circle” or “Orange”. Yes these were some of the exact topics I had got during several of my GD discussions for various B-schools.

During my Group Discussions in which I got Selected:

 A group of 10 individuals in which 8 were boys and 2 were girls. The moderator had given a topic (The Chinese goods are disrupting the Indian markets) and then had asked to start. The very moment 3 candidates started and they kept on talking irrespective of whether the other one is listening. I knew if I speak it would not make any sense to anyone. I had expected the rowdy person will be eliminated. After a 1 minute of their talk, I suggested the girls too be given a chance to put across their viewpoint. This provided enough to stop them and after the girl spoke I pitched my point which I had thought during the time when other 3 contestants were talking. I spoke 3 valid points and passed in to the person who did not get the chance to speak. Then as the discussion time was about to end, I pulled myself up again and summarised the discussion with points suggested by all the individuals.

In this discussion I learned we need time to think and then structure the ideas. In fact I had created a flowchart and I ensured to use one analogy, one uncommon point apart from few relevant points. Further if someone has already started the discussion, avoid jumping on the running train. Secondly, we need to carefully listen to other speakers and bullet their points in a paper. Thirdly, we have to avoid interrupting when the other speaker has just begun speaking or has not completed his view or sentence. Fourthly, avoid being rowdy or disrespectful and instead you can offer chance to speak to your fellow contestants when the others are not letting you speak and then after a while you can extend the discussion. Last but not the least, you cannot dominate or speak throughout the discussion and should lead the group as a ‘team’.

MBA Graduates

Starting the discussion:

If you have already mapped the topic and you are confident about it then you can start the discussion. It is a myth that one who starts the discussion has a more probability of getting through the selection. In fact one who has put across valid points and had maintained a positive attitude and has shown team culture are more likely to be selected.

Heated discussion:

If the discussion has become rowdy, you can turn the table round by not being rowdy and showing your effort through gestures that yes you have a point to put forward. You may try entering the discussion whenever there is an opportunity. Chances are more that the moderator may ask each one to put forward their point of view.

How many times to speak?

There is no thumb rule as to how many times you have to speak. What most moderators notice is how much proactive you have been, and how smartly have you put across your views. You should speak to the point, crisp and ensure some innovative points to be added. You should not speak for the sake of speaking.

How to enter into the discussion?

 You can enter the discussion by using sentences like “I completely agree with my friend and I would like to add that….” or “I think the other point of view to this topic is that…” If the discussion is going off the topic then one can take charge of it and can express that “I think we are getting deviated from the main topic and my opinion is…”

How to summarise the discussion?

If you have not spoken then this is a very important and the last attempt to redeem yourself. For this one has to be actively listening and writing the important points. One has to smartly correlate the important points and quickly summaries within a minute. One has to ensure that no new point should be added here as the discussion is over and only the main points have to be summarised. You can probably use sentences like “we had a meaningful discussion and we came to the consensus that….” or “Though we had a meaningful discussion yet we could not come to a consensus. Some of the points discussed were…”

These points had been extremely helpful in several of my group discussions but one cannot deny that group discussions are unpredictable. Each discussion takes its own shape and has a different way forward. One has to be confident and has to be smart to deal with surprises as there are no prescribed formulas to “dress for success”.

Contributed By : Mitesh Agarwal, Class of 2011, IBS Hyderabad

How can introverts face a GD/PI with ease?

Group Discussion and Personal Interview

The expression of introversion varies from one person to another in intensity as well as type. Some basic traits of an introvert person are –hesitation to speak in front of people especially strangers, hesitation in making eye contact when listening to someone, using a soft (and sometimes inaudible) tone while talking, taking too long to search for the right words and feeling uncomfortable in group situations. Introverts often think a lot before actually saying anything and thus they are unable to speak at the right moment. If you are an introvert, you might have faced a number of such problems not only in your social life but in your professional life as well.

The business world is really competitive and things may become harder for you in case you are an introvert. Introverts often tend to avoid situations where they are required to speak up in front of a group or where they feel the focus is on them. Thus, group discussion as well as personal interview is beyond the comfort zone for an introvert.

Now before you go for a group discussion and personal interview, you need to know that most candidates out there are nervous too. You are definitely not the only one. The selection procedure can be really nerve-wrecking even for the best candidates. Here are some tips that will help you face the group discussion and personal interview with ease.

  1. Believe in Yourself

Being confident and self-assured may not seem to be easy. However, the first step towards preparing yourself to face your upcoming GD/PI is to believe in yourself and your abilities. Now, being an introvert does not mean that you are any less capable than other candidates. Surely, communication skills are a plus but you do not have to be disheartened if you are not good at it. All you have to do is work a little harder. If you plan and prepare well, you have a good chance of making it through the selection procedure of the college you have applied to.

  1. Plan and Prepare

Start your preparation well in advance. List down all the topics you think you may possibly be given for the group discussion and then research about them. During a group discussion, each candidate gets only a limited time to speak. Hence, it is not about how much you speak, it is about the how logical and sensible your points are. The more you know, the more confident you will feel!

  1. Practice

Mock interviews may really help you build up your confidence before the big day. Practice speaking while standing in front of a mirror. Observe your body language and your tone. You may even ask for some help from your friends. Conduct mock group discussions and interviews with them. Ask them to point out your mistakes and weaknesses and try to overcome them. Practice will really help you to overcome your nervousness.

Now that you know what you need to work on before your GD/PI, here are a few things you need to keep in mind on the big day.

  1. Dress well

Presentation matters!  Make sure you follow the dress code and dress up smartly on the final day. Don’t start hunting for your formal dress few hours before your GD/PI. All this should be done the previous night. Dressing up smartly will also help you feel more confident about yourself.

Dressing up casually or shabbily for interviews shows lack of interest and seriousness. Remember, the interviewers will be judging you on various factors. It is important to look impressive when you go for the group discussion and personal interview.

  1. Stop over-thinking and be calm

The more you think, the more nervous you will be. Also, thinking too much before presenting your views in the group discussion may affect your performance as you may not be able to speak up on time.

Do not think of the personal interview as an interrogation. Think of it as a conversation. Be quick and subtle with your responses. Over-thinking may result in long unnecessary pauses and this may break the flow of the conversation during the interview. Performance anxiety can be reduced if you keep reminding yourself that you are just having a conversation.

Calm yourself before you go for your group discussion and personal interview.

  1. Use your Listening Skills

Introverts are often considered to be good listeners and if you are one, you may use this skill for your benefit at the GD/PI. Carefully listen to the views and opinions presented by other candidates at the group discussion. This will help you in forming your own opinions. Also, this way you may avoid being repetitive and stating the points which have already been mentioned by someone else.

Strong listening skills will help you process the information well and plan out your answers accordingly. Well thought answers will certainly give you an upper hand over other candidates. However, don’t get too caught up in just listening and not responding in time.

Group discussions and personal interviews can be really nerve-wrecking if you are an introvert. Unfortunately, they cannot be avoided. Whether you are applying for admission in a reputed business school or you are trying for a job at some company, you will have to face personal interview.

GD/PI may seem to be a little less difficult for extroverts owing to their strong communication skills and their ease of interacting with others. However, this does not mean that you do not stand a chance.  Planning, preparation, and practice make the perfect combination of what you need in order to give your best in the group discussion and personal interview. Focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. A little hard work is all you require to make it through your upcoming GD/PI. Many introverts have carved out a successful professional career for themselves. There is no reason why you can’t!

Contributed By : Qais Mujeeb, Class of 2001, IBS Hyderabad

Breaking the Stereotypes of Group Discussion

Stereotypes of Group DiscussionThe clock is running faster than usual, one person in the group is speaking while others are waiting for him to take a breath for they are all set to cut him short and throw up some or the other thing to make the coordinator a note of them. Seems like a Group Discussion is on. Amid of all, you are not even blabbering. Your head has so much been bombarded with ‘Rules of cracking group discussion’, which you either read on internet or in some book, that you are just sitting there and mulling over them one by one. The coordinator hits the buzzer and that’s it. You lost your chances for making it to the next round.

Let’s get out of some of the stereotypes that are falsely branded as the rubrics of cracking the group discussion and be practical about discussing something in a group.

  • Sit the way you like: We read at lot many places about proper sitting postures during Group Discussion. No matter how “proper” you are sitting in the Group Discussion but if you don’t hash out your views in front of others you won’t be qualified for the next round. The purpose behind group discussion is to assess your leadership skills, communication skills, your behavior with others and especially your listening skills. It has nothing to do with the angle of your spinal cord. Hence stop worrying about your sitting posture and gear up on exchanging quality points.
  • Be loud: Be louder in GDImagine your friend staying on the top floor of the building and you are asked to call him down. Would you be all assertive in calling him or be loud so that he could take a note of you. In the same manner, once in a group discussion make your presence felt to other. Be loud whenever you speak. But make sure you keep a foot on ‘Don’t be aggressive’ rule too. Be shrill but don’t get rude or mad with anyone.
  • Don’t speak first: The topic doesn’t ring a bell in your head but since you have been told to ‘Always start first’ you do the same and you miss the meaning of the topic. In such an odd situation let others start the discussion first, try to catch those sub-topics which you are aware of, from the discussion going on, and then hit the hammer. You would surely be able to give a new direction to the entire discussion.
  • Switch Sides: There is a thin line of difference between group discussion and debate and that is you cannot switch side in the latter. If you feel that the entire group has nodded on something then that is the right time for you to agree to disagree with them. Hop the side and discuss the issue from opposite angle. Not only you would be blowing life back to the discussion but you would also grab brownie points under the leadership column.
  • Flow in the opposite direction: Somewhat similar to above point and a bit contradicting too. Rather than switching side in between, it would be better if you chose a side, not taken by anyone else in the group, from the very beginning. No matter how much favorite that side was to you or how much knowledge you had about that side but if majority of people has taken it in the group, switch to another. For instance, the coordinator has hurled a topic ‘Blue Ocean Strategy or Red Ocean Strategy’. You are all prepared to talk about Red ocean strategy but when majority is speaking in the favor of it make sure you contradict them by putting on the table the cons of it or the pros of blue ocean strategy.
  • Don’t define the topic: Don’t define the topic in GDYou grasp at once every word of the topic written on the board and you also manage to get a chance to initiate the discussion. Don’t define the topic unless the topic is listed under the dictionary of rocket science. Defining an obvious topic harms in two ways. You define it and lose a chance to speak further because someone else takes it from there and secondly, you could not take a positive or negative stand on the topic because you were busy defining it. And hence the coordinator doesn’t know your point of view on the topic till you get a second chance to speak about it which by the way is not a walk in the park.
  • Cut others short: If you notice someone who is nowhere near to give up on speaking, interfere by raising a rhetorical question (Yes break this stereotype too of not asking questions in GD) and then put your point in the discussion. If you would not take this initiative someone else would. Then the whole process of ‘Let-him-finish-then-I-will-speak’ would start all over again. If you believe that cutting someone short in a GD might reduce your chances of making to next round then remember that someone else too cut you short while you were speaking to put his point.
  • Make the heads nod but keep yours stable: Sit the way you like in GDSometime it so happens that you hold a similar view as your group mate and you nod as he speaks. Not only you but others also do the same. The entire group might end up agreeing to what that one participant said. This makes you contribute zero from your side. Rather than practicing this keep a poker face while listening to that person. Don’t give him a clue about your stand on the topic. But contribute strong points in the discussion and make others to nod on your point.
  • Don’t rush to summarize the discussion: You hear the buzzer sound again and the desperation to summarize the topic takes a toll on you. You performed well in the entire discussion but in this hurriedness of summarizing if you goof up then chances are high that you spoil the entire impression on the coordinator. Let others complete the discussion and when the coordinator asks you to summarize then buckle up with your concluding lines.
  • Be diplomatic in the last 30 seconds: As mentioned before that there lies a distinction between group discussion and debate. Keeping this in mind, towards the end when you are asked by the coordinator to conclude the topic do not give aone sided answer on the topic. In fact, there are certain topics which never demands for any perfect answer. Give a mixed response while concluding the topic. End your part in such a way that everyone leaves with a thought in their mind.

Lastly, the take away from the above points is that there are no specific rules when it comes to Group Discussion but casual guidelines have been designed to make us follow the protocol when we are a part of such discussion. It is an on the spot activity where your presence of mind, flexibility on the topic, pressure tolerating ability and other traits & skills used in corporate world are judged.

Contributed by Hasan Ali Gumani (Class of 2014, IBS HYDERABAD)