1. Introduction to Interview
The following well-researched article will dig into the intricacies of civil services interview preparation. It will help you get a good fix on personality test and increase your chances of getting good scores in the interview.
Civil Services Main Examination shall consist of:
1. Written examination
2. Personality test (Interview)
A candidate must be persistent in his preparation till the date of interview. Personality test calls for different and unique type of preparation. To give a full and clear insight of the Personality Test (Interview), UPSC explains and clarifies in detail:
- The interview board will have complete record of a candidate’s career to be interviewed. The objective of the interview is to scope out the suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The interview does not aim at assessing candidate’s intellectual qualities but also his/her interest in current affairs and social traits.
Candidates are judged for score of qualities including:
- Balance of Judgment
- Clear and logical disposition
- Mental alertness
- Critical power of assimilation
- Ability for social cohesion and leadership
- Intellectual and moral integrity
- Variety and depth of interest
- The interview is natural and purposive conversation that intends to size up mental qualities of the candidate.
- Since a candidates’ specialized or general knowledge has already been tested in the main examination, interview does not challenge their expertise in these two. Besides having keen interest in special subjects of academic study, a candidate should also have thorough knowledge of the events happening around them within and outside their country or state as well as in new discoveries and in modern currents of thoughts.
After mulling over the requirements of interview, we can safely conclude that
- Purpose of the interview is to assess a candidates’ mental caliber and personal suitability.
- It intends to check candidate’s intellectual and mental traits. In addition, it expects you take keen interest in new discoveries, modern current of thoughts and in current events.
- Interview panel is friendly and engage in directed and purposive conversation.
- It aims at examining mental caliber and personal suitability
Once we chew over all the seven qualities that are tested in the interview, we will get to know that cracking interview requires coherent and systematic approach. Giving over-the-top performance in main examination does not guarantee success in the interview. So it’s prudent to bat around all ambiguities with experts and join mock interview session that will not only buttress your confidence but also assist to develop insights on untouched topics.
2. Significance of Interviews and Statistics
A candidate must take up interview very seriously as it has a great scoring potential. It is just a process of 25 to 35 minutes and is your last chance to maximize total score. In general, students score in between 140 to 220. Even though you scored just near the cut-off in the written examination, getting good marks in the interview can help you score high and be in the selection list.
In CSE, 2014, cut-off marks for the general category in written was 678 so a candidate who scored 211 marks in interview, had found place in the selection list. Likewise in 2013, candidate who got interview call just had to obtain 210 marks to be in the selection list. The statistics evidently reveals the importance of interview and how it decides your fate to get selected.
There were 90 vacancies for IAS in 2014. Total score of Rank 90 was 951. So we can assume that cut-off for IAS was 951, if all candidates have given first preference to IAS. Difference of marks between IAS and the last candidate in the list is of 62 marks (951-889). Range of Marks in the interview is 140 to 220 i.e. of 80 marks. Difference of marks between IAS and last candidate in the list is of 62 marks. (951-889 = 62). Range of marks in Interviews is 140 to 220 i.e. of 80 marks.
Also if we analyze the difference in marks between those who got 1st preferred service and 2nd or 3rd preferred service is so less. Sometimes 5 marks or less. So even a small difference in interview marks can change the service allocation, or you may have to reappear for prelims.
After scoping out the statistics, it can be safely concluded that your marks in interview decides your selection/elimination or at least on your service allocation. Your marks in the interview can pull you down at the bottom or out of the selection list or push you up to notch up the preferred service. Even though, you have obtained good marks in the written examination, scoring well in the interviews can help you notch up top rank. So preparing well under the stewardship of experts is of the essence.
3. Interview Myths versus Reality
Civil Services Examination is amongst the most competitive examinations and it’s natural that aspirant’s minds are bristling with countless doubts as well as myths. For main examination, at least, students have got study material, a syllabus to follow, professional guidance, previous year’s papers and so on. But when it comes to interview, vacuity finds place in candidates mind. Which is why, it becomes a matter of pressing concern that candidates fully understand the interview process and do away with prevailing myths before they set about their preparation. Interview transcript or post interview feedback, even if honestly given, is often discerned wrongly. In truth, gobs of interview tips, further bog down candidates. Myths are dangerous virus and it is important to have distilled understanding. Let’s burst all such myths one by one:
Personality cannot change in months: It is one of the wide prevalent myths that you cannot better your personality in a few months’ time which is not true. But if we scope out the marks obtained by candidates in 2013 and 2014, we will arrive at entirely different conclusion. Many candidates, who appeared both in 2013 and 2014, had been managed to increase their scores by 60 to 80 marks in 2014.
Results largely depend on luck: Planned, systematic and coherent approach is what it takes to get through the interview. So it is advisable that candidates must map out their interview preparation considering the requirements of interview process. Reliance on luck heralds at lack of confidence that can be only buttressed if you have ardent believe on your abilities and iron will to notch up success. Candidates must be clear in his/her mind that they must toil hard as per the guidance laid down by UPSC interview panel to crack the interview.
Myth of subjectivity: Written examination differs significantly to that of interview, in a written examination, there is only one evaluator and aspirants find it easy to score. But many students vex on account of subjective nature of interview. In interview, there are five unbiased evaluators, if any subjectivity is still there, accept it because you cannot change it.
Strict Interview Panels: Another myth that torments candidates mind is that some interviewers are dream killers and too strict. They think interviewers are fault finders and they have to strive hard to gloss over their mistakes. But in truth, all panels are friendly and unbiased and their sole objective is to bring out the best in you and check your suitability for the job.
4. How to prepare and key components of Interview
The personality test carries 300 marks out of the total 2300 marks and is the last hurdle to cross. It is important to bash away at interview preparation as it plays crucial role in obtaining success as well as higher rank. Like the essay that carries 200 marks, this small segment can undoubtedly give you edge over other candidates.
But unfortunately most of the candidates do not take interview seriously and by the time they realize its potential it’s already too late. The nature of interview for the civil services examination differs significantly to that of other services interview. The interview board is already aware of the professional as well as personnel track record of candidate. Interview aims at analyzing the personal suitability of the candidate for the career in public service. Interview board consists of unbiased and competent observers who themselves have splendid career profile as a bureaucrat under different capacities with years of experience in public services. Intent of the test is to judge the mental caliber of the candidate.
If you have balanced and precise thoughts and also know how to put it across effectively, cracking interview will become easier for you. On the flip side, if you do not possess these skills you can develop it through experienced guidance and practice in right direction.
Despite having all the requisite skills, many candidates do not able to make it to the merit list for want of their knowledge of do’s and don’ts in the interview. Below-mentioned points can help you catapult your performance at the interview.
- No signs of nervousness should be shown during the interview. Yoga and meditation can help you overcome anxiety.
- Stave off carrying cell phone inside the interview room. Ringing of cell phone diverts attention and might be perceived offensive by interview board.
- Pompous talks leave a negative impression so it is prudent not to brag too much before interview panel. Also it will raise their expectations and they will evaluate against those raised expectations which might proof detrimental for you.
- Frequently checking time by looking at your wrist watch is a sign of low-confidence.
- The worst blooper you can commit is to lie about anything during the interview for while cross-checking it will be easily detected.
- If you are already employed, never bad-mouth your present employer. Likewise sharing negative opinion about your academic institutions and the persons related to it can jeopardize your chances of clearing interview.
- If the interview is not proceeding on the line of your expectation, do not show any sign of nervousness, instead try to bring situation back in your favor. Sometimes, interviewers check your mindfulness and patience during tough and unfavorable times.
- If an interviewer asks you question and you do not know the answer, instead of making out the answers, just confess it with a smile on your face that “I do not know the answer”. People generally are hesitant to accept their shortcomings.
- You must not communicate either verbally or non-verbally that you are desperate for this career.
5. Techniques to Practice When Facing UPSC Interview
Once a candidate gets through the written examination, he/she sets about searching for best guidance, techniques and coaching to nail the interview. Casting around for right techniques and guidance is the first step to prepare for the interview.
Interview intends to check certain qualities or personality traits in a candidate. If you are endowed with these qualities, you can reap maximum harvest during the interview. You may also develop these qualities under the stewardship and able guidance of some veteran trainer. Let’s discuss these qualities one by one.
Confidence Confidence is the result of motivated and sustained unidirectional efforts and competence. While preparing for written examination, you have already garnered enough confidence. However a candidate must keep close tabs on his/her shortcomings and get them eliminated before facing real interview.
Coolness Being calm and composed is another virtue that a candidate is supposed to endue with. Once you learn to keep your mind alert and balanced without over-excitement or inner stress, you are likely to impress interview board. The best way to maintain your cool is to wear a smile that instantly relaxes all facial muscles.
Common sense It is one of the highly under-utilized assets. Without possessing common sense, all our other skills dwindle away to nothing. For instance, there are three squirrels on a tree branch. One decides to jump. How many squirrels are left on that tree branch? Answer is not two but three. A squirrel has decided to jump but has not jumped actually. Good sense of humor, creative thinking and positive response to negative questions are some of the essential components of common sense. Regular practice can help you better your ability to use common sense.
Communication Practice More than ornamental language or oratory, it is clear and precise communication that matters and impresses interview board. Choice of language is equally important, we both are aware that there are two kinds of language formal and informal. We all know the difference and are attuned much to use informal language. Informal language contains short forms, casual words and slangs in our daily life so it became our habit. However, conscious and consistent efforts should be made so that you could speak in a polite and formal language. Another misconception that rules a candidate mind is that English language has extra weightage as a medium. You can even converse with interviewers in regional language in case you are not comfortable either in English or Hindi.
Charm & Cheer We all have cherish habits like interest in listening, enthusiasm, sense of humor and child like curiosity within us. But we forget that charm is infectious and also owing to our busy schedule we tend to forget these splendid human traits. These qualities can impress interview board I no time.
Honesty and Humility Needless to say, honesty and humility is acclaimed everywhere and hints at upright and truthful nature of a person. Even in certain cases, in dearth of other essential skills, candidates have been able to appease interviewers with these qualities.
CASPER (Complete And Simulative Practice of Evaluation and Review) is a group game that involves at least six members, senior or aspirants for civil services and actual interview candidates. It calls for distraction-free room with six chairs and a table. Each Group Member’s Detailed Application Form (DAF) is placed on the table. The game can help you acquire plethora of requisite skills like good common sense, mental alertness, rationality, presence of mind, curiosity to learn, openness to self-confidence and upbeat confidence.
6. Reading Interviewer's mind
You need not to be an ace mind reader or bring a crystal ball to your next interview but it’s important to think like an interviewer while facing the interview board. More or less, what an interviewer intends to hear from the potential candidate is same as when you hire somebody to manage your money or care for your children. You would like to dig in if they have strong work ethic, if they plan to stick around for a while, if they are capable of performing the job, if they are trustworthy, likeable and creative.
So if you could read interviewer’s mind, you would discover that their mind is bristling with similar questions. Let’s bandy about some questions that might occupy interviewers mind.
Ice-breakers: Purpose of these questions is to make you comfortable. Interview board might ask you questions related to your college and education. They may also ask you about your hobbies and how they help you achieve your target in daily life.
Closed Questions: Such questions aim at digging into the areas where further probing questions can be asked. Interview panel test your attentiveness and listening more than knowledge through such questions. While answering such questions, a candidate needs to be honest and precise even if he/she does not know the answer.
Open ended Questions: Through such questions, interview board wants to understand your personality. Such questions enable them to discern your views, opinions and rationale behind such views. The trick is to use LATE technique while answering the questions. LATE stands for listen, ask think and express.
Probing questions: Such questions pore over your feelings, attitudes, views and clarity of thoughts. You are asked to justify your answers and often contradicted with opposite views. The interviewers, on numerous occasions, through their negative words pretend that they are displeased and not interested in your answers. The idea is to judge your response in stressful situations.
The Devil’s Advocate: In this case, interviewers’ views and opinion will be in contrast to yours and the questions are provocative. Through such questions interviewer wants to get at your hidden prejudices, if any. They might ask questions differently to dive into the downside of your personality. For instance, if you are a doctor, instead of asking ‘why do you want to be a civil servant’ they may ask “You are already a doctor and make a killing in the profession then why do you want to be a civil servant”.
Sandwich Questions: They are the mixture of many or all of the above. They can ask questions like who are weaker sections, history of reservation in India.
Clarifying questions: Such questions are asked to check your confidence, assertiveness, integrity or consistency. Interviewer may sum up what you have said differently and bring new interpretation to it.
Corrective At times, interviewer assertively points out at you mistake and like an elder ask you to correct it. When you make a mistake and do not correct it on your own, they ask you another question that hints at your mistakes. The idea is to analyze your willingness to admit a mistake and correct it.
Situational or What if questions: hypothetical questions These questions aim at your ability to think logically and objectively. They put you in an unfamiliar situation and wish to see your response.
Questions with a disguised motive In CSE, 2014, many candidates hit panic button when interview board bludgeoned them with series of trivial factual questions which they could not answer. It unnerved candidates and even interviewer pretended that they are dissatisfied and often said that “you must know this”. It brought down their confidence level and faith in the interviewer and their scores had been adversely affected. Actually they fell into the trap of Questions with disguised motive.
In truth, such questions intend to test candidate’s calmness, composure and confidence during unexpected situation
After serious contemplation over the kind of questions that interview board throws at you, you can get a good fix on their psychology behind asking these questions.
7. Knowing the Chairperson
Knowing chairperson in advance can truly set you apart from the competition. You get to know the psyche of interviewer and accordingly you can structure and map out interview questions. So let’s familiarize beforehand with the chairperson of your interview panel.
As on 01-11-2015, UPSC is headed by Chairman, Shri Dipak Gupta and 10 Members.
Shri Arvind Saxena: He has headed Aviation and Research Centre of external snooping agency RAW and is the first RAW officer appointed in UPSC.
Shri Pradeep Kumar Joshi: Shri Pradeep Kumar Joshi: Mr.Pradeep is a celebrated educationist. He has chaired elite institutions like Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission (2006-2011) and Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission (2011-2015).
Dr. (Mrs) P. Kilemsungla: She is the first Naga to be appointed as a member of the UPSC and will retire in February, 2016 i.e. before the interview. She was a member of Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) and has been conferred PadmaShri this year for unrivalled contribution in the field education and literature.
Prof. David Syiemlieh: He is an educationist from the northeast. He has authored a number of books and published dozens of paper on the history of northeast. Prof. David has earned a Master’s degree in History, MPhil and PhD from the Hill University.
Shri Chhatar Singh: Mr. Chhatar is an IAS officer of Haryana cadre. He held several prominent positions in the state government and retired in March, 2013 as the Principal Secretary to C.M. of Haryana. Mr. Chhatar played cardinal role in executing several projects of the state government of Haryana.
Shri Manbir Singh: Mr. Manbir is IFS of 1976 Batch. He has served as secretary in Ministry of External Affairs. He has also been ambassador to some countries.
Shri D K Dewan: Mr. DK Dewan is recipient of prestigious Param Vishishth Seva Medal (PVSM) and is an NDA alumnus. He retired as Vice Admiral after 38 years of service.
Prof Hem Chandra Gupta: Prof Hem is a former Professor of IIT. He has served as Vice Chancellor at Chaudhari Charansingh University, Meerut.
Mrs. Alka Sirohi: TMrs.Alka has served as Secretary in Department of Personnel and Training. She has earned Master’s degree in Western History and ace solution provider in management and issues related to sustainable development.
Shri Vinay Mittal: Mr. Vinay Mittal is an honest, well-mannered and soft-spoken person. He has served as railway board chairman.
8. Distress Techniques at the Eleventh Hour
It’s natural to have feeling of nervousness and discomfort before interview but if you do not learn techniques to overcome anxiety, it will bugger up your interview. If you are well-prepared, you will have tremendous confidence and you can pare down unwarranted stress and anxiety. But still if you have know-how of instant coolers and stress busters, it will become easier for you to defeat crippling anxiety. Let’s bat around some of the proven and effective stress busters.
Belly Breathing: Belly breathing for a minute can help you knock down stress in an unbelievable way. It can be performed in three simple steps. Sit erect and comfortably. Do a deep and rhythmic breathing for a minute in three steps:
- Breath in deeply till the belly fully expand
- Hold the breath till you comfortably can and
- Breath out slowly
This will instantly distress you. If you practice it as routine, you do not forget to use it during the interview
Learn: Just keep an eye on the physical symptoms. Be observer of the sensation in your body that you are experiencing like sweating, shallow breath, tightness, raised heartbeats and so on. This will help you detach from the emotional and mental reactions.
Accept: Accept them as natural response and purely momentary bodily functions
Witness: Just witness them as passing clouds. Once you start deeming it as natural phenomenon, all your anxiety and vexations will disappear in no time. Witnessing will help you perceive the present hapless situation as temporary stress. But once your mind indulges in fighting and reacting, you promote the momentary stress. But being a witness, you will realize that the stress you are undergoing is momentary reality but not an absolute truth.
Do what you enjoy:Follow your hobby or your passion daily for 30 minutes and you will be amused to see that your stress level has been brought down significantly.
Physical Part: It is an established fact that without sound health, nothing can be achieved. So never ignore your health. Stave off over-sleeping or over-eating. Physical exercises or morning walks has the amazing potential to ward off any disease. Such habits are health promoting.
Managing last 10 minutes: When you learn to manage your stress during that last 10 minutes when you are waiting outside the interview room can indeed turn the tables. You can experience numbness, sudden blankness, stress or nervousness during those 10 minutes.
- While waiting for the interview, do what you enjoy the most like reading, positive creative visualizations about interviews and singing.
- Attend to natural calls, face a mirror, visit toilet etc.
- If still you are feeling uneasy, play the game of LAW of Mindfulness and do belly breathing.
Interview Guidance Programme