UPSC Interview is often a game changer for many civil services candidates. For an aspirant who may not have performed too well in the written main exam; the interview score can provide a much needed push to get in the final merit list.
Even for a candidate who has performed well in the written exam; a 200+ score in the interview helps secure a high rank and the service of one’s choice. Hence, one’s performance on the interview day significantly affects the life course of a civil services aspirant.
A 200 plus score in UPSC personality test is not easy, but it is also not impossible or uncommon. There are certain points that an aspirant needs to keep in mind while preparing for the interview. With a careful strategy, one can get maximum output for the efforts one puts in before appearing for the interview.
A potential civil servant is expected to have well reasoned opinions of his own. It is important to be fully aware of the current issues that are in the news, as well as the tried and tested themes like feminism and globalization. Reading multiple newspapers and selectively reading some reputed magazines will help you in forming your own views on a variety of issues.
Mahatma Gandhi had said that before you change the world, you need to change yourself. Likewise, the process of knowing starts with knowing oneself. The UPSC interview board is interested in getting to know the candidate. That is why the interview is termed the ‘personality test’, and not a ‘knowledge test’. To showcase your best side to the interview board, it is important to first know yourself well.
Be well aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Reflect over your life till date and develop a sense of who you are. Be aware of what you have learnt from various life experiences. Introspect on the mistakes you may have made and how you could have handled things better.
You also need to research your own background- about you school, college, career choices, etc. You should be in the know about developments in your home state and other places you may have stayed in. Even something as innocuous as one’s name can trigger a conversation if it has any historical, political or social significance.
Avoid extreme positions
It is good to take a stance on issues. However, avoid polarizing opinions and answer questions with a balanced point of view.
During the UPSC interview, one may behave in a way the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry would during a press briefing. While presenting one’s views with firmness and clarity is important; it is also advisable to use diplomacy and tact to avoid unpleasantness.
Honesty, the best policy
It is important to display honesty in one’s interaction with the interviewers. Their combined experience is usually more than five times the typical candidate’s age. Hence, bluffing in front of them may prove counterproductive.
It is obvious that anyone cannot know everything about everything. Even the top scoring candidates in the past civil services interviews were unable to answer certain questions. If you are unaware about a topic, it is best to admit ignorance and politely apologize than indulge in guesswork.
While answering personal questions about your life, maintain sincerity to the greatest extent. Prepare answers on reasons for aiming for civil services, your service and cadre preferences, etc. While the reasons will vary from person to person, they should reflect sincerity and an ethical temperament.
Research your hobbies
Often, questions are asked on the hobbies and extracurricular activities mentioned by a candidate in his detailed application form. Prepare well to answer them, superficial knowledge will not suffice.
Also try to find out the relevance of your hobbies and interests, if any, for your role as a civil servant. Assess the national and international developments in related fields. For instance, if a candidate has expressed an interest in Yoga; he is expected to know about the International Day of Yoga, the mandate and initiatives of the Ministry of AYUSH, the recent controversial ban on Yoga in public schools in Alabama in USA, etc.
It is important to keep calm and maintain a smiling face. It is natural to be under some pressure while the interview is going on. However, your demeanor will help the UPSC interview panel judge your response to stress situations. Maintaining composure throughout the interview will give leave them with a good impression of you.
It is also important to dress appropriately for the occasion. It doesn’t matter if your clothes are new or old. They should be properly ironed and should give you a clean, formal look. It is important to not betray any signs of nervousness, such as shaking a legs or biting nails. Your posture, body language and conduct should reflect confidence.
However, confidence should not degenerate into arrogance. Instead, one must be respectful to elders and seniors, and the interview board members are both. Under no circumstances should a candidate get into an argument with the board members.
Ensure that you inspire confidence and display a pleasant personality during the crucial, 30-minutes interaction of the interview.
The interview may well be the relatively easier part of your preparation, if the appropriate strategy is followed. It can yield higher return on investment of time and efforts compared to the first two stages. Hence, candidates should spare no efforts to make their interview a memorable one.
The writer is Convenor of Indian Civil Services Association (www.icsa.in). He is a sociologist and a member of Research Committee on Education of UNESCO estd. International Sociological Association.
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