Tips on GD's / Interviews
In a group
discussion what should my objectives be and how should I achieve
In order to succeed at any unstructured group discussion, you
must define what your objective in the group is. A good definition
of your objective is - to be seen to have contributed meaningfully
in an attempt to achieve the right consensus.
The key words in this definition are 'seen', 'meaningfully',
and 'attempt'. Let us understand what each of these imply in
terms of action points :
The first implication is that merely making a meaningful contribution
in an attempt to achieve consensus is not enough. You have to
be seen by the evaluator to have made a meaningful contribution
in an attempt to build the right consensus.
In other words you must ensure that you are heard by the group.
If the group hears you so will the evaluator. You must get at
least some airtime. If you are not a very assertive person you
will have to simply learn to be assertive for those 15 minutes.
If you get cowed down easily in an aggressive group, you can
say goodbye to the business school admission.
Many GD participants often complain that they did not get a
chance to speak. The fact of the matter is that in no GD do
you get a chance to speak. You have to make your chances.
The second important implication is that making just any sort
of contribution is not enough. Your contribution has to be meaningful.
A meaningful contribution suggests that you have a good knowledge
base, are able to structure arguments logically and are a good
communicator. These are qualities that are desired by all evaluators.
Many GD participants feel that the way to succeed in a GD is
by speaking frequently, for a long time and loudly. This is
not true. The quality of what you say is more important than
the quantity. Don't be demoralized if you feel you have not
spoken enough. If you have spoken sense and have been heard,
even if only for a short time, it is usually good enough. You
must have substance in your arguments. Therefore, think things
Always enter the room with a piece of paper and a pen. In the
first two minutes jot down as many ideas as you can. It pays
to think laterally. Everybody else will state the obvious. Can
you state something different? Can you take the group ahead
if it is stuck at one point? Can you take it in a fresh and
more relevant direction? You may like to dissect the topic and
go into the underlying causes or into the results.
One way of deciding what sort of contribution is meaningful
at what point of time is to follow two simple rules. First,
in times of chaos a person who restores order to the group is
appreciated. Your level of participation in a fish market kind
of scenario can be low, but your degree of influence must never
be low. In other words you must make positive contributions
every time you speak and not speak for the sake of speaking.
The second rule is applicable when the group is floundering.
In this situation a person who provides a fresh direction to
the group is given credit.
The third implication is that you must be clearly seen to be
attempting to build a consensus. Nobody expects a group of ten
people, all with different points of view on a controversial
subject to actually achieve a consensus. But did you make the
attempt to build a consensus?
The reason why an attempt to build a consensus is important
is because in most work situations you will have to work with
people in a team, accept joint responsibilities and take decisions
as a group. You must demonstrate the fact that you are capable
and inclined to work as part of a team.
What are the ways that you can try to build consensus?
First, you must not just talk, you should also listen. You must
realize that other people also may have valid points to make.
You should not only try to persuade other people to your point
of view, but also come across as a person who has an open mind
and appreciates the valid points of others.
You must try and resolve contradictions and arguments of others
in the group. You must synthesize arguments and try and achieve
a unified position in the group. Try to think of the various
arguments of your's and others' as parts of a jigsaw puzzle
or as building blocks of a larger argument for or against the
Try and lay down the boundaries or the area of the discussion
at the beginning. Discuss what the group should discuss before
actually beginning your discussion. This will at least ensure
that everyone is talking about the same thing.
Try and summarize the discussion at the end. In the summary
do not merely restate your point of view; also accommodate dissenting
viewpoints. If the group did not reach a consensus, say so in
You must carry people with you. So do not get emotional, shout,
invade other people's private space. Do not bang your fist on
the table except in extreme circumstances.
If you have spoken and you notice that someone else has tried
to enter the discussion on a number of occasions and has not
had the chance to do so maybe you could give him a chance the
next time he tries. But do not offer a chance to anyone who
is not trying to speak. He may not have anything to say at that
point and you will just end up looking foolish.
The surest way of antagonizing others in the GD as well as the
examiner is to appoint yourself as a de facto chairperson of
the group. Do not try to impose a system whereby everyone gets
a chance to speak in turn. A GD is meant to be a free flowing
discussion. Let it proceed naturally. Do not ever try to take
a vote on the topic. A vote is no substitute for discussion.
Do not address only one or two persons when speaking. Maintain
eye contact with as many members of the group as possible. This
will involve others in what you are saying and increase your
chances of carrying them with you. Do this even if you are answering
a specific point raised by one person.
One last point. You must not agree with another participant
in the group merely for the sake of achieving consensus. If
you disagree, say so. You are not there to attempt to build
just any consensus. You have to attempt to build the right consensus.
Is it a good
strategy to try and be the first speaker on the topic in a GD?
In most GD's the opening speaker is the person who is likely
to get the maximum uninterrupted airtime. The reason is simple
- at the start most other participants in the GD are still trying
to understand the basic issues in the topic, or are too nervous
to speak and are waiting for someone else to start. Therefore
the evaluators get the best chance to observe the opening speaker.
Now this is a double edged sword. If the opening speaker talks
sense naturally he will get credit because he opened and took
the group in the right direction. If on the other hand the first
speaker doesn't have too much sense to say, he will attract
the undivided attention of the evaluators to his shortcomings.
He will be marked as a person who speaks without thinking merely
for the sake of speaking. As someone who leads the group in
the wrong direction and does not make a positive contribution
to the group.
So remember speaking first is a high risk high return strategy.
It can make or mar your GD performance depending how you handle
it. Speak first only if you have something sensible to say.
Otherwise keep shut and let someone else start.
In an interview
how does one handle the question "Tell us about yourself?".
An often asked opening question. Perhaps the most frequently
asked question across interviews. Your opening statement needs
to be a summary of your goals, overall professional capabilities,
achievements, background (educational and family), strengths,
professional objectives and anything about your personality
that is relevant and interesting. This question represents an
opportunity to lead the interviewer in the direction you want
him to go e.g., your speciality or whatever else you may wish
Your intention should be to try to subtly convince the interviewers
that you are a good candidate, you have proved that in the past,
and have a personality that fits the requirement.
Remember that the first impression you create will go a long
way in the ultimate selection. Keep in mind, most candidates
who are asked this question just blurt out their schooling,
college, marks and qualifications. All this is already there
in the CV. Why tell the interviewer something he already knows?
A final word on approaching this question. Once you have said
what you have to say - shut up. Don't drone on for the sake
of speaking for you just might say something foolish. Sometimes
interviewers don't interrupt in order to give the candidate
the impression that he has not spoken enough. This is just a
stress inducing tactic. Don't fall for it, if you feel you have
spoken enough. In case the pause gets too awkward for you just
add something like, "Is there something specific that you
wish to know about me?"
In the MBA entrance
interview how do I justify my decision to pursue the MBA programme?
When you are asked this for God's sake don't tell the panel
that you are looking for a "challenging job in a good firm
with lots of money, status and glamour". That is the first
answer that most candidates think of. Unfortunately it is the
last answer that will get you admission. In the answer to a
direct question on this subject you must convey to the interview
panel that you have made a rational and informed decision about
your career choice and your intended course of higher study.
There are broadly six areas which your answer could touch upon
Career Objectives : You could talk about your career objectives
and how the two year MBA programme will help you achieve them.
This implies that you have a clear idea of what your career
objectives are and how you wish to achieve them. For example
you may want to be an entrepreneur and wish to set up your independent
enterprise after doing your MBA and then working for a few years
in a professionally managed company. You could explain to the
panel that the MBA programme will provide you with the necessary
inputs to help you run your business enterprise better. But
then you must be clear about what the inputs you will receive
in the MBA programme are.
Value Addition : That brings us to the second area that your
answer should touch upon. What is the value you will add to
yourself during your two year study of management. Value addition
will essentially be in two forms knowledge and skills. Knowledge
of the various areas of management e.g. marketing, finance,
systems, HRD etc. and skills of analysis and communication.
You will find it useful to talk to a few people who are either
doing their MBA or have already done it. They will be able to
give you a more detailed idea of what they gained from their
Background : Remember, there must be no inconsistency between
your proposed study of management and your past subject of study
or your past work experience. If you have studied commerce in
college then management is a natural course of higher studies.
If you are an engineer this is a tricky area. You must never
say that by pursuing a career in management you will be wasting
your engineering degree. Try and say that the MBA course and
your engineering degree will help you do your job better in
the company that you will join. But then you should be able
to justify how your engineering qualification will help.
Opportunities and Rewards : You could also at this stage mention
the opportunities that are opening up in organizations for management
graduates. Highlight with examples. At the end you may mention
that while monetary rewards are not everything they are also
important and MBAs do get paid well. You must not mention these
reasons as your primary motivators even if that may be the case.
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