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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview Preparation: Preparing for Group Discussion

Group Discussions for Job Seekers and Students

Scope of this Write-up
  • Group discussions among people in a group are done and used for variety of purposes under variety of settings. For example; for selecting or screening out candidates for the jobs, admissions of students in a college, particularly the business management schools, seeking new ideas through brainstorming and arriving at consensus on diverse opinions on a subject in an organization.
  • However, here in this article, we are going to focus on the subject of group discussions for job seekers or for the students seeking admissions in business management or other schools.
Use of Group Discussions
  • Group discussion is a process used for identifying appropriate or suitable candidates for the recruiting organization either by their selection or by filtering out the non-suitable candidates through this process.
The Process
  • A group of candidates being considered for the job by the recruiting organization or for admission to the courses in business school is formed.
  • The group size is normally 10 to 12 candidates who are supposed to formally discuss a given topic.
  • The group is normally made to sit in a round table conference in a room with comfortable and disturbance free environment.
  • A coordinator and few observers from the organization are appointed to administer the entire group discussion process.
  • They select a topic normally of general interest and declare it to the group.
  • The group participants may be given a few minutes (say 5 to 10 minutes) to collect their thoughts after the topic is revealed to them. During this period the participants can jot down the points of discussion on the given subject.
  • The group is then asked to discuss the topic for duration of 15 to 20 minutes. The exact time can vary but will normally be in this range.
  • The candidates or participants speak out their points of views and communicate on the topic.
  • At times the coordinator and observers of the group discussion may prompt the silent participants to put in their ideas on the subject being discussed.
  • In many group discussions, one or more candidates are expected to summarize the deliberations.
  • During the time the discussions are being held, the observers observe the participating candidates intently and carefully for variety of parameters (qualities, personality traits, skill levels etc) that are pre-decided by the organization. Even the weights on each of these parameters are generally decided.
  • After the period allocated for the discussion is over, the process of group discussion as far as the participants are concerned, is over.
  • Then, observers and coordinator of group discussion evaluate the candidates on the pre-decided parameters and allocate their marks and together decide on the candidates who will be filtered and dropped out and those who are found suitable and will be pushed up to the next level or process of selection like personal interview etc.
Types of Group Discussions

The classification is based on the type of the topics that are chosen for group discussion. The topics could be:
1.     Topic related to current news items related to business, technology, politics, education, health, social activities etc
2.    Factual topics
3.    Involving a problem or dilemma
4.    Controversial topics
5.    Abstract subjects
6.    Case study discussion on a given case
7.    Group task to achieve a result together as a team

Phases of Group Discussion

Group discussion can be divided into three main phases:
1.     Initiation or introduction
2.    Body of the group discussion
3.    Summarizing or conclusion

One can also divide the phases of group discussion as:
  • Creating chaos (approximately 1-2 minutes)
  • Generating ideas (approximately 7-8 minutes)
  • Building on ideas (approximately 5-6 minutes)
  • Summarizing or concluding the discussion (approximately 1 to 2 minutes)
On Introducing the Topic or Initiation of Group Discussion
  • Initiating a group discussion can be advantageous as well as disadvantageous depending on how well you do it.
  • When you initiate a group discussion, you not only grab the opportunity to speak, you also attract the attention of the observers and your fellow participants. So, if you can make a favorable first impression in initiating, it will establish your leadership position in the group and will help you sail through the discussion very well.
  • But if in initiating, you are not confident and are not able to make the first good impression on the observers and the other participants the damage might be irreparable. Stammering or communicating wrong facts and figures etc may further add to the damage.
  • If you initiate well but do not contribute much later on, it gives the impression that you started just for the sake of starting it and to impress but you really do not have much stuff.
  • When you start a discussion, in a way, you take up the responsibility of a leader and for putting the subject of discussion in its right perspective. Therefore, initiate the topic only if you have in-depth knowledge on it.
  • There are different techniques to initiate and make a good first impression. Some of them are:
    - Quotes on the topic
    - Definitions of the topic and related issue
    - Questions or posers or putting audience at the cross roads
    - Shock treatment or shock statement
    - Facts, figures and statistics
    - Short story
    - Humorous short story
    - General statements
    - Formulating an agenda of discussion and making the introductory points like objectives or deliverables of the discussion
On Summarizing the Group Discussion
  • The coordinator or observer will normally prompt to conclude the discussion and summarize.
  • If he does not ask any particular person or persons to summarize, you may like to take the initiative. For this, you must have assimilated all the points that were discussed and you are confident that you can summarize well. This can make a good lasting impression.
  • Avoid raising new points during summarizing.
  • Avoid highlighting only your viewpoints.
  • Avoid dwelling only on one aspect of what was discussed. Your summary should incorporate all the important points that emerged from discussions.
  • Keep it precise and concise.
  • Do not add anything once the group discussion has been summarized.
Personality Traits That Are Usually Observed and Evaluated in Group Discussion
  • Knowledge, content
  • Thinking pattern, clarity of thoughts
  • Reasoning or logic abilities
  • Analytical ability
  • Creativity
  • General awareness
  • Leadership
  • Assertiveness (as against aggressiveness and submissiveness)
  • Initiative
  • Enthusiasm
  • Dynamism
  • Inspiring ability
  • Communication- speaking
  • Convincing ability
  • Presentation style
  • Listening
  • Team building
  • Team player
  • Conflict resolution
  • Consensus building ability
  • Flexibility
  • Personal grooming
  • Demeanor: body language
  • Etiquette and manners
Dress Code
  • Candidates participating in a group discussion should be formally dressed. Should not wear casual clothes. Jacket and tie can be used depending on the climatic conditions.
  • They should wear clean and well ironed clothes, washed socks and polished shoes.
  • Do not forget to carry a clean handkerchief.
Some More Tips, Do’s and Don’ts

  • Improving your general awareness and keeping abreast of current affairs, happenings, issues and environment which affect lives of the people are very important. In short, ask yourself a question: am I well informed and do have I the latest information? For this, read news papers, political and business magazines, appropriate literature on Internet and watch relevant programs on television.
  • Also, form your own opinions on what you read and see. Think about it and prepare your thoughts with logical questioning on various topics. Also ask: are they fact based?
  • Discuss various topics with your friends, colleagues, associates, teachers, bosses and family members. This way you get enriched by many points of view on a topic. Listen, question, discuss and argue. Also, express your opinion. Learn to check your temper and emotions if others’ views are unacceptable to you. If your point of view is incorrect, accept it with grace. Be flexible and open enough to modify or change your opinions.
  • Mobilize other people who are interested in group discussion and simulate group discussions. Request an experienced person to observe your performance and give you feedback. So, practice, practice and practice. Group discussion is a competency or a skill and it requires practice as all other skills do. Refer: (Competency Matrix), (Competencies- Life Management)
  • Body language is your external personality and it creates the first impression on others. So, sit confidently and in a decent posture displaying your good etiquette and manners. Do not lean on the table or slouch. Do not sit with crossed legs. Do not rock your chair.
  • Thinking a few minutes on the given topic before starting the group discussion is important.
  • Jot down your thoughts in a small diary with a pen or pencil. You should always carry a small diary and pen or pencil with you while participating in a group discussion.
  • Do feel that you are better or as good as others but definitely no less than others.
  • If you are confident about yourself, try to be the initiator and concluder of the group discussion in addition to being an active participant throughout. Refer earlier paragraphs on it.
  • As a participant, be the most visible participant by actively and meaningfully participating in the discussion. Therefore, speak up and do not remain just a spectator. Also, listen carefully what the others are saying and get involved.
  • Put up your points assertively and firmly and try to get others’ support on your view points.
  • Address the whole group, not a single person or only to the observers.
  • Be coherent in your presentation to the group. Your thoughts should not look disjointed. Also do not rush.
  • Be audible. But do not shout or scream.
  • If you find that the discussion is going off track or at a tangent, grab this opportunity to bring it on track, thus securing an additional score for yourself.
  • Be polite and well mannered. Keep your cool under even very provoking situations and do not lose your temper. Do not mix your emotions. Do not get personal on issues with other participants and do not play the blaming game with them.
  • Do interrupt or enter the discussion when you want to. Do snatch chances. However, interrupt politely to put speak up your points.
  • Be a good time manager. Keep a track on the passing time so that you can contribute adequately within the time available.
Books Authored by Shyam Bhatawdekar and Dr Kalpana Bhatawdekar (eBooks and printed books available online from  Amazon)

Management, Business, Self-help & Personality Development Books

1. HSoftware (Human Software) (The Only Key to Higher Effectiveness)
2. Sensitive Stories of Corporate World (Management Case Studies)
3. Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
4. Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers (Volume 2)
5. Classic Team Building Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
6. 101 Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
7. Stress? No Way!! (Handbook on Stress Management)
8. HSoftware (Shyam Bhatawdekar’s Effectiveness Model)
9. Competency Management (Competency Matrix and Competencies)
10. Soft Skills You Can’t Do Without (Goal Setting, Time Management, Assertiveness and Anger Management)
11. Essentials of Work Study (Method Study and Work Measurement)
12. Essentials of Time Management (Taking Control of Your Life)
13. Essentials of 5S Housekeeping
14. Essentials of Quality Circles
15. Essentials of Goal Setting
16. Essentials of Anger Management
17. Essentials of Assertive Behavior
18. Essentials of Performance Management & Performance Appraisal
19. Health Essentials (Health Is Wealth)
20. The Romance of Intimacy (How to Enhance Intimacy in a Relationship?)

Novels, Stories, Biographies and Travelogues

21. The Peace Crusaders (Novel: how the peace crusaders established permanent peace on a war strewn planet?)
22. Love Knows No Bounds (Novel: a refreshingly different love story. Also available with the title “Good People”)
23. Funny (and Not So Funny) Short Stories
24. Stories Children Will Love (Volume 1: Bhanu-Shanu-Kaju-Biju and Dholu Ram Gadbad Singh)
25. My Father (Biography)
26. Travelogue: Scandinavia, Russia

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