There is no chairperson or hierarchy and the participants enjoy freedom of expression. In the organizational context, group discussions involving participants from different departments, functional areas and hierarchical levels help in seeking collective wisdom on issues of concern. It is essential, however, that to be effective, the participants follow certain ground rules and self-regulation. In this context, you may also observe the type of group discussions that take place on TV channels, where experts invited air their views cm the topic, with a moderator being present and facilitating the smooth flow of deliberations.

The second type of group discussion is where the job-seeking candidates invited for group discussions participate as part of the selection process. Candidates are called upon to participate in group discussions when they apply for certain job positions, or even seek admission to certain prestigious institutes like the Indian Institute of Management. The final selection is done after taking into consideration the academic qualifications and experience, performance in the written test, as also during group discussions and personal interview.

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Performance at the group discussion thus becomes vital for the candidate in the selection process. In the following paragraphs, we will be discussing at some length this second type of group discussions which form part of the selection process. In any group discussion which is conducted as part of the selection process, the performance of the candidates will have to be evaluated. In order to do this, seasoned observers thoroughly observe the participation by each member and take notes. At the end of the group discussion, these observers will have to evaluate the participants in terms of well-defined relevant parameters. Like in the interview process, here too, a score sheet covering relevant parameters is used to evaluate the performance of each candidate.

As we have noted earlier, given the demand and supply position for every available vacancy, group discussion is used as much for elimination as for selection. In other words, given the intensely competitive environment, only those candidates who excel in their participation in the group discussion can hope to make it to the personal interview and final selection. Candidates, who take the initiative, communicate effectively, respect group behaviour and generally distinguish themselves through their thoughts and expressions, tend to score over the others in the group discussions. In every group of say eight to ten members, probably, three to four may qualify for the personal interview, unless every candidate appearing for the group discussion is also invited to appear for the personal interview. From the list of traits stated in the exhibit, it is evident that candidates desirous of doing well in group discussions will have to consciously develop these traits. Although the traits listed here are relevant for the successful conduct of any group discussion, every group discussion may or may not be according to guidelines. Controversial and provocative topics sometimes lead to heated and animated discussion leading to confusion and chaos.

Candidates possessing leadership qualities and strong interactive skills will be in a position to intervene effectively and turn chaos into order. Neither too much aggression and domination, nor too much hesitation and dillydallying is desirable. The candidate participating in the group discussion should also quietly size up the other members of the group, which would help in making appropriate interventions. Usually, the topics selected for group discussion are such that it is possible to argue both for and against it. What is important for the candidate is to support personal views by analytical approach and logical reasoning. The candidate should be in a position to defend the arguments if the occasion demands. Anger, intimidation, domination, submissiveness, personal attack and non-participation will have to be consciously avoided.

At the same time, confidence, wit, humour, respects for fellow participants and accommodation should be used advantageously.