Group Discussion is an important tool in the selection process. It is mostly used for selecting candidates for management posts. Here, the candidates are divided into small groups. Each group contains six to eight candidates. Each group is given a topic for discussion. They are also given a time limit for discussing this topic. The topic may be a general or current topic. For e.g. "Leaders are born, not made". Each participant has to give his or her views about this topic. The selectors observe the full discussion. After the time limit is over, the best candidate from the group is selected. The same process is followed for other groups.
Group discussion is mostly unstructured. That is, every single step is not planned in advance. Each candidate is not given a time limit for speaking. Similarly, the order of speaking, that is, who will speak first and who will speak last is not fixed in advance. The candidates have to decide how to conduct the group discussion. The selectors see how the group takes shape, and who contributes most to it. They also judge the knowledge of each candidate, time management, leadership quality, behaviour, etc.
Purposes/Objectives of group discussion:
Group discussion actually detail the area of approach to a problem or topic. A fruitful group discussion should include the following objectives:
1. Suggestions: Advice and ideas, together with suggestions, they form the core heart of a group discussion. It is through these tools that a meaningful and practically implementable solution can be reached. Intermingling of these suggestions give rise to a new ones, creating a space for best possible output.
2. Wide approach: Group discussion helps to provide wide approach to any matter under consideration, as it include members from a large number of different sections of a particular business organisation. The beauty of entire process is in the area of span it can give to a problem’s redressal.
3. Decision Making: Group discussion should be able to justify itself as a tool for rational evaluation of a problem and thereon reach to a suitable decisions, based on erstwhile suggestions made by the members. It also makes it easier for the leader to able to take even the toughest of decision with an ease, because by group discussion he can know what is supported by other members of the organisation.
4. Exchange of ideas: Group discussion should also be able to tap the working of every mind, engaged in the process, by the exchange of ideas put forth.
5. Productive activity: Group discussion is always supposed to be a productive activity in a business concern. It always a method which helps to procure the best possible decision for a concern.
Advantages of Group discussions: A group discussion has the following advantages:
1. More rational decision: The Group can produce more rational decisions because of deep understanding and application of many minds in comparison to a single mind.
2. More means: The group can pull together better resources. The joint resources of the group would be superior to the resources of an individual.
3. Division of labour: The group decision may lead to division of labour. People specializing in different fields will contribute their expertise separately to achieve a better goal. In group discussions, the process of sharing of views helps to eliminate errors of judgement.
4. Commitment: Group discussions results in commitment as it gives a feeling of involvement and acceptance of the decision.
5. Increase in knowledge: Group discussion increases the knowledge and understanding of the participants. They exchange ideas, views, opinions and discuss the same at length. There is practically no chance of ambiguity.
6. Solution for complex problems: Modern organisations face sufficiently complex problems. Their solution calls for group discussion wherein persons with different abilities express their valued opinions.
7. Encouragement of democratic and innovative thinking: All members enjoy full freedom and opportunity to express their opinion in group discussion. As a result of it, development of democratic and innovative thinking get encouraged.
Limitations of group discussions: A group discussion also suffers from certain limitations:
1. Delay: Group discussion take time to be arranged and to take decisions.
2. Conflicts: The members whose views are not accepted may feel offended. Personal conflicts and rivalry may obstruct proper and timely decision.
Why are Group Discussions used as a part of the selection process?
Nowadays, be it any stream or field, interaction skills are highly valued. By means of group discussions recruiters judge candidates capabilities in and out. Group discussions have become an integral step of evaluation for process of recruitment and admissions. These discussions are aimed at appraising various aspects of personality like confidence, communication skill, patience, etc. At the same time Group discussions are also important to evaluate one’s command on the given topic.
Group Discussions measure certain attributes of the candidates that are otherwise difficult to identify and time consuming to assess. A number of people who can communicate their ideas well and discuss effectively with others in a one-to-one situation become tongue-tied in a group situation. They will just not be able to present their ideas or discuss their ideas with the other members of the group. A Group Discussion will identify people who have such group communication skills and people who do not possess such group communication skills.
In today's context, the organizations are interested in team players rather than individual contributors. During the Group Discussion, the panel essentially evaluates the candidate's potential to be a leader and also his/her ability to work in teams. Most organizations today are very clear about the skills and knowledge that they look for in a candidate while screening. This was not the case a couple of years ago. Group Discussion has been a part of the Selection process for admission into most of the top Business Schools Earlier, some of the Pharmaceutical Companies like Ranbaxy, Glaxo, Cipla, Lupin, etc used to conduct Group Discussions as a part of their Screening Process for Selection of candidates as Medical Representatives. Most of the other companies also used to conduct GD while selecting candidates for marketing related Posts. Today, almost every company, (including TCS, SATYAM, WIPRO, INFOSYS, INFOTECH, ORACLE, CTS, CANBAY, POLARIS, etc) both IT and non-IT has GD as part of their Selection Process.
The skills that are usually assessed in a Group Discussion are:
• Communication Skills
• Interpersonal Skills
• Leadership Skills
• Motivational Skills
• Team Building Skills
• Tolerance to Ambiguity
• Divergent Thinking
• Listening skills
• Presentation Skills
• Analytical / Logical skills,
So, it's important to assess candidate’s current strengths in all these areas and accordingly put efforts to strengthen their weaknesses.
Tips for Success in GDs (Group Discussions)
a) Initiate - Break the ice, be the first one to start the discussion, if somebody else has started, relax. There are a lot of opportunities later.
b) Listen - Carefully. Communication is a lot about listening. Listen, Comprehend, Analyse. When you listen carefully, it allows you to contemplate and analyse which helps in speaking the right thing at the right time.
c) Remember - Names, Facts, Figures, Quotations. It helps a lot if you know who has spoken what. If permitted, you can use a notepad to write.
d) Observe - Body language, how conversation shapes up, gets diverted. Then do the right thing at the right time.
e) Manage - People. At times there are people who create difficult situations. These are best opportunities to demonstrate assertive attitude.
f) Communicate - Be frank, clear, firm and jovial in your communication. Your voice should reach out but not irritate people.
g) Summarise - If you did not initiate the talk, this is the right time. If you have been listening carefully, your summary will be the best one.