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GDPI Points to Remember

GDPI Points to Remember

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Published by Jigar Doshi

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Published by: Jigar Doshi on Mar 09, 2012
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03/09/2012

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You are done with the Common Admission Test (CAT) and are probably lining up yourself for some of the other admission tests. This is a good time to brush up your skills for the last mile of selection –group discussion and interview (GD-PI).Interestingly, there are lot of speculations and confusions among aspirants regarding GD-PI. Havingbeen a part of selection panels representing both the corporate and institutional recruiters for severalyears, I have witnessed, moderated and assessed performance in innumerable GD-PIs. It is fascinatingto see students trying really hard, but ending up doing things that they should rather avoid.Here is a list of things candidates need to stay clear off if they wish to make the right impression on theinterview panel. Avoiding the don’ts will help recognise the real differentiators, and the direct preparationtowards improving ability to score higher on them.Let’s begin with GD. A group of students is assigned a topic for discussion for 15–20 minutes. Thepanel is looking for an effective combination of knowledge and skills in the candidates. Some serious‘don’ts’.
1. Arriving just-in-time, or worse still, arriving late for the selection process:
Being punctual showsyou value time and respect the institute’s time as well. Arriving early gives you a chance to familiariseyourself with the environment, meet your ‘competitors’ and become a little easy about the whole thing.Less stress equals better performance.
2. Not having a crisp, simple and effective speech prepared for the introduction:
Oftenmoderators ask the participants to introduce themselves. It sounds simple so candidates don’t give thispart much thought. Consequently, we see poorly-structured, fumbling introductions, making a negativeimpression on the panel and participants.
3. Clarifying the topic with the moderator:
If you do not know much about or do not understand thetopic, the worst thing you can do is ask the moderator. It shows you in poor light, either in terms of knowledge or analytical ability, or both. You need to keep quiet and listen to your peers; as thediscussion unfolds, you will know what to say.
4. Scrapping to start the discussion without having anything useful to say:
Starting the discussiondoes not by itself necessarily give you extra points; it does, however, give you some visibility. So, if youdo manage to start, make sure you make a positive impact. It’s better not to start the discussion than tomake an average or poor start.
5. Failing to recognise that a GD is not a debate:
Majority of candidates start the discussion byvoicing their own opinion – that’s typically the debate situation. In GDs, moderators look for candidateswho can create a framework for discussion or help widen its scope by guiding the group to explore itsdifferent aspects. If all you have to say is whether you agree with the topic or not, and that too beforeyou get a chance to discuss it with the group, you have made a poor start.
6. Showing aggression:
Many candidates believe that the corporate world is seeking aggressivemanagers. The industry, on the contrary, is looking for managers who can work in and with teams andwho are assertive without being aggressive. To be aggressive is to impinge on others’ space and timeand that’s not how a professional is expected to conduct him/her self. So, don’t come across as asmoke-spouting matador; you need to come across as an effective team-player who works with thegroup, accommodates diverse viewpoints and asserts him/ her-self without aggression.
7. Trying to be the leader of the group:
Leadership cannot be demanded, it is bestowed by the groupand you have to earn it on the basis of the quality of your performance. Candidates often try very hardto assume a leadership position in the group – obviously in the belief that the moderator is assessingthem on leadership potential. The effort shows – and, almost always, with disastrous results. If you addvalue to the discussion by demonstrating knowledge and analytical ability and conduct yourself withdignity, you may emerge as a leader.
 
8. Trying to play moderator:
You are an equal among other equals in the group – thus no divinepower has given you the right to decide how others in the group should conduct themselves. This isusually misconstrued as team skills by the participants but is actually unnecessary policing. There is noone more irritating for the moderator than a member making inane statements like ‘we must alloweveryone to speak’ and ‘we are digressing from the subject.’ You are assessed on your ability to makecompelling points on the subject assigned – just do a good job of that and the assessment will take careof itself.
9. Grabbing airtime:
Most people love to hear themselves speak. Most also believe that they have themost earth-shattering perspectives to share and that everyone else should just shut up and listen tothem. Armed with these beliefs, some candidates talk themselves to the proverbial death in GDs.People who insist on talking a lot end up talking nonsense and repeating themselves ad-nauseum.These students are prime candidates for rejection – no B-school wants to fill up its campus with peoplewho don’t let others talk.
10. Playing judge:
I have mentioned that a wannabe moderator is the most irritating species in a GD. Avery close second is the self-appointed judge, who spends his/ her time in the GD making incisivestatements like ‘you made a good point,’ ‘he did not make sense to me,’ ‘I agree with her’, etc. Good toknow who all are blessed with your approval, but what about making a contribution to the discussionwith some valid, well-thought-out points?
11. Failing to listen to others:
The hallmark of good communication is effective listening. Assessorsactively seek superior listening skills in candidates. Your body language and the content of your speechhave to, therefore, demonstrate attentive listening. Listening would automatically improve the quality of your content, and moderators are acutely aware of this. Interrupting others, trying to dominate thediscussion, ignoring group dynamics are all examples of poor listening skills.
12. Showing lack of respect for other people’s views:
 A subject is bound to evoke diverseresponses from the group members, in fact it is this diversity that makes for a rich discussion. I haveseen candidates shut out other points of view, ridicule the comments or ideas of others and expend their energies in trying to prove others wrong. That is exactly what you should not do – you need to learn toaccept others’ opinions and carry them in the group while putting your own perspective forward in apleasant yet assertive manner. It’s about different ways of looking at things, not about right and wrong. Also, you need to be sensitive enough not to make comments that are likely to hurt the sentiments of any section or group of people.
13. Being closed-minded about issues:
This is related to the earlier point. Managers need to be openminded about issues and have the capability of managing conflicting opinions. If you come across as aperson with strong, extreme, non-negotiable views, you would be doing yourself disfavour in theselection process. The assumption would be that you are either unaware of the complexities of theissue or too closed minded to accommodate positions different from your own. This becomes evenmore obvious in sensitive issues like reservation, terrorism, etc.
14. Engaging in one-on-one arguments:
 A group discussion needs to involve the entire group, butstudents often indulge in parallel conversations with other members. This is more evident when twomembers get caught up in trying to ‘win’ an argument. Neither is likely to relent – so you end up notwinning the argument and losing the opportunity to get selected. Avoid getting into long arguments –agree to disagree and move the discussion forward.
15. Repeating or rephrasing points:
You get credit for making new, valid points – not for repeating or rephrasing points already made earlier in the discussion. If you have nothing new to say, keep mum andthink – analyse the knowledge you have and try to apply it to the given situation. Bring a newperspective or build and develop on points made by others.
 Added later:
The author has sent the following response to reader comments about there being contradictions in points 3, 8 and 10.
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my views on GDs. This article was a summary of my experiences asa moderator and recruiter for institutions like Tata Steel, PwC, HP and Praxis Business School. I amglad that some of you have expressed differences of opinion – that’s what enriches a discussion,whether it’s a formal GD or an article on a website.Some of you have asked me to clarify certain points. I certainly don’t wish to defend what I have said as;however, I think I owe it to you all to clear some of the confusion that some of my writing mayinadvertently have created. The points in question are 3, 8 and 10, so I will address them in that order.
3. Clarifying the topic with the moderator:
In response to a topic like ‘Euthanasia should belegalised’, I have had candidates asking me (the moderator) the meaning of the word ‘euthanasia.’These candidates immediately get a negative, and, more often than not, the moderator does not revealthe meaning anyway — you are supposed to know what euthanasia means as it is one of the hotlydebated issues in the globe. If, for some reason, you are unaware, a better way to deal with thesituation is to let the GD start and listen to your peers – it takes a couple of minutes to get the hang of the topic and to start contributing. Some moderators may give candidates an opportunity to clarify –please go ahead and use the opportunity.
8 and 10. Assuming the role of a moderator or a judge:
I am addressing these together as theybelong to the same family of topics – in a group of peers, should I (and can I) assume the role of amoderator or a judge? Some readers have said that it depends on the situation in a GD as each GD isunique – I could not agree more. But I cannot cover all possible cases that may arise – generally, for me, a candidate who attempts to ‘run’ the group usually ends up looking a little silly because the groupis under no obligation to be ‘run’ by a peer. Every fish market has a couple of do-gooders screamingthat the group is turning into one (fish market) and that everyone should be allowed to speak. The groupusually chooses to ignore them and carry on – so all they manage is to add to the general noise. Noharm in making an attempt – but you need to be smart enough to figure out if it’s likely to work. If thegroup is fiercely competitive, you are likely to face an uphill task. Comments like we, or, worse still, you,are digressing, etc are likely to be met with an under-the-breath ‘who are you to decide what isdigression – I think I am making a very relevant point’. Instead, make a point that brings the group backto the topic! Whom would you guys select – someone who says – ‘You are digressing from the topic’, (a judgement) or someone who says, ’Coming back to the topic, I would like to look at the social impact of this development’ (a contribution toward bringing the group back to the topic). Take your pick.Successful GD candidates spend their effort in making compelling points – the group automaticallylistens to them. Candidates who repeatedly complain that ‘I had great points but no one listened to me’need to get another opinion on the brilliance of their points – they would be surprised! If the moderator himself asks candidates to moderate the GD, you obviously go ahead and do that. I would be seriouslyconcerned if your understanding of my writing suggests anything different. The specific situation youface in a GD and the instructions, if any, of the moderator would clearly override whatever I have said.You probably read and hear a lot about what to do right at an MBA admissions group discussion. Thisarticle, however, is about the biggest group discussion #fails that you absolutely should avoid whenparticipating in a GD. The first fifteen points have previously beenpublished here.
16. Making sweeping statements:
Sweeping statements are strong, one-sided views of the world thatlack factual support. Students love making these kinds of statements as they sound good; an assertionis no good unless you can back it up with facts and/or logical reasoning. Think through a point beforeyou offer it for discussion – you are then ready to support it if required.
17. Becoming emotional:
A GD is an artificially constructed situation that can be quite stressful attimes. There could be comments made by others in the group that you find outrageous or plainunacceptable. If your peers manage to get you excited and emotional, they would have scored a coupleof decisive points against you. The mature way to handle the situation is to control your emotions andrespond on the basis of facts and sound logical constructs. Do not lose your composure and be politeand graceful.

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