In this article we shall try to understand the various challenges in ‘marketing yourself’ during the Group Discussion/Personal Interview (GDPI) round of the selection process for admission to an MBA program.
Understand the challenge
The panel is tasked with the goal of finding candidates who are suitable for an MBA program and who aspire to pursue a career in Management. To quantify this task, the panel looks for specific skills/traits in these candidates, and these are the skills/traits which are the hallmarks of effective managers. Some of these skills/traits are:
- Willingness to learn
- High levels of initiative & energy
- Strong task orientation
- Temperament suitable for team work
- Logical thinking
If a candidate is able to demonstrate these skills/traits during the selection process, then he/she creates a favourable value proposition for the panel and is able to define a strong marketing pitch for his/her candidature. Let us appreciate how each of these skills/traits can be showcased during the GDPI round.
Willingness to learn
In a GD this can be reflected in the way you listen to others’ viewpoints and the way you improvise these points in subsequent discussions. Cognitive flexibility and openness to ideas is also a good indicator of willingness to learn. In a PI you may highlight learning from both academic and non-academic sources. While academic learning may be reflected through grades/concepts of core subjects & project work, non-academic learning may be indicated through extra-curricular activities and general learning from the surrounding environment.
High levels of initiative & energy
In a GD this can be demonstrated through initiating new discussion points and the overall enthusiasm in engaging with team members on these points. In a PI this is reflected in leading the panel to desirable areas of your profile, and the overall verve and eagerness to connect with the panel, both verbally and non-verbally.
Strong task orientation
This is the ability to take an assigned task to a level of completion. In a GD, this may be reflected in generating an overall meaningful discussion, with a specific take-away. In a PI this may be indicated in the coherence and continuity in your academic career. Taking up certain projects outside the curriculum and ensuring timely accomplishment of the same, may also be a good indicator of task orientation.
Temperament suitable for team work
This is the ability to work well in teams. In a GD, this may be reflected in the overall liaison with team members and a positive display of team dynamics. In a PI, you may mention specific instances of having worked in teams. These may include working on projects, organizing cultural/educational festivals etc.
In a GD this may be demonstrated in the logical progression of the discussion, with well knitted and properly sequenced points/ideas. In a PI this gets reflected in the way you connect with the panel, and the arguments constructed by you at specific instants.
Apart from a display of the above mentioned skills/traits, you need to be persuasive in your communication. Your ability to persuade will be superior if you address the following:
- Trust/Credibility : Building trust for yourself adds to your persuasive force. This can be done by showing previous achievements/accomplishments.
- Emotions : Managing your emotions and those of the others (team members in a GD & panel members in a PI), is a potent way of creating the desired persuasive pitch in your communication. For example, in a GD, it is important to enter the discussion at a point where the emotional equilibrium is in place. In a PI you need to be careful about the emotions of the panellists, and pitch your point accordingly.
- Logic : Logical propositions are always more persuasive and convincing. The biggest manifestation of logic is wielding adequate data, both in GDs and PIs.