Group discussion or GD is an integral part of a selection process, be it a job interview or entrance exam. This article will share everything you need to know about Group discussion, along with some tips to help you ace your next group discussion.
What Is A Group Discussion?
In layman’s terms, a group discussion or GD is when people gather to share and discuss particular or more topics. Each participant is expected to share their opinions and ideas on the subject matter.
When it comes to job interviews, one-on-one interviews, a group discussion is where a group of 8-10 candidates are given a topic or a case study to analyse and discuss in front of a group of about 3-5 panelists.
Group discussions are conducted for the panelists to test the candidates’ interactive skills and how they can lead and conclude the discussion. The skills assessed by the panelists include leadership, communication, interpersonal and persuasive skills.
GD comes to the rescue when you want to see the best candidate among a group of people. It helps panelists find the most suitable candidate for whichever position or role they are trying to fill. It helps them pick out who has the confidence and drive to rise above the occasion, and there is no place more daunting than having to speak out in front of many people for freshers.
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Group Discussion Process
Let’s familiarise ourselves with how a GD works.
Usually, the GD has 7-15 participants and usually lasts for 15-20 minutes, but it could also take more time depending on the number of participants. There can be one or more moderators/panelists who will be giving participants the topic to discuss.
Now, on to the process –
- Topic Is Announced: Once everyone has settled down, the moderator/panelist will give out the topic to be discussed. From social issues to economics to literature, among many others, the topic could be anything.
- Time For Preparation Is Given: After the topic is announced, each participant is given some time to prepare for their answer/statement. The time allotted for preparation depends on the topic and the number of participants. It could range from 3 minutes to 15 minutes.
- Discussion Starts: After the preparation time is over, any of the participants can start the discussion expressing their opinions or ideas and can be followed by anyone. Unless given by the moderator, there is no specific order in who can talk when.
- Moderator/Panelist Ends The Discussion: The panelist or moderator can end the discussion at any time. Usually, they ask someone among the group to summarise the discussion, and they typically choose those who haven’t spoken much during the discussion. The summary is supposed to conclude the discussion, and the speaker must include all important points discussed in the GD.
- Moderator/Panelist Judges Participants Individually: After the conclusion of the GD, the panelists gather to score the participants individually to see who possesses the best skills in including leadership, communication, interpersonal and persuasion.
Importance Of Group Discussion
A GD is important for institutions and companies to find a candidate with the best soft skills and who gives importance to team objectives and their own. It helps the candidates enhance their leadership, teamwork, listening, communication, interpersonal, and persuasive skills. So, it benefits both the participants and the moderators.
Let’s take a look at how important GDs are for the participants:
- Enhances Communication Skills: Each participant is expected to speak up during the GD, which helps them polish their communication skills. Even introverts who are afraid of public speaking get the opportunity to share their opinions and ideas.
- Gives Participants Confidence: Public speaking can be terrifying for shy and timid people. GD helps them overcome that fear, which provides them with more confidence the more they participate.
- Improves Listening Skills: Participants have to listen intensely while others are speaking as they need to absorb all information about if they want to be the winner or if they are asked to summarise the discussion. So, this helps them in improving their listening skills.
- Improves Concentration: In a group discussion, each participant has to think deeply about the topic and what they should say. They also have to listen to every participant’s point of view. These can help improve their concentration skills.
- Boosts Teamwork Skills: Organisations look for candidates who will work well with others in their team or department. Knowing this, some participants try their best to cooperate with everyone in the group. This helps in boosting their teamwork skills.
- Develops Leadership Skills: Groups discussions are ideal for candidates to improve their leadership skills as without a team leader, at least one participant in the group has to step up and take the role of a mediator or leader.
Types Of Group Discussion
Topic-based group discussion and Case-based group discussion are the 2 main types of group discussion. Let’s dive deeper into these two types of GD.
- Topic-Based Group Discussion: The participants are given a topic to discuss in a topic-based GD. In this type of discussion, the topics can be controversial, knowledge-based, conceptual or abstract.
- Controversial topics usually turn into debates, wherein participants are given a topic on which they have to express their thoughts and opinions. The topic could be about religion or reservations, among others. These topics help the panelists or moderator gauge the participants’ temper and see who well they can carry on without showing their anger and displeasure.
- In knowledge-based topics, participants need to be well-read about the topic. For instance, if the topic is “Contract jobs vs. Permanent jobs”, they need to know enough about the advantages and disadvantages of both types of jobs.
- Abstract topics related to intangible things, and they help the panelists test and see each participant’s creativity and thinking skills. Some examples of Abstract topics include Only Thing Constant Is Change, Free Water Vs. Free Oxygen, Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining, etc.
- Conceptual topics help in analysing each participant’s logical and aptitude skills as they have to answer the “Why?” or “ What is…?” of the topic given to them. Many companies and institutions prefer to provide the participants with conceptual topics these days as they help showcase the candidates’ knowledge of the subject matter and how well they can express their thoughts and ideas.
- Case-Based Group Discussion: Also known as case-study based group discussion, in this type of GD, the participants are given a case study or a problem to resolve rather than discussing or debating a topic. This helps the panelist focus on the participants’ problem-solving abilities, teamwork, and decision-making skills. In this type of GD, the time allotted for preparation is usually longer.
Rules Of Group Discussion
There are specific rules and etiquette that participants must follow in group discussions and they are listed below.
- Preparation: Like every other interview, you have to research and prepare your answers. Topics could range from business to even sports. It could be current events as well. So, you need to read more and increase your general knowledge. Stay up to date at all times about the latest news and trends. For a mock GD, seek help from your family members and friends. Their participation will make it feel more realistic, and the more you practice, the more confident you will be when the time comes.
- Body language: We’ve said it time and time again – the first impression lasts. Your body language defines you as a person, and the panelists will be studying yours. So, sit straight enough to be comfortable and not too stiff. Make eye contact with the other participants. Do not fidget or talk too animatedly. A nod to let the participants know that you are hearing them. This will show that you are participating and that you are present. Do not play with your hair or any other objects such as pens or pencils.
- Be polite and respectful: No employer wants to hire someone who does not have a good team spirit, and the best way to avoid that is to study how well the candidate is getting along with the other participants. They want to see how well you treat your fellow candidates and if you have what it takes to be a leader. So, always be respectful of other opinions and views and don’t be too rash to disregard them. Try to come to a conclusion where all parties are satisfied. Be polite and kind when you speak to others. A good character is always important in a leader.
- Don’t be afraid to start the conversation: Once you are given the topic, take a piece of paper to list out important points to cover. Try to be the first to speak up because this will make the discussion a smooth sail for you as you will be able to set the direction of discussion and take the initiative to lead. This will show the panelists that you have strong leadership qualities.
- Stick to the points: It’s understandable that sometimes our nervousness gets the best of us, and we either become speechless or talk gibberish. There is no room for that here. You have to be confident and stick to the point you are talking about. If you are too nervous, let others speak first, and you follow their lead. Also, while making your point, use statistics and studies to back up your case. Remember, it’s quality over quantity. So, don’t just speak up when you don’t have anything to contribute.
- Dress code: The best clothes to wear for a Group Discussion are formals. This means suits, preferably dark tones. Shoes should be smart shoes for men and kitten heels for women. Do not show up wearing bright-coloured or graphic shirts. No one wants to be ‘the woman in the neon green shirt’, so don’t be that person. Also, do not wear chunky jewellery.
- Be objective: Engage in the discussion but do not be too involved to the point that you start arguing with other candidates’ stances. Keep in mind that you need to be a team player. Agree with the points that others make first and then move to yours. Be open-minded and do not dominate the conversation because the panelists will think you are aggressive.
- End on a good note: Again, like every other interview, end the discussion on a good note with all your fellow candidates. Make sure that everyone has come to the terms you agree with. Take the initiative to summarise the discussion if you haven’t contributed much during the discussion.
10 Roles Participants Play During Group Discussion
In every group discussion, there are different roles that each participant play. Sometimes someone has to step up and act like the leader, while others play the part of the Analyst or Energy Spreader, among others. Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 roles that participants play in a group discussion.
- The Leader/Facilitator: The leader is usually (not always) the one who starts the discussion. He ensures that the discussion runs smoothly by keeping track of the GD.
- The Initiator: He is the person who speaks up first and starts the discussion after the preparation time is over. He is the one who sets the direction of where the discussion goes.
- The Referee: The Referee ensures that everyone participates in the discussion and tries to keep everyone in line when the discussion gets too severe or heated up.
- The Information Guy: He is the one in the group who knows the topic best. He shares what he knows, giving examples with facts and figures and collecting information from others.
- The Support: He agrees with others when they share their opinions and ideas, but he doesn’t contribute to the discussion. Sometimes, he just nods his head and barely speaks at all.
- The Mood Maker: He is the person who encourages others with his positive and fun nature.
- The Opinion Collector: He is the person who asks everyone in the group to share their opinions and thoughts.
- The Fault Finder: He objects to and criticises every idea and opinion others share. He thinks that he knows best and that everyone should accept his proposals or opinions.
- The Time-Keeper: He keeps watch on the flow of the discussion. He constantly checks his watch to see how much time has passed and how much is left or if someone takes too much time to speak.
- The Summarizer: He is the person who closes the discussion with a summary of all the essential points mentioned throughout the GD.
10 Mistakes To Avoid In A Group Discussion
Mistakes are a part of life and are unavoidable. But with preparation and caution, they can be avoided. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid in a GD that you should know about.
1. Starting the discussion without knowledge of the topic
If you don’t have any clue about the topic given, do not try to be the first person to speak up. Wait for others to initiate the discussion, and whatever they say will tell you more about the subject at hand. This will help you in collecting enough information for you to talk about. Ensure that you take notes.
However, if you are well versed in the topic, you can initiate the discussion.
2. Not participating in the discussion.
As we have mentioned earlier, group discussions are conducted for the panelists to test the candidates’ skills and how they can lead and conclude the discussion. So, you get picked for the role depending on your participation. You cannot sit and nod along while others are speaking. Even if you are not familiar with the topic, you can listen to what the other participants are talking about and learn there and then.
3. Getting too personal
Sometimes, especially when controversial topics are given, participants take things too personal to the point that they lose their tempers and have outbursts. Ensure that you keep your emotions and temper in check. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and even if you disagree with them, keep your anger at bay until you leave the building at the end of the GD.
4. Copying others ideas/opinions/thoughts
You cannot just repeat what others are saying or nod your head. It will make you look dumb, and you will surely lose. You need to contribute to get selected, and to do that; you need to add your thoughts or ideas as well. Again, even if you are not familiar with the topic, you can watch, listen, learn and contribute.
5. Contradicting your own point
There are times, especially in debates, when a participant contradicts his own points and stands. You must avoid this at all costs. Whether you are for or against it, stand firm on your chosen side. The moderator or panelists will notice it and take you as a person who doesn’t believe in himself and beliefs and changes his mind easily. These are not the qualities that they are looking for in candidates.
6. Interrupting others
Interrupting others while speaking will show the panelists that you are unprofessional and rude. Listen to them and wait for them to finish talking. After they are done, you can present your thoughts and ideas.
7. Dressing up inappropriately
If you are about to sit in a group discussion for a job or entrance interview, assume the dress code to be formal or semi-formal. Do not wear bright-coloured or graphic shirts. No one wants to be ‘the woman in the neon green shirt’, so don’t be that person. Also, do not wear chunky jewellery.
8. Losing confidence
Sometimes, when a participant makes a mistake and is pointed out by others, he loses his confidence and ends up being silent for the rest of the discussion. Even if you make a mistake by providing wrong information, don’t lose your confidence or hope. Learn from it and even thank them for pointing out your errors and helping you learn more.
9. Speaking softly
Some participants, especially the reserved and timid ones, are sometimes barely audible as they are too shy to speak loudly. Avoid this. Remember that you are trying to impress the panelists, and to do that, they need to hear what you have to say. If your voice is not heard, it means that you have not contributed to the discussion, which will get you eliminated.
10. Be overconfident
Too much of anything can be harmful. In GDs, some participants are too overconfident because they are the “know-it-all” type of people. They tend to show off their knowledge and take up most of the time allotted for the GD. Avoid being the overconfident person because it will only alienate you from the others, and that will show the panelists that you do not have team spirit or teamwork skills. You will only sound and seem rude and arrogant.
Simple Hacks To Crack A Group Discussion For Beginners
If you are about to sit for your first ever group discussion, here are a few group discussion tips for beginners that we believe will help you crack the GD.
1. Be prepared
The night before the GD, ensure that you fill your bag or briefcase with a notebook, pen, water bottle, handkerchief and other items that you will need in the GD. Have the formal or semi-formal outfits that you will be wearing neatly pressed and laid out or hung.
2. Have a concrete structure
Once the topic is announced, take the preparation time to create a structure of what you will talk about. You can use diagrams or listicles to write down your talking points.
3. Stick to the point
Once you have created the structure, ensure that you speak point to point so that your speech does not get jumbled to the point that they are far off the point you started with. This will show the panelists that you have strong communication skills and a good train of thought.
4. Speak clearly and loud enough
When you speak, ensure that your voice is audible from every corner of the room and that you speak clearly. You do not have to shout, only loud enough to be heard.
5. Say something
Even if you are not well versed on the topic, you cannot just sit and nod along. While others speak, take notes and learn as much as you can, enough to weigh in your thoughts, ideas or opinions.
6. Be civil
There are bound to be disagreements in a room filled with strangers with different beliefs and thoughts. Even if you do not agree with what the others are sharing, wait for them to finish and share your views. And when you object to others’ views, do so politely and professionally. Keep your friendly face on at all times.
7. Mind your body language
Sit straight enough to be comfortable and not too stiff. Make eye contact with the other participants. Do not fidget or talk too animatedly. A nod to let the participants know that you are hearing them. This will show that you are participating and that you are present. Do not play with your hair or any other objects such as pens or pencils.
While others are speaking, listen carefully and take note because you could be the person that the moderator asks to summarise the GD. You must be prepared for that.
9. Be confident
When you speak while sticking to the points in your structure, be confident. Even if you make a mistake, do not lose your confidence. If you are nervous, give yourself a pep talk to motivate yourself before the GD starts.
10. Stick to the side you choose
Some participants end up contradicting their own points and stands. You must avoid this at all costs, whether for or against, and stand firm on your chosen side. The moderator or panelists will notice it and take you as a person who doesn’t believe in himself and beliefs and changes his mind easily.
Rejection In Group Discussion
There can be a number of reasons why candidates get rejected in GD. However, rejection is not the end of the road. The path to success is not an easy one but with hard work and determination, you can reach the top.
So, if you are wondering why you got rejected, take a look at some of the likely reasons below so that you can learn from it and improve yourself.
1. You were not familiar with the topic.
Not everyone knows everything about everything. So, if the topic you were given was something you are not well versed in, it is only logical that you did not give the right or best answer or ideas. In this case, all you can do is read more and expand your GK.
It’s also possible that what you said lacked organization, system and order. If this is the case, after the topic is announced, take the preparation time to create a structure of what you will talk about. You can use diagrams or listicles to write down your talking points.
2. Lack of Teamwork
It is possible that the moderators witnessed you not being a team player and rejected you. It could be because you were impolite or acted too selfishly to other participants. In the world of work, teamwork is important to succeed, and recruiters are looking for candidates with good team spirit. If this is the case, you need to work and coordinate well with others.
3. Lack of confidence
Even if you give the right answers but lack confidence, it can be unconvincing. If this is the case, you need to do something to increase your confidence level. You could join public speaking classes. This way, in your next GD, you will be able to speak up and convince and persuade others with your answers.
4. Lack of examples
The best way to win a debate or discussion is to provide your answers with examples like facts and figures, or quotes. Even if you are not familiar with the topic, you could support your thoughts and ideas with quotes.
For example, if the topic was, “Is Social Media a boon or a bane?”, and you did not have any facts or numbers, then you could use famous quotes like, “Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun.” – Pete Cashmore, Mashable CEO
5. You spoke too softly.
As we have mentioned earlier, if your voice is not heard, you have not contributed to the discussion. If you were not audible throughout the GD, it could be the reason you got rejected. If this is the case, next time, ensure that your voice is audible from every corner of the room and that you speak clearly. You do not have to shout, only loud enough to be heard.
6. You were rude to other participants.
You could have been arrogant without knowing it, and the panelists saw that as you being rude. This could also be a reason why you got rejected. It could also be because, during the debate, you got offended and talked too harshly to others. Think back and reflect on how you acted. You need to try to fix your attitude or behavioural problem if this is the case.
7. You did not do your homework.
Maybe you neglected to research the organization, institute or job role you are applying for. If this is the case, we advise you to do thorough research before appearing for the interview. You can go through their website and social media accounts.
8. You did not contribute.
The reason that you got rejected could be because you did not speak during the GD. You could have nodded along or even been inattentive. The panelists must have seen that you weren’t listening or paying attention at all. And who would want to pass someone who cares very little about their organization or them? If this is the case, you need to work on your listening and communication skills.
Although group discussion sounds and seems scary, it is the perfect opportunity to work on your soft skills such as listening, communication, interpersonal, leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
Now that you’ve got the tools to ace your Group Discussion, we will leave you here with our best wishes.