Group Interviews-The Group Discussion

WHAT TO EXPECT – HOW TO PREPARE

What will it be like?

Pretty daunting to be honest! Usually a maximum of eight participants.  Everyone sits around a table and the group is given a topic to discuss for up to 45 minutes.  Positioned in each corner of the room will be assessors, clipboards in hand, making notes on what you say and how well you are measuring up to their required competencies. Their Competency Wish List will usually include – Teamwork, Leadership, Initiative, Communication, Rapport, Customer Focus, Resilience and Rapport.

What will you be asked to discuss?

If you have been given a case study to work on prior to the Group Discussion chances are it will be on that – for example, this from a recent marketing job group discussion  – “In the case study you examined the key attributes for a successful marketing strategy.  Discuss with the group the top 5  factors for launching a successful marketing strategy”. Alternatively if there wasn’t a prior case study the topic will usually be related to an element of the job.

A Group Discussion topic for a graduate job may be more general – “Should third level students have to pay fees” or  You are the Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility for ABC Company.  You have to choose which community project to support this year – discuss with the group which one you will choose from this list of 6 worthy projects”

Tips for doing well

1. Say something – if you don’t contribute you will score ZERO.  The longer you leave it before you speak the more difficult it will be to get into the discussion so get in early.  I have assessed group discussions where a candidate’s total contribution to the discussion was to nod in agreement at what everyone else said – not a good move.

2. Offer to be timekeeper – it’s a good opportunity to establish your organisation skills and initiative at an early stage in the process.  Say something like “ OK everyone we have 45 minutes – why don’t I act a timekeeper and I will summarise where we are every 15 minutes” Your fellow discussion group members will all be wishing they had thought of it!  Groups without a timekeeper often run out of time without the requisite task completed and come across as unprofessional and unfocussed.

3. Establish Leadership – If you have been given some material to read suggest that everyone takes 5 minutes to read it first and take a few notes before starting the discussion.  If people don’t have nametags suggest that everyone writes their name on a piece of paper and places it in front of them on the desk.

4. Show Teamwork in action – the assessors in the corner of the room will be looking out for it! Good teamwork isn’t just about making your ideas heard, but also about listening to and using other people ideas. The best performances I have seen at a Group Discussion are from candidates who can confidently make their own points but then actively encourage others to participate in the discussion. For instance – “That’s a good point Joe – what do you all think of that”   or “We are getting a little bogged down here – lets go back to something Mary raised earlier…”

5. Keep summarising and moving it forward – everyone has been in a meeting that goes on for an hour and nothing gets decided.  BE the person who ensures that doesn’t happen with the group discussion.

6. Resist the temptation to be “White Board Guy/Gal”. Don’t think – “Ah – a white board – I will grab the marker and stand there looking all masterful and in control !” You will soon find that the discussion will be progressing without you and you will feel like a bit of an idiot standing there, marker in hand.  It is much more effective to summarise sitting at the table – it is a discussion after all, not your presentation.

7. Deal with the Discussion Bully politely and firmly – use humour, it helps – “Well I think we know your views on it Conor – let’s go around the table and see what the rest of the group think”

8. And in case you’ve already  forgotten Point 1 above - TALK! To quote King Lear – “Nothing will come of nothing – speak again” You can’t be assessed if you have nothing to say.

Sinead prepares clients for all elements of the interview process including Group Discussions, Assessment Centres and Competency Based Interviews .      Contact Sinead now for a free initial consultation.

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