The personality test of the UPSC examination process is arguably the most interesting part of the entire journey. It does not have a defined ‘syllabus’. There are no set questions posed to each candidate. Every candidate's interview is different from that of the others. It is, truly, the test of whether a candidate’s personality is suitable for a career in the civil services or not.
This makes the personality test a tough stage to prepare for and ace as well. This is so, because you develop your personality throughout life. You cannot transform it overnight.
That said, it is helpful if candidates are aware of the key traits the UPSC interview board is looking for. It will show the candidates the right direction in which they should focus their preparation strategy. It is also an indicator of the qualities IAS aspirants should aim to inculcate.
Some of the important traits UPSC seeks in candidates during the interview are:
As civil servants who will run the country’s administration, you are expected to be mentally alert.
How does UPSC assess your mental alertness in a half-hour interview? The board members may pose certain questions to candidates that are not straightforward. When you answer such questions, it is important that you stay relevant to the core issue. Do not beat around the bush.
Hence, a candidate should listen to each question with full attention. You may also ask for a few moments to understand the question fully and structure your answer. Make sure that you cover all the aspects of the question in your answer. These include the social, political, economic or any other aspects the question demands.
Also, if a board member asks multiple questions or follow-up questions, ensure that you answer all the questions distinctly.
Critical power of assimilation
The UPSC is looking for candidates who are able to achieve value neutrality and are able to differentiate facts from opinion.
The interviewers assess this by asking the candidate his opinion on important current issues of the day. A candidate should be able to put forth the points of view of all the key stakeholders. This will project you as person who is able to appreciate all sides of the story.
Having given a 360 degree assessment of the situation, the candidate should then, finally, give his own opinion on the matter. This will convey that you have applied your mind to the problem in search of a potential solution.
Balance of judgment
While sharing their assessment of a situation, a candidate should avoid extreme stances. For example, on an issue of gender equality, one may avoid an extremely patriarchal and conservative stance, as well as a radical feminist one. It is preferable to find a middle ground. Such balance of judgment is a quality that the UPSC board appreciates in civil services candidates.
Clear and logical exposition
The candidates are expected to not only share their views on matters under discussion, but are also expected to have clarity of thought and expression. There should be coherence in their arguments. The board members will evaluate you poorly if you have merely parroted someone else’s opinion, instead of deliberative thinking to form an opinion of your own. It is thus, important to do analysis and introspection to get clarity of vision and a logical continuity in your answers.
Variety and depth of interest
UPSC prefers candidates who have knowledge beyond academics. They seek well rounded personalities with varied interests. Candidates are asked to fill the details of extracurricular activities and hobbies they pursue. Several interview questions are from these non- academic areas of interest. This helps the UPSC to not only understand the variety of topics that the candidate is interested in, but also the depth of his knowledge with respect to his interests.
Candidates are thus advised to do a thorough research about their hobbies.
Ability of social cohesion and leadership
It is important that a candidate come across as one with a pleasant personality, who can bring conflicting parties together. He should be seen as a person who can enable people to arrive at a mutual understanding. He should come across as an unbiased communicator and a dispassionate observer of the socio-political scene.
For this, a candidate needs to appear as one who is familiar with the various aspects of the situation and is interested in working out a realistic solution. He should be seen as a person who can keep his calm in stressful situations. Hence, it is advised that the candidates should maintain a pleasant disposition even if the interview seems to be going awry.
Intellectual and moral integrity
The candidate should come across as a person with moral integrity, who will win the trust of ordinary citizens. For this, one may be asked to respond to hypothetical situations that involve a moral dilemma, which administrators commonly face in the field.
One should also maintain honesty in his responses. If you do not know an answer, apologise to the board members and tell them that you will research the answer later. Do not bluff if you do not know the answer.
Keeping these points in mind will help a candidate in improving their performance within the limited time available before the UPSC interviews. It will also help them work efficiently to serve the nation as civil servants, should they clear the examination.
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. He is an educationist who mentors UPSC aspirants at IAS Gurukul.
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