A group discussion interview is typically done in universities (during in-campus interviews) by visiting companies when hiring students.
Typically in universities there is a written test followed by a group discussion which is followed by an interview with a panel of interviewers (or a single interviewer) from the hiring company.
How does a typical group discussion look like
A few students 10 students are asked to sit around a round table. There is no moderator. A topic is given to the group and they are asked to discuss it for a given time. An observer from the hiring company would simply watch and take notes. After the time is over (say 5 minutes) the observer picks one or two people from the group for the next stage of the interview process.
Some of the criteria used for selection are social skills, leadership and originality of thought.
How to win in a group discussion everytime
1: Identify the different members of your team
Label (in your mind) the different members as aggresive, submissive etc
2: Think of one original idea
Think – what is that one point which is new or original – something which someone else is unlikely to say.
The original idea may not be something very profound! It could be simply a unique angle to a conventional view.
For example in a group discussion about the suitability of beauty contests in conservative societies and the issues with showing skin – instead of taking a “for” or “against” stand you could say that we should defintely have beauty contests but in such a way that they reflect the special cultural heritage of that society. For example beauty contests in India can involve indian dresses and dance forms instead of swimsuit rounds.
3: Focus on the weakest member
Interrupt the other members of the team and request them to give the weakest guy a chance to speak.
Interrupting others to speak yourself is impolite however interrupting them to let a passive guy speak shows leadership.
4: Then watch for an opening when the weakest guy is speaking
Remember that the weakest guy who is speaking would stumble for sure. Also he is more likely to give you a chance to speak.
Quickly grab your chance and speak your original idea here which is different from other people.
You don’t need provide specifics about your original idea. Just keep it general and let others ask you for more detail.
Your goal in the Group Discussion should be to get others to ask you questions. This immediately elevates your stature and gives you more opportunity to talk.
Avoid asking questions in Group Discussion from other participants since it gives them a chance to speak and highlights them as the ones with original ideas.
A group discussion is not a panel interview
In a Panel Interview several interviewers are in one room and they jointly interview one candidate at a time.
In a Group Discussion – several candidates are in one room and they are asked to have a discussion on a topic. One interviewer acts as an observer and notes down which candidate showed good leadership and good general knowledge in the group discussion