Group Discussions and Personal Interviews

Getting the Tricky parts right

You’ve slogged hard and belled-the-CAT; cracked-theXAT/MAT and what-have-we… and now its time to

jump into the ‘Grey’. Unlike the written tests, GD’s and PI’s are not cut-and-dry ‘black-and-white’; they deal

with the intangibles…. where your assessors are no longer looking for ‘the right answer’; but your

‘confidence’, ‘poise’, and ‘ability to deal with a tough situation’. The panel is trying to assess ‘what’ are

you… what kind of a new-pro-on-the-block’ will you be once you get out of college…. how much can you


You can’t fake it all the time, but it certainly helps to be prepared when you are put through the grind of the

GD/PI panel. We put the tricky parts to Prof. Rakesh Shrivastava, Chairperson – Admissions, at one of

hottest pick of the season – Goa Institute of Management. GIM boasts of a state-of-the-art 50-acre campus

in the carnival capital of the country, and is ranked as a ‘Top 20’ B-schools of India. Here’s how to deal

with the tricky parts… straight from the chair.

Situation 1: You walk into a GD and realise you know nothing about the given topic. While most of the

participants in your group seem to be smacking their lips in anticipation, you are sweating buckets about

even making sense of the topic. Help!

Prof. Shrivastava: Hang in there! You can very well create the right impact on the panel. Start by listening.

When you don’t have the content, you can make your logic count; and your ability to bring in examples

from a different sphere that you have a commanding knowledge of. Listen, pick-up information from the

discussion, and build on it by supporting or demolishing the arguments put forth and to bring your opinion

from a similar situation. For instance, let us assume Neha is participating in a group discussion on

Immigration reforms in US and other members talk about the President pushing the reforms without support

from legislature. Neha may talk about another historical incident wherein a leaderpushed his/ her agenda

single handedly.

Situation 2:You admire oratorical skills, but you’ve always been the silent type. But here it is, the GD where

you are expected to lock horns with those who’ve made the cut… and are blessed with an natural

flamboyance and the gift-of-the-gab. Do you even stand a chance?

Prof. Shrivastava: Contrary to belief, flamboyant and dominating candidates seldom get the best marks.

However, they do take time and reduce time window for others. To enter the discussion, a ‘silent’ type may

need to raise his/ her voice. You can alternately begin by supporting the idea of the ‘bully’ and thereafter

use the window to put forth a logical cogent argument. What is important is what you say and not how long

you take saying it. Sometimes even a mild rebuke to the bully pointing out that he is taking more than fair

share of time may do the trick!

Situation 3: You are great with GD’s; the guys are your peers and the knowledge-base is same. You know

when to talk, what to talk, and how much to talk. But the very thought of interacting one-on-one with a panel

of gray-haired professionals and academicians gives you the heebie-jeebies. How do you handle this?

Prof. Shrivastava: There are numerous examples of candidates who do exceedingly well in GD’s but fail

miserably in PI. The vice versa holds true as well.Some people are happy and comfortable in groups with

many people in the same boat. Some are loner and are more comfortable alone. The first step is that you

know this in advance, because, believe me, many fail simply because they refuse to acknowledge their

strengths and weaknesses. You need to put in that extra bit for the part you are weak at. Personal

Interviews will often begin with an open ended question “Tell me about yourself”. The panel is not looking

for repetition of facts in CV. You should bring out what you wish to talk about, the areas of strengths. If you

are not able to respond to a question provide a clue of where your comfort zone lies.

Situation 4:You’ve studied a lot about body language. It’s supposed to be an important indicator to the

individual’s personality during a PI. But how do you control body language? Most of your actions are driven

by the sub-conscious, right?

Prof. Shrivastava: True, and therefore you need to set your body language right while you are still

conscious, and whenever you can gather your wits during the GD/PI. Practice in front of a mirror; it is of

help for some. The body language is important especially for people who are introvert or ‘silent’ type. A

pleasant gesture such as a nod or a smile helps in breaking the ice. Candidate may sit erect but not stiff,

make an eye contact and keep a pleasant demeanor. A disagreement is not a taboo, so keep your cool

while you disagree. Avoid changing postures or movements of hand or feet giving out signals of

nervousness. Just be yourself.

Situation 5:You are in the midst of your PI and all of a sudden its your software downtime! You just go blank

in the middle of a subject discussion that you knew like the back-of-your-hand.How do you save the day?

Prof. Shrivastava: It does sometime happen and usually is totally unexpected to candidate. The best course

of action is to seek thinking time and try to recollect the thoughts. Many people benefit in regaining the

composure by repeating the question. “I’d like to know if I’ve understood the question correctly. Are you

are asking me my views about rural-urban divide in India?”. If nothing works, suggest a topic “While I am

trying to recall the difference between a program and app, would you like to know about my recent

Industrial project?”.

Situation 6: Finally, the scores are out! You’ve done rather well in GD/PI. However, your CAT scores

weren’t all that rocking. On the other hand, a friend of yours ranks amongst the highest CAT scores, but

has been off-colour in his GD/PI. Who, amongst the two, will a top-notch B-school prefer in their


Prof. Shrivastava: The major B-schools have weightages for each component. In the case of GIM – as with

a many of the elite B-schools in India – these are pre-decided and published. The final selection is made on

overall marks. On the face of it, exams do carry a higher weight (50%) than GD/PI (30%) for our selection.

However, it has been borne in mind that cut-offs for CAT &XAT scores in all major B-schools like GIM are

pretty high, and variations are minuscule. The variation due to GD/PI could be much larger. In a nutshell, if

you have applied to the IIM’s, XLRI, GIM etc. and if you’ve been called for the GD/PI, you have good

XAT/CAT scores; and GD/PI,therefore, is the real determining factor for selections.