Group discussions are today an important part of the selection process to many entry-level executive jobs and management institutes. This is often done when a large number of candidates are involved even after the initial screening of resumes/ entrance tests. The selection committee then uses group discussions as the next round to quickly identify the most suitable candidates for the next round, that is interviews.
It is not a very easy task to stand out from a group of ten to twenty candidates. You are being assessed for your team behavior. You cannot win by either being a mute witness to the action or by being to aggressive. Here are a few things you would do well to internalize for your group discussion rounds.
This sounds the most obvious thing, but many people don’t understand how they can prepare for a group discussion. There are two parts to it. One is that you need to be well read about current happenings and public controversies, as group discussions are often about these topics. This reading pays off in many ways, as it can help you in other areas like entrance tests and interviews too.
Second, try to practice group discussions with a group of friends you are comfortable with. Get a few friends who are in the same situation as you, job hunting or preparing for entrance tests. It is easier to motivate these people to practice seriously than your cricket buddies. Practicing with a group you are comfortable with helps you to be natural when you are at the competitive GD.
This means that you need to be actively involved in the discussions. You need to speak up. You won’t win by being a silent observer of the goings on. The person who initiates or concludes the discussion gets easily noticed, but take it easy if you just missed out on this. You can still score with intelligent views and appropriate behavior.
This is perhaps the most crucial part. As we saw earlier, group discussions are used to assess a person’s behavior in a group. You need to be assertive, not aggressive or submissive. Express your views by all means. If you do not agree with someone, be sure to express your disagreement appropriately. Don’t use expressions like ‘you’re wrong’, ‘that is wrong’, ‘what nonsense’ etc. Always show respect to the other person’s point of view and then show your disagreement with expressions like ‘what you say has some truth, however I do not agree entirely with you’, ‘I have a somewhat different take on this’ or ‘I beg to differ with you’.
Show your appreciation when someone makes a good point or an intelligent observation. This wins you their rapport as well as a few points towards healthy team behavior.
Be mindful of your body language. Use gestures, but don’t overdo it. Remember that we use gestures in our everyday conversations. Try to be your natural, relaxed self in the group discussion too.
Don’t Lose Your Cool
In the group discussion, you are with people you don’t know well. Be alert to sound respectful and avoid anything that may sound offensive to the other people. On the other hand, some other speakers may behave aggressively or sound offensive. Don’t take it personally. Stay calm, objective and voice your views/objections respectfully under all circumstances. You score by being coolheaded under provocation.
Take it Easy
Earlier in this article I advised you to be well read. However no one can be a know-it-all. It may so turn out that you are not well informed of the topic selected for the group discussion. Don’t panic. Wait till someone starts the discussion. You can pick up the thread by following the conversation and then say something intelligent. Remember that the main purpose of this round is not to test your general knowledge.
Similarly, sometimes you may have some really interesting point to make-something that is original/ complex. You may suddenly find yourself stuck for the right words and phrases to express the thought with all its nuances. It doesn’t pay to be seen struggling with a thought. Simplify your idea to its most essential elements so that you can express it clearly. It is better to be articulate with a simple thought than sound vague.
Preparation and assertive behavior are the key to success in group discussions. Your behavior at the group discussion indicates how good a team player are you, something very valuable for every organization. A good team player is someone who can get his ideas across to others, win their rapport and also give due support and appreciation to his team members. Remember to follow these pointers in mind when you practice group discussions.
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