Interview Preparation

Personality Test

The Interview stage has emerged as the most deciding phase of the exam. The range of marks awarded itself is a proof, it varies between 50 to 230. If the UPSC board feels that a candidate is unsuitable for administration, then it awards very low marks. As a result he may not get the desired service in spite of good performance in the mains exam. So interview plays a very crucial role in the final selection.
The personality is some thing that cannot be developed in few days. It is a continuous process since your childhood. But, you can modify it suitably to get good marks in the interview.

What is looked for in the Personality Test?

The UPSC is looking for some traits, which can be summarized below:

  1. Suitability to a public career
  2. Mental Caliber
  3. Not only intellectual traits but also social traits
  4. Interest in current affairs
  5. Mental alertness
  6. Critical powers of assimilation
  7. Clear and logical exposition
  8. Balance of judgment
  9. Variety and depth of interest
  10. Ability for social cohesion and leadership
  11. Intellectual and moral integrity

In the words of former UPSC Chairman Surendra Nath, an ideal civil servant should be:
“ Firstly, an officer must be a gentleman. He should possess good character qualities. He should have courage of conviction, intellectual and moral capabilities, leadership qualities and capable of taking the right decisions at the right time. He should have indepth professional knowledge, self confidence, good communication skills, analytical in his thinking, flexible and not rigid, must be able to inspire and motivate his colleagues and his sub-ordinates. There should be a balance of judgment in decision making”.
So, you will have to improve these qualities as you progress towards the interview stage.

How to Prepare?

  • Start full-scale preparation for the interview, immediately after the mains exam.
  • Be very careful while filling the mains application form. This form is the basis 38 on which the whole interview depends. So, consult the seniors and fill the information carefully. Through this form, you can direct the board into your strong areas. The interview will go on expected lines and you can give wellprepared answers. Do keep a photocopy of the form.
  • The preparation should be at two levels – the subject matter preparation and the way you present yourself.
  • One should prepare for the interview with a group of 3-4 people as the preparation for Interview cannot be done in isolation. Personality is a life-time asset and expecting miraculous changes in personality in a span of a few days or weeks is not possible. Yet, efforts can be made to overcome major deficiency and polishing of views and opinions.
  • Use a handy cam or a mirror to see how you speak, the facial expressions, mannerisms etc.
  • Keep visualizing the interview scenario and modify yourself accordingly. In interview- you are assessed right from the moment you enter. So the following aspects are important—the way you walk; the way you sit down; the way you dress up; the enthusiasm and cheerfulness in your face; the way you talk; your mannerisms; facial expressions; politeness; behavior; the way you tackle the questions; the confidence you display; the way you take leave and walk out of the room; etc. So in all these dimensions you should keep contemplating and put your best performance on that day.
  • The best way of preparation is to just sit and do brain storming intensively. Think what type of questions can be asked and how you can give a simple and logical answer. This will not come from reading many books. It requires lot of introspection.
  • Show a positive body language. You believe that you are suitable for the job. Convey to them the message that you are the person they are looking for.
  • Read various original interviews given in the magazines to understand what the UPSC expects from you.

What type of questions does the Interview Board asks? What are the things that trigger a question in the mind of the Interview board? Ans.: The elements in their immediate view. What are these elements? Ans.: First the candidate himself/herself, second his back ground record as revealed from the mains application form, third important events that have happened in last few months or are in news currently and lastly words that we use in our answers to the board. Can we identify these triggers? Ans.: Yes to large extent. By doing so we can be very well prepared for about 85-90% of the questions. How does this help? Ans.: By preparing well on these triggers, we can also work on their presentation as well so as to avoid giving unnecessary triggers through our answers or positively giving triggers that will lead the board to our familiar territory.

Practically speaking we can sit with our mains application form and write down each and every word that we have written in that form separately on a separate page of a register. Having done that, then list questions that can be asked, with that word acting as a trigger. Refine the list by sitting with few friends. You will have a list of about 100-200 questions. Start preparing on their content and work on their presentation to keep it crispy and meaningful. Similarly we can work on other triggers and try to avoid giving unnecessary triggers in our answers.

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 research well on your hobby.
  • Hot topics of recent days like the Bird Flu and Tamiflu, Growing airlines, Terror attacks in India, India US Nuclear deal, Indian Cricket, Saurav Ganguly etc (These are just examples). 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. 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/ Hypothetical questions: Like If you were the collector/SP of so and so, what would you do after the Communal riots/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.
  • Other areas to be focused are: why optionals; background of the parents; places where you stayed; academic background and related aspects; optional subjects; graduating subject; positions if held; job experience if any; hobbies; sports;

Mock/Practice

  • 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/gray areas and can provide an avenue for a well-planned preparation and group discussions.
  • Take mock interviews with your friends. 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.

Dressing Up

  • 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.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Men need to wear light coloured shirt and a dark trouser with a tie. 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. ƒ 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.

Entry

  • Arrive 20-30 minutes early. This will give you enough time to relax
  • 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)
  • 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. 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.
  • Be cool. Be yourself during the Interview.
  • Your aim should be to make the board members feel comfortable in your presence.
  • 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.
  • Intelligent listening 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Do not start evaluating your performance while still in the 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. Argue logically and generalise correctly. ƒ 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.
  • Questions posed before a candidate by the interviewing board are very well framed and answers to them should be made taking into consideration all possible views and a balanced approach is expected from a candidate.
  • Remember, non-awareness of something should be admitted with politeness. It is okay to not know something! It is better to say ‘No’ than to bluff around. Those interviewing are highly experienced persons and know much better than us.
  • If the question put is not clear to you, politely ask for more information. It is not the factual knowledge but your views, which will be tested in the interview.
  • Always observe interview etiquette and be honest, polite, convincing a modest. Arrogance, rigidity, flicking round the issue should be avoided.
  • Don’t be argumentative. Be consistent in your views, i.e. just don’t change your views because of the fact that the Board is differing with you. Remember that they are only testing you and often even try to provoke you. Give balanced answers and avoid taking extremes.
  • The most important thing to know about the Interview is that it is not a question-answer session and what they are looking out for is different aspects of one’s personality. As far as possible, the answer given should reveal a particular aspect of one’s personality and attempts should not be made to present a make-up appearance or politically correct answers. There is no harm in taking extreme views if one is able to justify them.
  • 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.
  • 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/madam”. A “Thank you Sir/Madam” is enough.

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.
  • Speak honestly, truthfully and modestly.
  • 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. ƒ 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 have a confused personality. You will neither be able to grasp questions correctly, nor be able to think clearly.
  • 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 tense situations.
  • Form your views on the 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.
  • Do not entertain any rumors regarding the integrity of the board. The UPSC interviews are of the top class and the marks awarded are also proportional to what the candidate deserves. The rumors are, mainly spread by people who do not clear the exam. Instead of criticizing others, it is better to introspect and make efforts to develop one’s personality. So, go to the interview with utmost respect for the board and confidence in their integrity. Put your best performance on that day.
  • Avoid conversational clichés, like: ‘as you know’, ‘that’s correct’, ‘of course’, ‘indeed’, ‘obviously’, etc. ƒ 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. ƒ 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.

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.

And finally, a good administrator is free from any sort of prejudice. He should be good at making quick yet just decisions and should have the ability to act under stress and to handle difficult situations. Prepare yourself with a positive attitude and an alert mind.

All the Best!