Group Discussion

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Group discussion and personnel interview This will be the final and the most important hurdle in your quest for that MBA. And often, it is the toughest. Interview experiences vary vastly from one person to another, and it often very difficult to predict the outcome of an interview. Just because you walked out of an interview feeling totally down in the gutters does not mean that you will not get through the interview, nor does it work the other way around. But there is one thing I can definitely say about interviews - they are totally a game of confidence. Those 10 confident minutes spent with the interviewers is all it takes to get through. As simple as that.

The Beginning::
There is a saying in the English language that goes, "Well begun is half done". But when it comes to interviews, well begun is often the complete job. During one of the parties on campus, I was having an informal discussion with one of my professors when he remarked "Close to 70% of the interviews are decided in the first 2 minutes. For trained minds like us who have been interviewing people for years, it doesn't take longer than that to judge a person." Its not as scary as it may sound, but there is definitely some truth to it. The way you walk into the interview room, the way you greet them, the initial conversation and your body languages in these first few minutes sets the tone for the rest of the interview and invariably, its output.

Interviews usually start with an introduction in one form or the other, the idea being making the candidate talk for a few minutes at a stretch. I would suggest you should also talk about things not on your resume during the introduction. Personal qualities, passions, hobbies can all spice up your introduction. I would recommend you to prepare a 120-150 seconds introduction and practice it. Interviewers rarely come with a set of pre-determined questions to ask (or exhaust such a set very soon), so they generally improvise based on your introduction and subsequent answers. Thus through your introduction, you can control to some extent the direction in which the interview will proceed by dropping subtle hints, while at the same time avoid uncomfortable questions. It is not a bad idea to sit with some friends and practice answering questions (mock-interview).

Types of GD Not all GDs are equal. B-schools use several types of GDs to test the applicants. While there are some GDs that test the knowledge of a candidate on a topical issue, others are designed to test the ' lateral thinking' of candidate. Another type of GD comes in form of a short 'case-study' where applicants are asked to analyze a situation and frame responses. Yet another type of a GD is a 'group exercise'.

 PREPARATION STRATEGY So then how should you prepare for the GDs? Experts opine that you should work on developing your knowledge base, while at the same time, focus on improving your communication. Some specific lessons on managing yourself during the GD are important too. There are some Group Discussion topics of perennial interest for GDs. For economic related topics, read fundamental concepts like FDI, Stock Markets, Libralization, Employment scenario, Capital convertability, Rupee vs Dollar, Inflation, Export-import, Socialist Vs Capitalists etc. For sector-based topics start by making a 1-2 page note on important sectors like IT, ITES, Banking, Insurance, Retail, Telecom, Healthcare, Agriculture etc. Try to know what are the developments in last year and prospects of each sector.

Express yourself!
But knowledge itself is not enough. Next step is to improve your ability to express yourself. You can practice speaking in a GD scenario by forming a discussion group which meets every day and takes up a topic for discussion. Practice ease of expression since clarity, brevity and word choice are keenly observed by the evaluators.

Body Language:
Some important things to keep in mind, just to avoid sending wrong signals during the interview. Sit in a comfortable, but upright posture with your back resting. You can keep your hands folded in your lap or use them for gesturing, but do not rest them on the table. Maintain eye contact with the interviewers all the time. When a question is being asked, look at the person asking the question but while answering, you have to ALWAYS answer to the entire panel. You can start your answer by looking at the questioner, but move to others during your answer. Even if one of the interviewers appears not-interested in your answer, it is just a ploy to throw you off guard and you still need to address him/her while answering. Warm greetings, polite tone and a thank you at the end of the interview all can do wonders to your cause.

What do the interviewers look for in a candidate during interview?
Clarity of thought, a sense of purpose, confidence, ability to work in a team, ability to perform under stress - in a nut shell, the qualities necessary to survive the B school and the raw ingredients to make a good manager. So it's not just the questions asked or the answers you give that determine the outcome of an interview. Remember than knowledge can be imparted, but character cannot be built over two years. Thus, its more the entire interview process that dictates the result of an interview.

 GD Tips - Group Discussion Dos & Don'ts
Sailing through Group Discussions successfully is an art too.

  • Be Natural The best mantra is 'to be your natural self'. Do not manufacture artificial responses.
  • Must Speak A key principle of participating in a GD is that you must speak. For any GD, take a piece of paper and a pen with you and use them unless specifically asked by the evaluators not do so. Before you start speaking, think through the major issues in the topic in the first two minutes. Start speaking only when you have understood and have analyzed the topic.
  • Make free-flowing discussion Avoid speaking in turn as it leads to an unnatural discussion. A GD involves a free-flowing exchange of ideas among participants. Even though there will definitely be chaos in most competitive GDs, as all participants will be keen to be heard, any suggestion of order, such as speaking, in turn, is unacceptable