How to prepare for Group Discussion Exercises

Group discussion exercises are used to assess general behaviour traits such as listening skills, social skills and problem solving skills, although depending on the job you have applied for other behaviour may be assessed as well.

The group discussion gives the employer an opportunity to assess and observe your behaviour in action. The theme or task given to you is often a reflection of what is required in the actual job. Each group discussion exercise will include one or more assessors who are trained to observe and assess your and your team members’ behaviour against the behaviour relevant for the job you have applied for.

Common behaviour assessed in this way includes:

  • Communicating – how you get your message across, how your body language helps your communication, how you listen to others.
  • Analysing & Interpreting – how you work with facts and data, get to the heart of complex problems and issues, and draw conclusions based on the data given.
  • Team working – how you work with individuals and teams, support others, and allow others an opportunity to express themselves. It is important to remember not to confuse ‘Influencing’ with ‘Team Working’ as it is highly unlikely that both of these will be assessed during a single exercise.
  • Influencing – how well you are able to persuade others, get others’ buy-in to your ideas, or direct others’ behaviour.

Group discussions typically involve 6 to 12 participants and 3 to 6 assessors. The assessors are positioned so that they can clearly see the candidates assigned to them for the entire session. The assessors document everything they hear and observe about each person’s behaviour. Upon completing the group exercise each assessor will review the information they have recorded against the desired behaviour. The assessors then make a decision about your match against the job requirements.

How to prepare for a group discussion exercise?

Ensure you contribute to the group

Ensure you contribute to the conversation. Often candidates take up behaviours or actions that aren’t actively contributing to the group’s outcome. For example, taking lead of the group, standing up to make notes on a board. Be careful not to fall into the trap of regarding these behaviours as earning you some positive points. In some cases these behaviours can even lead to you being alienated by other group members.

Manage your body language

Ensure good body language and maintain relaxed eye contact. Make sure when you are listening to others you are attentive and demonstrate this through nods and gestures of agreement. If you feel uncomfortable in terms of how you are sitting, simply ‘mirroring’ other people will help. Smiling always helps too.

Manage conflicts effectively

Avoid confrontation and ensure you allow everyone a chance to speak. If someone is consistently rude and aggressive, do not resort to this behaviour yourself. Assessors will pick this up. Avoid being forceful or speaking over anybody.

Manage your time

Keeping a check on the time will earn you points. Suggesting that you will keep a check on the time and providing regular updates throughout the discussion will also work well. However, if you commit to this responsibility then make sure you maintain that check. There is nothing worse than the session running out of time when you have appointed yourself as time-keeper.

Include others

Keep an eye out for those who do not say anything and take the opportunity to ask them for their opinions. This will gain you both assessors’ appreciation and other group member’s gratitude.

Ensure you are a team player

More often than not, the group discussion exercises require coming to an agreement on a particular issue. For example, you may be given individual proposals and asked to agree on two of these as a group. In these situations, remember you do not always have to get your ideas accepted. Try to do what is better for the company or organisation as presented in the exercise, rather than what you think might benefit you.

If you wish to further prepare for your group discussion, please book a coaching session with one of our psychologists.

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