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Group discussions: Learning from mistakes

So you feel that this group discussion is going to end up like the others - no interview call? Possibly a rejection letter? If you do, your group discussion is a lost cause even before you attend it. If you have attended even one group discussion in the past, think of what could possibly have been the mistakes you may have committed. You could possibly list these mistakes on paper, and take all efforts not to repeat them. To help you crack your fear of failure, here's a list of the most common mistakes made at group discussions:

  • Pavithra was very offended when one of the participants of the group discussion made a statement on women generally being submissive while explaining his point of view. When Pavithra finally got an opportunity to speak instead of focussing on the topic she accused the other candidate for being a male chauvinist and went on defend women in general.

This example highlights some of the common mistakes made during a group discussion

  • Deviating from subject

  • Treating the discussion as a forum to air your own views.
  • Losing objectivity and making personal attacks.

This kind of behaviour is perceived as immature and is demotivating to the rest of the team.

  • Sheila believed that the more she talked, the more likely she was to be evaluated positively. So at every opportunity she would express her views, often interrupting other people. She did this so often that the other candidates got together to prevent her from participating in the rest of the discussion.

  • You are being assessed not only for your communication skills but also for your ability to work with a team.
  • Your contribution to the discussion must be relevant.
  • The evaluation will be based on the quality of your contribution rather than the quantity.

The aim of the group discussion is to get the various members of the team to express their opinions before coming to a consensus. So avoid dominating the discussion. Rather encourage the rest of the team to contribute.

  • Vijay was happy to have got a group discussion topic he had prepared for. During the discussion, he took pains to communicate to the others his vast knowledge of the topic. Every third sentence of his contained statistical data - "33.3% of companies… 27.26% of employees felt that… I recently read in Fortune that…" Soon, the rest of the team either laughed at him or ignored his attempts to enlighten them. The evaluator felt that Vijay was cooking up the data.

  • Even if your knowledge of the subject is encyclopaedic, you will end up being frowned upon by the panel and the group if you attempt showing-off your knowledge.
  • You need not validate all your statements with facts and figures.
  • Your people skills are more important than the in-depth knowledge you have of the subject that you want the evaluator to know about.

Being a show-off indicates how self-centered you are and only highlights your inability to work in an atmosphere where different opinions are expressed.

  • Sharief knew that all the participants would compete with each other to initiate the discussion. So as soon as the topic - "Discuss the negative effects of liberalisation on the Indian economy" - was read out, he began talking. In his anxiety to be the first to start speaking, he did not hear the word "negative" in the topic. He began discussing the ways in which the country had benefited from liberalisation, only to be stopped by the evaluator, who then corrected his mistake.

  • It is very important to listen and understand the topic before you air your opinions.
  • Spending a little time analysing the topic may provide you with insights which others may not have thought about.
  • Listening gives you the time to conceptualise the data so you can present the information you have in a better manner.

There's no worse way of getting noticed by the evaluator than by starting off the group discussion with a mistake.

  • Madhavi was very nervous. She noticed that a couple of other candidates were exceptionally good. Because of her insecurity, she contributed little to the discussion. She was sure she did not stand a chance against the others. Even when she was asked to comment on a particular point, she preferred to keep mum.

  • Your personality is also being evaluated. Your body language may reflect your low confidence.
  • Participate in the discussion, rather than evaluating others and your performance. You are the participant not the evaluator.
  • Your language skills along with your self-confidence are what you will be evaluated on. Just having one of them is not going to get you the job.

Focus on your strengths and do not spend too much time thinking negatively, as it will have a negative impact on your self-confidence. The evaluator will pick up these cues from your body language.

Also Checkout

Group discussion: Winners' skills

Group discussion tips

How to handle group discussions


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