Inside the world of GD

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Dec 2015 13:42:37

Group Discussion


By Kartik G Vyas

Well after my articles about interview mantras were published, I got a few requests about writing something about group discussions as well. So here’s an article about ‘group discussions’ as part of selection process and what one can expect to face at such discussions.
Group Discussion or GD is a very nice tool for a selection panel because this process can help reduce the overall candidate pool to a select few very rapidly. A typical group discussion has anywhere between 8-12 participants discussing over a topic chosen by the panel for about 15-20 minutes. After this discussion, the panel can choose the people who they found suitable - typically not more than 3-4 sometimes even 0. As a result, you have a dreaded piece of selection process which is a tool of mass rejections which is quick, easy to maneuver and effective. If you have to evaluate 200 candidates, 10 rounds of GD can quickly reduce the number to 20-30 and all you have spent is just a couple of hours (even less if you have parallel panels). Compare this against traditional interviews and you realise how time efficient Group Discussions are. Well, if you look at GD through only this perspective then GD appears like a butcher’s chamber where your sole goal should be to survive and come out without a rejection. However, like a lot of unidimensional analyses this analysis of GD process is skewed and incomplete.
While it is a fact that GD is a mass rejection system, I would rather look at it as a selection system where everyone has an equal chance of selection provided that you perform properly against the expectations of the panel. This brings us to the point of what is it that the panel is looking at when a GD is conducted? Most of the times GDs tend to be judged majorly on the basis of verbal communication skills, logical/cogent articulation and an ability to hear out the other side if not listen to it. One of the first thumb rules of a GD is that if you don’t speak up, you are almost certain to get rejected. The way some people tend to interpret the corollary to this thumb rule is – if you speak a lot you are almost certain to get selected. This perhaps is the trap that most participants fall for when the first time they face a real GD. Yours truly was rejected from a GD for falling prey to this temptation, so I can claim, been there and done that.
Although it is a fact that speaking up in a GD is the right thing to do, one must not speak a lot. GD is where the panel tries to judge the personality of the candidates, and maybe except for some debate shows on prime time news television, very few folks like people who silence other participants in a discussion. Nobody wants to work with a colleague who just doesn’t let others speak and is never willing to listen to others. So the most important thing in a GD is to resist the temptation of talking a lot. Having said this, people who speak just a little bit more are more likely to get selected than people who speak a little too less. Ideal quantum of speaking in a GD should be 3-4 crisp points of not more than 40-50 seconds.
Having spoken about the quantum of speaking in a GD we come to the more important point of what to speak and when. Well, if you know the GD topic well and are confident, starting the GD is a great thing to do. It not only gives you the first mover advantage, you are likely to be not interrupted very fast as people are relatively calm at the beginning of the GD. It is after about 5-6 minutes that people realize that the time is running out and they must make their points at any cost. So starting a GD with a good introduction to the topic is a good thing to do. If you cannot start for some reason, you should try to find a pause or a sentence end in another speaker’s point and jump in. You can use typical GD phrases such as ‘taking her point ahead’ or ‘I don’t quite agree with her opinion because..’ and make your own point in favor or against the previous point. While speaking you must ensure that you look at everyone and not just the person who spoke before you.
Another important rule in a GD is that one should not consider the moderator or evaluator as the part of the group. Unless moderator sits down and becomes a part of the discussion he is supposed to be invisible to the participants. If someone talks to the moderator or evaluator, that someone is making a mistake and you shouldn’t repeat. Modulation of voice when you make your points accompanied with natural hand gestures is a good way of keeping your group engaged. As far as possible one should avoid raising one’s voice in a GD as it tends to convert the GD into a fish market.
Last but not the least – being prepared for a GD involves knowledge of the topic of discussion. If somehow you don’t know anything about the topic, you should base your viewpoints on the basis of points made by others. For example, if the GD topic is about lifestyle in Hawai and if you don’t even know where Hawai is on the map, then your only chance of survival is to express your opinions about the points made by your fellow participants. So when someone says Hawai has sun, sand and tourists which makes life there very interesting, perhaps you can choose to agree with the point saying, tourists bring excitement in a place, even in places such as Goa it is the tourists who make the place feel doubly special.
Before I conclude all I want to say, is that even if you don’t agree to someone’s viewpoint in a GD, be tolerant, hear them out. Afterall most problems can be solved through a discussion!
(The author is IT professional in field of Analytics, guest faculty at VNIT. He can be reached at [email protected])