With a success rate of less than 0.5 %; the civil services examination is amongst the toughest in the country. The 2,000-odd candidates, who have cleared the written stage of the exam in the recently declared result, have managed to beat several odds to reach this stage. However, the race is going to be decided in the last lap i.e. the interviews, to be conducted by the UPSC over the next two months.
For those who will be appearing for the interviews soon, here are some things to remember:
Views matter, not felicity with language
The society may still be suffering from the colonial hangover of treating English as a superior language. The UPCS interview boards have, thankfully, moved past that mindset.
It is the ability to think critically and express one’s views with clarity which is important. The board members assess your opinions and clarity of thought, not English language fluency. So, not having a ‘Tharoorian’ vocabulary doesn’t work against you in the IAS interview. And having it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better score. You are expected to be able to communicate effectively in simple language.
In fact, UPSC allows candidates to give the interview in any one of the 22 languages in the constitution. One can also write the mains exam in English, and give the interview in an Indian language.
Approach to decision making
The interview board members evaluate the candidate’s decision making process. One way they do so is by talking to you about the important issues of the day.
It is important not just to have an opinion, but also underlying reasons for the same. If you state an opinion without reasoning, it may reflect poorly on you. Remember, the UPSC is mainly looking for potential administrators with sound reasoning.
Do not get into an argument
It is good to take a stance on issues during the interview, but it also important to be respectful and not seem stubborn. Do not get into an argument with an interviewer. The candidate should be receptive to a differing viewpoint. One should also know how and when to diplomatically withdraw while politely disagreeing.
It is important to know oneself. Before the start of the interview, you have already shared your details with the board members through your Detailed Application Form or DAF. The interviewers are likely to ask several questions from it.
So, while preparing for interview, assess your own life. You should have ample knowledge about any areas of potential discussion mentioned in your application form - the cities you have lived, the courses you have pursued, any jobs you may have worked, etc.
UPSC interview board rewards candidates who have not only knowledge acquired from course books, but also a well rounded personality.
So, research about the interests, hobbies or extracurricular activities you have mentioned in the application form. For example, if you have been an NCC cadet in school, you should be aware of the history of NCC, its contribution to nation-building and how it has benefited you.
Reasons for joining civil services
You may be asked about your reasons to join the civil services. This is especially likely if you are from professional colleges like the IITs or government-run medical colleges. In such cases, one may be expected to justify the resources society has spent on providing you skills in engineering or medicine; only for you to now join administration.
You may also be asked to explain your choice of services or cadre.
It will be advisable to give genuine and personal answers to such questions instead of standard fare. You may use anecdotes or incidents from your past to explain your choices.
Practice makes a man perfect
Practice giving interviews with colleagues, retired civil servants or in front of a mirror. Practice helps to improve communication skills, body language and brings greater clarity in thought process. Practice speaking measuredly and clearly instead of rushing through answers. Avoid use of slang words and practice speaking in a formal and respectful manner.
Candidates should dress up formally for the interview. The expected dress norms are formal pant and shirt for men and salwar/ sari for female candidates.
One need not buy a new dress for the interview, but your clothes should be clean and ironed. Soft colors are preferable. Get a haircut if you need one to get a clean look. Also work on your posture and body language. Keep a smiling face.
The UPSC preparation journey thus far makes the aspirants mentally tough and ready to face new challenges. However, you need to turn the currents in your favour so that you can cross the last lap. Preparing well for the interview will take you a step closer to the gates of LBSNAA.
The writer is Convenor of Indian Civil Services Association (www.icsa.in). He is an educationist who mentors UPSC aspirants at IAS Gurukul.
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