Friday, March 18, 2011


§   The interview is nowadays known as a Personality Test. The reason being that it is not a test of knowledge, butof the overall personality of the candidate/aspirant.

§    Interview is more of a psychological test that is just content-based. Along with good communicative skills and self-confidence, good knowledge base no doubt gives you an upper hand. However, it has to be borne in mind that nearly all the aspirants/candidates in the Personality Test start more or less as equals in the sphere of knowledge base.

§     The most important thing to know about an interview is that it is not always a question-answer session and that the Board members are looking for different aspects of one’s personality.

§    One is not expected to know everything under the sun. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, do not hesitate to say – I don’t know, Sir/Ma’m. However, even “I don’t know Sir/Ma’m” should be said confidently and with a reasonable amount of cheerfulness. Remember – your knowledge levels have been thoroughly checked during the earlier stages of the CSE – viz Prelims and Mains.

§    Always remember that the interview is not a cross examination, but a natural, purposeful conversation.
§    Personality is a life-long asset and a thing, which evolves and changes every day.
§    Preparation

§    Keep a photocopy of the form filled for the Mains examination handy. Most of the initial questions – viz the meaning of your name, educational background, professional experience, hobbies etc will be based on this form only. Try to prepare on your bio-data; roughly 70% questions are based on bio-data, 20% questions are based on your subject and 10% are based on current affairs.

§    Aspirants to CSE should take an intelligent interest not only in areas of their specialization, but also in what is happening around them – both within and outside the country.

§  Be well informed about your interests and hobbies as there will be a few questions probing your levels of knowledge as regards your hobbies and interests.

§    Prepare thoroughly about your hometown & home state. If you hail from a place of historical importance or tourist interest, prepare well on it.

§    Know yourself. Prepare brief answers to choice of your subjects, family background, meaning of your name. You should try to take the lead by answering questions based on your bio-data.

§    One of the secrets of success is to prepare for the Personality Test along with the written test.
§  If a person gives the impression of being a bookworm, the chances of his/her selection are reduced. The candidate must exhibit an all-round personality, which indicates that the aspirant possesses a complete personality.

§    One should form a group of 4-5 people, as the preparation for Personality Test cannot be done in isolation. Try holding as many mock interviews as possible.

§    No training institute can develop/transform your personality in a few days. However, some of the tips may help in ironing out some weaknesses/grey areas and can provide an avenue for a well-planned preparation and group discussions.

§    Take mock interviews. In the mock interview, ask your friends to grill you so that you can face pressure from the Board easily.

§   Discuss a lot with your friends. This not only helps in you assimilating different points of view, but also  enhances knowledge levels.

§    Dress sense is of crucial importance. The choice of dress should be according to the weather conditions. Try not to wear newly stitched clothes, as they might make you uneasy. Light colours should be preferred. White colour is a good choice.

§  Wear comfortable clothes. Men need to wear light coloured shirt and a dark trouser with a tie (if weather permits). Women appear best in a saree or salwar/kameez.

§   Pay attention to the details, ironed dress, polished shoes, hair accessories, trimmed nails etc. Polish your footwear meticulously. Use convenient footwear like black or brown leather shoes.

§    Women candidates should take care to avoid the hair falling over the face as it could annoy both – you and the interviewer.

§    Do not wear anything that connects you with a religious or political group.
§    Do not use heavy perfume/deodorants.

§    In case you have a running nose or have caught a cold, carry a handkerchief, or sufficient stock of tissue paper. Tissue paper is preferable.

§    Some candidates take medicine to relax on the previous night of the interview; this should be avoided as the effect of medicine may decrease your alertness during the interview.

§    What and how you eat is also important. Have a light meal on the day of the Personality Test. Do not go for the interview on an empty stomach. However, also avoid over-eating, or having a heavy meal.

§     First impression is often the best impression. So create a positive, good impression within the first few minutes of the interview.

§    Arrive 20-30 minutes early. Prepare a route map and arrive well in time. This will give you enough time to relax

§  While waiting for your turn in the waiting area, read a newspaper or a magazine and try to remain focused without thinking too much of what will happen in the interview. Try not to presuppose situations.

§    Do not get nervous when you are waiting for your turn for the Personality Test. When waiting for your turn, try relaxing with closed eyes and practice deep breathing. It really relaxes you. Do not try to pre-suppose situations in the Personality Test.

§    Take a final, deep breath before entering the boardroom.
§    Do not forget to knock at the door before entering, as it indicates basic courtesy.

§    On entering the room, greet all the members cordially and do not sit down on the seat without being asked to.
§    If there is a lady member in the interview board, greet her first.

§    Be conscious of your body language when you are seated.
§    Men should keep the feet flat on the floor during the interview, knees at waist level, and hands on your thighs and place your elbows on the armchair. Avoid locking hands.

§    Women, cross your ankles or legs, but keep the bottom leg straight down and do not swing it over the top leg and keep your elbows positioned on the arms of the chair.

§    When the Board members thank you at the end of the Personality test, do not forget to thank the members one last time and keep your body posture straight at the time of leaving the room.

§    Remember that interview is a two-way process.
§    Be cool. Be yourself during the Interview.

§    Your aim should be to make the board members feel comfortable in your presence.
§    Be truthful, transparent and Predictable.

§    The object of the interview is to assess the suitability of the aspirant/candidate for a career in public service.
§    Most of the questions posed in the Personality Test are opinion-based.

§   Don’t expect any expression on the faces of board members, even if your answer is very good.

     During Interview
§    In a personality test, what is of importance is how you say what you say. It is the style of presentation that matters.

§    Your personality is, on an average, assessed in 25-30 minutes, it is your responsibility to bring out your very best in front of the board.

§    Be attentive and listen to each question carefully. Try not to jump into an answer before the complete question has been posed as you will end up wasting time on answering a question that you were not actually asked. If you are not sure of what was asked, you can always politely seek a clarification.

§    Do not try to answer the question as soon as it is posed. Think over the question, take your time and organize the broad outline of the answer before airing it. Pause a while before answering, even if you know the answer.

§    At times, you will be given situations wherein you will be required to take a decision. In such situations, the board is testing your ability to comprehend issues and use reason and good judgment logically, precisely and arrive at a balanced decision.

§    Your replies should be crisp and to the point. Do not beat around the bush.
§    Maintain a gentle smile off and on during the Personality Test without overdoing it. It displays a sense of ease and confidence. Wherever possible use your sense of humour judiciously.

    General Do’s and Don’ts for the personality test:
§    The board members are usually very senior and learned people, so give utmost respect to the board.
§    Don’t go by any stories/rumours spread by others. Avoid unnecessary details.
§    Don’t ask the previous candidate about his/her interview.
§    The board has no biases towards anyone.
§    Never make any sweeping statements/generalized descriptions.
§    Accept your mistakes boldly.
§    Speak honestly, truthfully and modestly.
§    Do not give a hasty reply.
§  Answer in an orderly and logical fashion and always maintain eye contact with the Board members while answering.
§    Be polite and courteous.
§    Don’t try to be too argumentative.
§  Be consistent in your views. Don’t change your views just because the Board differs in its opinion from your opinion.
§    Never make an attempt to present a made-up appearance or politically correct answers.
§    If you are taking an extreme view, you should also be able to justify the same.

§    Take tea or coffee, if any member offers the same to you. This will show you are relaxed and it will also help in lightening and relaxing further proceedings and give them an informal touch.

§    Avoid chewing gums and other munching items as it gives a negative and a careless image.

§    Try holding mock interviews in front of a mirror. Look out for unwarranted actions/emotions and try to rectify any shortcomings. If possible record your own answers and play them again for finding out errors.

§    Don’t criticize any government policies or even individuals.
§    Take a good night’s sleep. A good, sound sleep will keep you refreshed, cheerful and relaxed. Otherwise you will have a fuzzy head and you will betray a confused personality. You will neither be able to grasp questions correctly, nor be able to think clearly.

§    Do not speak rapidly. Speak slowly and clearly so that the Board members grasp what you are saying and do not have to interrupt you or ask you to repeat your views.

§    The Board will check you for certain traits – such as honest and integrity, logical exposition, balance of opinion, leadership skills, mental alertness, variety and depth of interest, social cohesion, moral integrity, acumen, your response to a peculiar situation, your views on varied topics.

§    At times, the Board members might pile pressure upon you. Do not panic – it is a strategy aimed at gauging the point till which you can maintain your cool under pressure and can think originally even in pressure cooker situations. Try to resemble tealeaves – show your true colours when in hot waters.

§     Form your views on a subjects in a logical and rational manner supported by data whenever necessary.
§  To be in touch with the latest happenings/events – nationally and internationally, candidates should read magazines and newspapers (at least two for interview), watch current affairs-based television programmes.

§     Assume that all questions are asked with a good reason and answer them accordingly.
§    Keep a file/folder to keep your certificates and documents in an organized manner. They are verified before you enter the interview room. (You don’t have to carry file/folder inside board room)

§   Kothari Committee of the UPSC, has listed the qualities that should be rated in the interview as, ''clarity of expression, grasp of narrative and argument, reasoning ability, appreciation of different points of view, awareness and concern for socio-economic problems, ranges and depth of interests and personal attributes relevant to interaction with people.''

§     The Interview for the civil services examination also known as the Personality Test is exactly that. It is aimed at assessing the candidate’s personality, whether he is suitable to be a competent administrator or not. The candidate is tested not only for his/her intelligence but also for his/her overall personality development, his/her attentiveness, balance of judgement and qualities of honesty, integrity and leadership. Therefore preparation for the Interview requires proper planning.

§    The selectors look out for some attributes in the candidate and decide whether he/she is suited for a career in civil services or not. For this,the candidate should have a positive attitude, should have an alert mind with quick reflexes, should be free from any sort of prejudice, should be good at making quick decisions and should have the ability to act under stress and to handle difficult situations.

    Preparation for the Interview is a continuous process.
   This involves a wide reading of books, journals, magazines and at least two newspapers. One should try to improve his/her conversational skills with the right pronunciation. The candidate should be prepared to answer questions on his background, hobbies and extra curricular activities. It is a good idea to discuss current affairs and recent issues with friends. One good way of rehearsing possible questions would be to have mock interviews and discussion groups. The candidate should make a self analysis of his strengths and weaknesses and make a conscious effort to play on his strengths.

          Some useful tips for a successful interview at UPSC are:
   1.       To have a positive body language
   2.       To have a good personal turnout and ensuring the right posture
   3.       To answer questions clearly and confidently
   4.       Try to remain calm and composed even when faced with provocative questions
   5.       Try not getting into long winded explanations and answer to the point.

     Things To Be Avoided at the UPSC Interview
§     Avoid the expression, 'I am sorry.'
§     Avoid conversational cliches, like: 'as you know', 'that's correct', 'of course', 'indeed', 'obviously', etc.
§  Avoid technical jargon. However, if a member continues to probe you in any technical field, you can use technical expressions.

§    Maintain a cheerful disposition. Now and then you can appear serious; but most of the time keep smiling or look cheerful and composed. One caution here: if the board laughs, you should only smile. It is only when you maintain some amount of distance that the board begins to wonder about the depth of your personality.

§    Do not give long introductions. Come straight to the heart of the matter.
§    Show human concern whenever possible in your answers.

§    You should be logically consistent and analyse things rationally while talking. You are supposed to defend what you say, but with due respect to the views of the board. Stop trying to defend an answer if it becomes difficult to do so logically and fairly.

§    Do not make hasty or sweeping generalisations.
§    According to UPSC report, it has been observed that from 1979 onwards, 90 percent of the candidates who qualify for interview hover around the minimal percentage of 55 percent that is prescribed for the test. However to be assured of a Class I service, one has to generally obtain about 58 percent marks. It has been noticed that only those, securing 60 percent and above are sure of getting a service of their own choice. The figures clearly reveal that the marks in the interview test play a determining role in final selection of candidates.

    Types of questions asked at the UPSC interview.
§    Relating to your name. Any famous personality who has a similar or same name or surname.
§    Your career choice. Why you want to opt for the civilservices.
§   Your Hobbies. Why you pursue such a hobby or questions related to your hobby. So reasearch well on your hobby.

§    Hot topics of recent days like the Bird Flu and Tamiflu, Office of Profit, Sahara airlines deal and the growing airlines,Terror attacks in India, India US Nuclear deal, Commonwealth games, Saurav Ganguly etc. Keep reading and watching the news. If the recent headlines have something to do with your subject then specially revise those portions. For example if you are a veterinary doctor, Bird flu may go on to other animal diseases that can infect men. If you are an MBBS, then you might be asked about human to human spread of epidemics or any other epidemics and precautions etc. You may even be asked about the influence of MNC or drug manufacturers responsible for the spread of fear etc. If you are from an economy background, the same topic will veer towards the economic implications of the Bird flu.

§    How you are going to use your specific knowledge(like if you are a doctor, lawyer, engineer etc) in the services.

§    Situational questions. Like If you were the collector/SP of Varanasi, what would you do after the Bomb Blast?

§    Choice of services. The order of your choice of services can raise questions too.

§    About your institution and related.If you have studies at IIM you may be asked about the rising salaries, if from IGNOU then even about Indira Gandhi and so on.

§    From your form. You must go through the form you have filled because most questions will arise from there. If you have changed subjects, mentioned anything out of the way, watch out for questions on them. Interviewers take cue from the form you have filled.

     Some actual questions asked of UPSC candidates.
·    Don't you think you can serve your country better by remaining a doctor and treating poor patients? Why do you want to be a civil servant?"

·     It would be best to answer this question very practically rather than emotionally saying you want to serve the country, because even a doctor serves the people. A doctor from Kerala was asked this Question and her reply was - "Because I want to treat the primary malady that afflicts our country, that creates so many poor in India. As a doctor I can treat only secondary maladies." She even came up with exact statistics and suggestions on a rubber plantation for poverty alleviation indicating that she had spent considerable time and thoughts on her future plans. She was awarded a score of 85 per cent.

·     "What are the problems faced by wheat cultivators in your state?"an M.Sc. (Agriculture) student from Palanpur was once asked. "The problem is not so much to do with agronomy but with the lack of a seed bank in Palanpur," came the reply and the candidate walked away with an 80 per cent score.

·     "Is there a law in physics, which is relevant to administration?" a law graduate was prompted. "Yes. Newton's third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." He scored a cool 80 per cent.

·     The above questions can give you an idea of how relevant questions are asked from your subjects even as they are not directly from the syllabus.

·     Even though the interview carries 300 marks with no minimum qualifying marks, it is the deciding factor at many times of your being within the services or out of it and in the least matters in which service you get.However since the interview is so personal and variable it is most desirable to do very well in the written mains. But an Interview can make or break you so take your personality development rather seriously and make sure to attend some mock interviews at leading institutes.

        UPSC Interview Questions
     UPSC Interview questions range from questions about your choice of subject to why you want to join the civil services. It is good to answer honestly but at the same time avoid cliches like wanting to do service to the nation etc. Questions on your hobbies are imperative so prepare well as they expect some indepth knowledge on that. Questions relating to your name, your college or school name are also a big posibility. If someone well-know shares one of these names please also prepare on that. Also learn up about important events on the year or date of your birth. As you can see, UPSC Interview questions are mainly from what you have filled in your form including your subject but here it is more a test of logic and presentation and awareness rather than pure subject knowledge. In the UPSC interview many questions are situational like what will you do if a Tsunami strikes your district and you are the DM/Collector/SP. Questions on your choice of service preference also need to be prepared. Current affairs analysis is important too.

    Tips to improve your performance at the UPSC Interview
·   There are generally 5 members at the board with the Chairperson seated at the center. Enter confidently and greet the Chairperson, who will probably welcome you, and pleasantly nod at other members. Wait till you are asked to sit.

·      Intelligent listing is the mantra, and for this maintaining eye contact is very important. You should not glare but all the same appear attentive and do not glance at other members, it can be very distracting for the interviewer. However if some other member asks you anything, look at that member and answer and turn back to the first - this is what we do in normal attentive listening.

·     Do not fidget or throw your hands around, or shake your head. Less amount of movement does not mean you should sit unnaturally stiff. Your posture should be attentive and relaxed at the same time. Do not crouch/bend forward or place your hands on the table.

·     Cut your answer short to the required patience shown by the member talking to you. They usually like to talk more, so listen carefully and think for a few seconds before you start answering the question. This will show that you are organising your thoughts in mind before starting to speak.

·     Leave some room for difference in opinion. Do take a stand, but do not look adamant or unwilling to appreciate the board's opinion.

·    Use couple of words from the question while answering any question. It shows you have listened to the question carefully. But at the same time limit the use the technical jargon.

·      Listen very carefully. Come to the central issue of the enquiry immediately. Wild guessing or speculation are a complete no no.

·      Do not start evaluating your performance while still inthe interview. Even if you have committed mistakes in the beginning, do not think that you have already lost the game. They are looking for warm, sensitive respectful and attentive youngsters. They know you are good or you would not have come so far.

·     Talk humbly about your achievements and hobbies. You may have mentioned some hobbies in the form without serious background in them, but before the interview it would be useful to pick up some basic info on the hobby.

·      Say less to convey more. Less is more these days as per the minimalist creed. Argue logically and generalise correctly. Do not try to read too much between the lines.

·    Remember, while answering any question, what is easy to see is easy to miss. We often tend to miss the obvious and go for some non-crucial aspect of the subject.

·      Get up to leave only when the chairperson asks you to, not because you think everyone has asked a question. Similarly, even if someone has not asked a question and the chairperson asks you to leave then please leave. Some members do not ask questions at all, due to various reasons like limited time.

·      Before leaving politely thank the chairperson and nod at the others politely. Avoid saying "Have a good day sir". A "Thank you Sir/Madam" is enough. 

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