Assessment Centres - How to Get Heard in The Group Task.

The assessment centre activity most candidates worry about is the group task or group discussion. The most common question I get is about group task is:

"How do I make myself heard in a group, in particular how do I cope with one very dominance candidate?"

First things first. If you are about to skip this advice because you aren't worried about this at all...consider...

Are you prone to talking the most in a group? Do you enjoy a good vocal debate?Do you assume that if people have something to say they say it? If the answer is yes then just be aware that you may be that person who dominates too much.

I can remember only two students who have asked me how they should keep a check on their extroverted personality in groups. They were clearly very self aware individuals. There are many more who don't realise they are perhaps stifling others, or at the very least letting potential contributions go to waste in group settings. 

For now, for those of you who find speaking up in groups difficult, or who don't but still don't want someone in the group to dominate more than you! 

Start by taking a deep breath, resist immediately going into battle for dominance and remember that it is quality of contribution not quantity. Then, try these tactics.

  • Show you are listening. The other candidate may talk more when nervous. They may have been talked over in the past, even perhaps had feedback that they were too quiet last time! Or they may always be loud. Whatever the reason, once they know they have been heard they may relax and ease off a bit. You might do this by nodding, agreeing with something or summarising.
  • Ask a question to clarify. This also shows you listen, that you are interested, that you are confident enough to even let them talk more. A question to expand or bring in another point may also be a tactful but assertive way of showing that you have an alternative viewpoint, i.e. you disagree with what they are spouting! Some sort of engagement gets your presence noticed at least, rather than sitting back and fading awkwardly into the wallpaper.
  • Refer to others in your group instead of tackling the situation on your own. For example, you might look to others in the group and say "I'm conscious 15 minutes have flown by already and not everyone has given their initial view. Should we go around the group giving everyone 2mins each?" This gives everyone else a chance to enthusiastically agree and it would be hard for the chatterbox to protest.
  • If you spot someone else was just about to say something, or was cut off, looked like they disagreed or had a point to make, come back to them. You will get points for noticing subtle signs in the group which the talker may well be missing. Beware however about putting anyone too much on the spot. "Ramit, you looked like you were about to say something" is fine. "Simon you haven't said a word yet, tell us now what you think" might not be!
  • If these tactics (or any others you think of) don't work too well don't despair. Sometimes a group just doesn't gel that well, but your efforts will have been noted. If someone really has been difficult and operated solo they aren't likely to score well on teamwork and communication skills.

A couple more points to remember. Firstly, one person dominating is not that common, usually groups are very polite and sometimes you can get the reverse with everyone taking time to warm up and constantly apologising for speaking over each other.

Secondly, a group phenomena I do see a lot more often is a pair dominating, this is bad news. If you are relieved that you are getting equal air time with another candidate, stop and consider if you are now just checking decisions with each other instead of really truly involving everyone. No protest and loud agreement from one other candidate, when you say "are we all agreed then?" is NOT the same as group consensus. Pause for those who don't think out loud and watch body language. That quiet person with a contradictory viewpoint may have spotted something crucial the rest of you haven't, so make sure they are heard.

Ultimately some people talk more, some less, that isn't the main point. You must say something to be assessed. If you being taken out of the group would have made no difference to the task outcome, then the assessor may see no reason to hire you. But, contributing to the group outcome is the important thing, not word count 

Would you like one to one help to support your through selection and more quickly into your target job? Then book me, the interview preparation package can also be used to prepare for Assessment Centres. Or if you are not sure what you need, just ask me.

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