Importance of group discussion
Group Discussion is used as an eliminator round for the hiring process. It is used to shortlist candidates for their higher studies, for example, a master’s degree in Management.
There are many questions that come to mind when talking about Group discussion and a few of them are answered here.
What is the dress code for a group discussion?
You have to dress the part of a professional. It shows your interest and reflects on your behaviour.
Male candidates must wear a formal shirt paired with a formal pant. A tie will go well with the set. You can additionally sport a blazer. This is not a must. If you go with the blazer or for the three-piece suit, keep the weather in mind. Complete the experience with a formal laced shoe.
Female candidates can go for a formal blouse paired with a formal skirt or pant. Accessorize minimally. Opt for complementing formal shoes to go with the set. You can opt for a more traditional option of saree or salwar kameez. Avoid glitters. Of these options, one is not necessarily better than the other. So, choose the one in which you feel most comfortable.
Other tips(applicable to both): Avoid flashy stuff. Be well groomed. If you have long hair, tie it properly. Press your clothes and polish your shoes. Loose and skewed ties don't do you any favours.
Is GD a part of the selection process or an elimination technique?
Depending upon the situation, it can be both. Most institutes of higher education use a group discussion for the selection of candidates. Whereas, companies use group discussion for a short listing process where you may be eliminated or shortlisted to go through to the next round.
How long does a GD session last?
Group Discussion is a session where a lot of people talk one-by-one and all at the same time. An open-ended group discussion for troubleshooting issues may take one hour or more, whereas a GD for selection purpose has limited time. A group discussion session should generally last 20-30mins.
Who will assess the candidates in a group discussion?
An expert panel consisting of 3 or 4 members will be assessing the candidates. The panel will be assessing the candidates on their technical knowledge and communication skills. As such, the panel members will be experts on the subject matter at hand.
Who should I talk to- the panel or the team?
The group discussion is between you and the other participants. A panel plays no active role in the session. They are present in the role of an observer and as the judges. Thus, it is not right to address the panel members. Do not acknowledge them and ignore their presence completely.
You should address your points towards the other team members and discuss only with them. Addressing them does not have to be formal but make sure you make eye contact with all the members of the group. Be polite and assertive, quick and concise in your delivery.
Address the group members by name if you know them. Otherwise, stick to he/she combinations to indicate the person. Avoid numbers even when allocated as a part of the session.
Who will keep track of the time?
The facilitator is in charge of keeping the time. The panel will ensure that the time limit is adhered to. But that does not mean that as participants, you can relax. You can covertly keep track of time yourself. You can track how much time is sent on ideation and how much on arguing about it. You can use this for personal development purposes. If you decide to keep time, don’t use overt gestures like looking at your watch or mobile frequently. This will curtail you from contributing effectively. Additionally, it will project an air of disinterest and impatience. Better not to worry about the time part of the discussion.
How much time is given to prepare for a topic before the commencement of the session?
In general, a limited amount of time, say around 5 minutes, is allocated to the participants to prepare. But, there may be instances where no preparation time is given. You should be on your toes for such an occurrence and land on your feet.
You can do this by keeping yourself updated on the latest trends and technology related to your field. Additionally, brush up on your general knowledge and current affairs as these are some areas where the topics can be chosen from.
Should I be taking notes?
Yes, and no. You should have a pad or a piece of paper with you. You can write down just the keywords or use a mapping technique to keep track of the conversation. We do not advise you to take down complete notes. You are there to discuss, not record the minutes.
You can use the keywords/key phrases to summarize and bring back attention to the topic. IT also helps with identifying your plan and thoughts on the subject. But, in all fairness, the best approach is to listen hard and keep notes mentally, not waste precious time on writing down statements given the other team members.
If you are not sure, then note down the keywords. Practice to store conversations and related keywords mentally and reproduce them when required. Summarizing a group discussion session is usually voluntary but it pays to be ready if you have to deliver the summary.
Should I be the first to speak up?
Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on how prepared you are to speak first. Is the topic something you are familiar with? Do you have enough facts and figures related to it that you can give a persuasive and compelling argument, to begin with? It’s a gamble on a good day.
The result of this experiment can go either way. You either knock it out of the park or you get caught. If you are sure and confident that you have what it takes to open the discussion, go ahead. Remember to engage the team with anecdotes along with facts and figures.
One misstep creates a bad impression and your gamble will backfire on you. So be your own judge and be painfully honest with yourself. If you still feel this is a good idea, then go out all guns blazing!
Should I ask for permission to begin?
NO, that is one of the worst things you can do in a group discussion. Apart from not getting a chance to ask, you may come across as ineffectual.
Choose the right timing and enter the discussion without being rude to the person speaking before you. Interject with rejoinders like, “I agree but...”, “Let me say that...” etc., Don't use the cliche “excuse me”. This is rude and can be taken as sarcasm. Start with addressing the group collectively and jump straight into the subject.
Which is more important - thinking of new ideas or remembering points already being raised in the discussion?
Both are important for various reasons. New ideas fuel the discussion and you get the brownie points for it. Your idea might just be the solution to the issues if the kinks in it were worked out. So thinking of new ideas is important. It will showcase your problem-solving ability and innovation.
Remembering the points discussed is imperative as you need them to form supporting theories and rebuttals and to effectively contribute to the group discussion. You will project you as an active listener. The overall productive session for you can be achieved by striking a balance between new ideas and discussing points put forth by others.
What to do if my knowledge of the subject of discussion is very low?
Do not approach the facilitator or the moderator to explain the topic to you. This shows your ignorance and paints you in an unflattering light. If that is the case, staying quiet is a good idea. Take some time to ponder and then join the discussion by agreeing or disagreeing to somebody’s idea.
You can use these tools at hand to better equip yourself before attempting to speak in the discussion
This done, you can now formulate your points and present your idea and support or dissent others. If nothing else, you can take the chance to summarize the valid points and their support or dissent.
Can I change my stance on the topic after favouring one initially?
No, and yes. It is ill-advised to change your stance on a topic. Blindly taking a stance then changing it will land you in trouble. If you are in doubt, it is better to stay quiet and wait for more clarity to emerge on the topic before committing to a stance. There is a chance that changing the stance, and doing so may be constructed as your ineptitude. So if are really convinced you to wish to change your position on the topic, point out that your point was valid to the subject within the context but that you wish to concur with a different and contradicting point of view as a whole.
What to do when the participants are running around in circles with the same point?
This is a difficult yet common scenario across group discussion sessions. Best approach this by generating new ideas and or trying to push the conversation in a different direction. Show off your creativity as you try to bring the discussion out of a rut. Maybe indulge in some light-hearted humour. If there is nothing else to add, go for the summary.
Which one is a priority-Content or presentation?
Both are important facets of a group discussion. But if you had to choose one, choose wisely, then go with content, every time. There is no use of all the trimmings without any substance. Speaking for the sake of it is useless and a waste of time and energy. Presentation is important but not at the cost of content. Thus you can conclude that on the scale of relevancy, content is the more important player.
What types of mistakes you should avoid while communicating in a group discussion?
Display of emotion to an idea presented by your team member.
Quality of the idea and speech should be given priority over the quantity of time spent talking.
The ego of the person will project a negative impression of your character.
Insecurity is an equally undesirable quality.
These are some factors that influence the style of communication in a negative way and are some common mistakes that you should avoid committing.
What are the phases in a group discussion?
The phases say and do as their name. Orientation is the initial phase. Here, the outline is prepared and agenda introduced. Conflict, the second phase is where the participants fight for one-upmanship, where the dominants emerge. In the lull after the storm, the team learns to work together in the third stage known as collaboration, performance, the fourth stage is where the team moves towards a consensus, the conclusion is the final phase. Here, the results are shared and summarized.
How to prepare for a group discussion?
Read more and improve general knowledge. Keep yourself updated on current affairs.
Take notes on general topics and go through them before a session.
Practise and practise till you feel comfortable. You can practice speaking in front of a mirror and then graduate to discussing with friends.
How to communicate better in very less time with an average English knowledge?
Don’t worry about your English skills. You just have to practise speaking to the point and have clear concise content. To communicate better, practise hard. Eliminate the fillers from your speech. Don’t hem and haw. Avoid stammering due to nerves. This is the easiest short term solution not to bungle a group discussion.
What should I do when somebody else presents my idea before I could?
You have to adopt a two-pronged approach. On one hand, you should concur with the speaker and present your idea and any points that you wish to make supporting it. On the other hand, rack your brains to figure more innovative ideas on the go. The best way is to stop this from happening. You can do that by talking as early as possible in the group discussion.
Is slang allowed?
- Listen and listen hard. You gain instant knowledge by listening to others. Use their ideas to formulate a picture of the topic and where the discussion is headed.
- Get new ideas just by organizing your thoughts and opinions on the subject. See the question from a different perspective, you may just get the answer.
- Go through the points in your head and check for relevancy.
- If you have doubts, seek clarification from the speaker by gently questioning them on the same.
Slangs and colloquial language is absolutely not used in group discussions. Slang may be alright when you use them in informal situations, but they don’t give you any credit here. When in a group discussion, stick to polite usage and formal or semi-formal styles. Avoid chat language as well.
Am I allowed to use jargons?
Yes, if required, you can use technical jargons. Avoid chat language. They are not jargons. Ensure that you don’t use abbreviations of jargons either. To make sure everyone is on the same page, explain the jargon or the technical abbreviation.
Can I use anecdotes, and short-stories and maybe inject humour in the discussion?
Yes. Using short stories and anecdotes with some facts thrown in is a good way to attract attention to yourself. Using humour is a bit more complicated. Use it sparingly and only when levity is required. Overuse of humour in a discussion is a waste of time and resources and can be marked against you.
Should I be aggressive in my approach in a GD session?
No aggression towards any group member. Aggression is not tolerated in a group discussion session. You can try to be assertive without being aggressive.
Should the participants allocate time for each person before the start of the session?
No no and no. This is not a debate. This is a group discussion where it is not mandatory to participate or one where each gets a certain amount of time. A GD is competitive enough that participants must find their own ways to utilise the time block allocated for the purpose.
How to present my idea when everyone is making noise and nobody’s really listening?
Yet another common happenstance in group discussions. The noise level goes up to the breaking point with the argument between the factions reaching its zenith. This is a good time as any to make your foray into the bedlam. You can stand out as a leader by bringing this fish market under control or getting the others to listen to you or you fail to make an impact on the scene. The other way is to throw your weight behind the most powerful person in the room and ride on their success. Once they manage to hold attention, enter the conversation by agreeing to his/her point.
Should I be proficient in English to be successful in a GD?
A certain level of fluency is definitely expected in a candidate. But the native level of proficiency is not always required or expected. The panel will expect you to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and efficiently. Don’t stammer or drag a word. A huge and fancy vocabulary is not a must. On the other hand, you will also be expected to understand what others are communicating with you, and then be able to reply to that effect.