Dr. Mohammad Zubair Lattoo
Having cleared Mains, you will be feeling both delighted and confident. But multiple thoughts will be tinkering in your mind as to what the interview would be like! What sort of preparation one needs to crack the interview. You reel under both confusion and pressure and grow further uncertain.
The objective behind conducting the interview is to assess the suitability of the candidate for a career in Public Service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to judge your mental caliber. Some of the qualities to be judged are: Mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership and intellectual and moral integrity.
Facing the board
Interview is a test of personality which cannot be developed in few days. It is a continuous process since your childhood. It’s the lifetime preparation that pays in the ultimate run.
You will be interviewed by a Board who are accomplished bureaucrats, academicians or people from diverse fields (in age of 50s and 60s). The board members are people with tremendous experience. They would be at least double your age. The amount of their experience is unfathomable and has mostly met thousands of people like you and me. We are just like a small kid in front of them. So, you can’t fool them!! You just can’t dodge them. The only key to success is to be your natural self.
You’ll be asked questions on matters of general interest. The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross examination but of a natural, though directed and purposive conversation, intended to reveal your mental qualities. It is not intended to be a test either of the specialized or general knowledge which has already been tested through the written examination. You are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in your special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around you both within and outside the country. You are also expected to be aware of the modern currents of thought and new discoveries which rouse the curiosity of every well educated youth.
What board members are looking for?
Have you read Shiv Khera’s best-seller “You Can Win”? Let me reproduce few lines from the book, There was a man who made living selling balloons at a fair. He had all colours of balloons, including red, yellow, blue, and green. Whenever business was slow, he would release a helium filled balloon into the air and when the children saw it go up, they all wanted to buy one. They would come up to him, buy a balloon, and his sales would go up again.
He continued this process all day. One day he felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around and saw a little boy who asked, “If you release a black balloon, would that also fly?” Moved by the boy’s concern, the man replied with empathy, “Son, it is not the colour of the balloon, it is what is inside that makes it go up.”
Yes, my dear it is what is ‘inside’ that matters. The thing inside of us that makes us go up in life is our attitude. If we can build a positive attitude towards life and anything that we do, it provides a solid foundation for success. That is precisely what is required from you:
Officers with the right attitude to take up the challenge of nation building and fight the evils of corruption, poverty, ignorance, communalism, casteism and nepotism. Today, great value is attached to upholding the fundamental premises of democratic polity as secularism, social justice and human rights, upon which the survival and sustenance of India as a nation rests. It pays to be: Confident but not complacent, firm but not stubborn, assertive but not argumentative, pragmatic but not idealistic, courteous but not submissive, bold but not foolhardy, upright but not arrogant, comfortable but not casual, critical but not conceiting, witty but not farcical, proud but not egoistic, cool but not content and finally committed but not beseeching.
What constitutes positive attitude?
People with a positive attitude are honest. Upright. Sincere. Hardworking. Committed. Enthusiastic. Confident. Tolerant. Optimistic. Innovative. Patient. Humble. Generous. Courteous. Polite. Sensitive. Open to ideas. Willing to own up mistakes. And learn from them. They do what they enjoy. And enjoy what must be done. They have a clear vision of things to come.
There are no quick-fix methods of developing these qualities and traits. But they are the ones that lay the foundation of a strong character and a powerful personality. And only conscious effort can help build them. If you don’t have these, they will show up on your face. If you don’t feel for the stand that you take, the interviewers can smell. If you lack conviction they can sense. So, never pretend to know what you don’t. Never lie. Never be arrogant. Never get into arguments with the Board members. Never appear casual. And never-ever lose your temper. They each carry a hundred negative marks!!
How do they test you?
In case of UPSC, basic source of the information available to them is the Mains’ application form (DAF) filled in by you, containing the details of your family background, domicile, subjects of study, academic performance, institutions attended, awards won, hobbies, interests, extra-curricular activities, service preferences, job experience etc. You are accountable to each and every word you are putting in your DAF. But there is nothing like DAF in case of KAS.
The only thing in front of them is a one page sheet containing your basic details like name, optional in mains etc. Generally the first thing you will be asked will be to give your introduction. This will provide a first- hand knowledge about you to the members of the interview board like your place of birth, place of residence, place and company where you work/worked (if any), your education, specializations, achievements, hobbies. That is why some times half or even more of your interview can pertain to your bio-data.
The Board usually begins by asking questions on what you would be most comfortable with, that is about yourself.
Gradually they widen the net and put questions relating to your special subjects of study. Further they test your higher faculties of analysis and decision making by putting questions on matters of general interest, especially current social, political and economic issues.
Finally they pin you down by asking some critical questions to test your balance of judgement and intellectual and moral integrity. All this while, the board continuously evaluates your personality and assesses your suitability to the job without you realising.
The initial moments are extremely crucial and could well steer the latter course of the interview. It is absolutely imperative to remember your bio-data and know everything thoroughly well about yourself, to be able to answer any question related to you with great ease.
Any mistake or even hesitation here could amount to a blunder. It would be viewed with great suspicion and guess what could happen hereafter.
Yes, you guessed it right! The interview could end even before it began! On your part, you can ensure that this does not happen by being honest in filling up your bio-data. Every small detail counts!
Most candidates tend to cook-up their hobbies and interests at the last moment. It could prove to be a blunder in situations such as: Your hobby is ‘gardening’ and you can’t even recognize any of the indoor plants there in the Board room! Your hobby is ‘reading’ but you never read anything except newspapers! Your hobby is ‘bird watching’ and you can’t name some common birds. And you can’t even identify a male sparrow! Your hobby is ‘cooking’ and you never cooked anything except Rice and Dal! One-day
Cricket is an area of interest and you don’t know who started it! You play chess and you have to struggle hard to explain what castling is all about!!
The Board does not expect you to know the minute details of all that you studied so far but it does surely expect you to have a broad understanding of the subjects studied. And a capacity to use the knowledge so gained. So, just don’t waste your time revising all the books. And more importantly don’t ever panic. The questions will usually be of applied nature.
At times the board members may start quizzing and firing seemingly trivial questions and you may not be given sufficient time to respond. Don’t lose your calm. Don’t Panic. They are trying to test your poise and composure. Try to answer as many questions as possible and feel free to tell them that you don’t know the rest. Never commit the blunder of telling them that you are not supposed to know them all.
However, you must make sure that you don’t cut a sorry figure when asked about the Kashmir Issue, or Indo-Pak tension and Doakhlam crisis, Sino-Indian relations and the related developments, Article 370 or Article 35A, Single Line Administration, Sufism and its relevance, India’s quest for UNSC membership, Climate change, Non Performing Assets, PARA Bank, GST and its impact on Indian Economy, long term benefits of demonetization or social issues like Maternity Amendment Bill, Surrogacy, Transgender Bill and so on. Your inability to answer such questions will be viewed as sheer negligence and insensitivity.
You must keep abreast of all such issues and developments in India and the world all through your preparation for the examination.
You should make an exhaustive list of topics of current interest, specially the controversial ones, which possibly could form a part of the final showdown—what I call as critical questions. The critical questions are put mainly to those candidates who have carried themselves well through the rest of the interview. The final score could swing by as much as 80 or 180 marks depending on how well or how badly they have been answered.
They could make or mar! These critical questions could come to you, disguised either as too simple or too trivial ones. Normally they will be asked towards the end of the interview. However, nothing prevents the Board from putting them to you in the midst of the interview or even at the very beginning.
You ought to sense them and maintain utmost care in responding to them. Remember, they carry the maximum weight.
Guys Civil Services examination is one of the toughest and its interview, the most rigorous among all the competitive examinations. If those 10 to 15 minutes belong to you can steal the show.