Wednesday, 2 January 2013


  • From where are topics for GD chosen?
  • How should a candidate conduct himself in a GD?
  • Dos and don'ts in a GD
Companies are intent on selecting the ‘best’ candidates for their organization on the basis of several rounds of selection process. The placement trend at NIILM CMS and at many other B-schools in India suggests that a group discussion among the prospects on campus, or at the company’s office (off-campus) is an important part of this selection process.

Most students wonder how to prepare for a Group discussion, and of course, if it is really possible to prepare for it. To answer the second question first, it is really not possible to prepare for a specific topic in any competitive GD process simply because the topic chosen by a company can be from among a plethora of such topics. Saying that of course does not mean that a student can make the cut by mere gut feel. Daily dose of a few activities can make clearing the GD a cake walk – reading a general purpose newspaper, reading a financial newspaper, and brushing up communication (particularly if one not very fluent) are absolutely essential. An alternative to reading (which many students dread) is to actively follow a news channel and a business channel.

From where are topics for GD chosen?

At NIILM CMS we advise students to focus on three types of topics for the GDs – topics that are based on current business stories, topics that are based on current affairs other than business, and general topics that have been in vogue for a long time (for instance, ‘Is honesty really the best policy?’). Students often ask the rationale for topics related to politics and social issues – the rationale is very simple – business operates in a public domain, which influences and shapes business policies and operations. Therefore, a candidate’s seriousness to get selected gets a huge boost when his prospective employers come to know that he understands, and is actively engaged in everything that is happening around him.  

It is important to remember that the reading habit cannot be cultured suddenly, and nor can one start speaking fluently without adequate practice. Therefore, in order to do well in a GD, one needs to be consistent at least from the third semester onwards.

The first step for any candidate is to read about current developments, next to discuss them with others, and last to form his own opinions. However, many students often commit the mistake of having strong opinions with no logical or factual backing. They are only opinionated, and convey the impression of being adamant and forceful, and stand to be rejected in the group discussion.

How should a candidate conduct himself in a GD?

1.  You can initiate a discussion in a GD if you understand the topic well, and have at least two-three points that you can cover. Though an initiator is often perceived to be someone who is willing to take initiatives and is ambitious, if you have nothing substantial to say, this will go against you. So, always start only if you know the subject well.

2.  You are more likely to succeed in a GD if you take a stand in a topic, instead of trying to appear as though you are trying to please everyone by saying ‘yes’ both for and against the topic. If you decide to speak either in favor or against the motion, you must not only say so, you must substantiate your stand by offering facts and data. Merely saying something because you ‘feel’ so does not score you points. For instance, if your topic is “FDI in retail”, you cannot keep arguing that it is bad, without facts to help you out. So, you can give arguments such as the elimination of middleman and their means of livelihood, or failure of the same policies in other countries.

3.  The critical success factor in a GD is to contribute new arguments and keep substantiating it with facts and data.

4.  Sometimes a student may get stumped with a topic about which he knows nothing. In this case, it makes sense to listen to a few others talk about it, gather opinions of others before starting to speak. After hearing atleast two speakers, one would know something about the topic to talk about it.

5.  Some candidates are not very aggressive, and are always scared of a group discussion where presumably only aggressive people are successful. It is important to understand that this process of selection cannot be wished away. Therefore, it is best to design a strategy to cope up with the process in case one is not very aggressive, or one fears speaking in public. Such candidates should focus on the friendliest person in the group and address as many points as possible to him/ her. The other (better, but more difficult) method is to look at everyone but not focus on anyone in particular, and really pretend that one is talking to an empty space (comes only from practice). Essentially, the idea is to not feel conscious of many pairs of eyes staring at you when you speak, which is what causes nervousness.

Ideally, such candidates should use their entire MBA course as a practice session to get rid of their phobias. They should make as many presentations as possible in the class, talk to as many people as possible during their course, participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in college and actively practice speaking in public. At NIILM CMS, we constantly tell our students to practice these methods.

6.  Though it is widely publicized that one must use terms such as ‘my friend has said this, but I don’t agree/ I agree’, and ‘my friend, let’s understand that what you are saying is not always true,’ and so on, the use of the term ‘my friend’ (in my opinion), is not always appropriate. Everyone knows that all the participants of the GD are competitors, and also that most may not even know each other. So, instead of feigning friendships and sounding artificial, one can just say candidate 3 or 7 said this, but I don’t agree. Or even use the third person, such as, ‘even though some participants have said this, I don’t agree because…’

Another common blunder is to appear too friendly by constantly saying ‘please, my friend, you haven’t spoken so far, you please speak,’ which does not make sense at all. In a GD, everyone should have the ability to speak on his/ her own. Once in a while, if there is a candidate who is unnecessarily aggressive or insensitive, such words can be used to calm him down or give opportunities to others. But in general, one should focus on doing his/ her job, which is to contribute to the GD, and not ask others to do so.

7.  Body language is as important as spoken words. Appear interested and keen in what others are saying. Be attentive, because sometimes, the moderators can ask you specific questions at the end. For instance, you may be asked about your opinions about the topic, or you may be asked to sum up.

8.  In some GDs, you are allowed to write down points. Write your points to initiate and carry forward the discussion, and also note down important points that have been discussed during the course of the discussion. This will be helpful later.

9.  Regarding summarization, unless the moderators ask you to summarize, there is no need to appear unnecessarily enthusiastic and say that I will now sum up. Sometimes there are no summarizations in the GD, which is perfectly all right. At other times, each participant is told to individually sum up in 30 seconds or a minute. In other GDs, two-three candidates may be chosen by the moderators to sum up.

Dos and Don’ts in a GD

1.  Always be calm and composed. But be alert and attentive.

2.  Never launch a personal attack on anyone.
For instance, if the topic is “Gender sensitivity of policemen”, and a lady in the group vociferously defends her standpoint that cops are not at all sensitive to issues on women, one cannot accuse her of being biased because she is a woman.

3.  You can rebut an argument, but only if you have something substantial to contribute.
For instance, in the above example, you (either gender) can rebut the lady and say that she is wrong. But you must either defend your argument with facts or add a contrary point. For instance, you can say that gender sensitization is a part of police training (to rebut her and defend your rebuttal). Or add a new dimension to the argument that police sensitization cannot decrease crime rate against women (and quote an example from some other country).

4.  Trying to help out another candidate is good, but remember that your own selection is more important.
Many books will advise you to be helpful to other candidates by inviting the others to speak especially if they are weak and no one else wants to hear them. This should be done in the rarest of instances, else this will become your main contribution to the group.

5.  Don’t repeat points. If you have a limited stock of points, spread them over the GD, and with every point, give data, and explain.

6.  Never look at the moderators in a GD. This is a group discussion, wherein you are expected to discuss amongst yourselves, not with the moderators.