The ideas expressed below are not all mine. During my Interview preparation I took personal guidance from Mr. Vikas Bhardwaj (my History teacher) and so while penning down the article below, I have borrowed heavily from his teachings. Similarly I have also expressed many ideas that I have borrowed from Bansal Sir (at Abhimanu, Chandigarh). I must thank both of them for all their help and support. I will try and reply to some queries that you post but please bear with the delay in my responses.
Interview is a test of personality and not of knowledge yet most of the time candidates prepare for enhancing their knowledge base and totally neglect their personality aspect. It is obvious that personality can’t be built in a day but it can certainly be molded in a short time span.Your aim should be to highlight the best aspects of your personality. Interview is the final step before you achieve your dream- DO NOT MESS IT UP.
The members of the UPSC Board are very experienced and are experts at judging the personality of the candidates. You have to remember that the panel usually may not remember what you did or what you did not do but it will always remember how you made them feel. The board always appreciates honesty.
Honesty is always the best policy and smartness only the second best one
For the Interview, please focus greatly on two things- Your Bio-Data (as reflected in the Mains Form) and the Current Affairs. Bio-Data includes the following:
Schools, Colleges, Places of Schooling
Mother’s Profession and Father’s Profession
Your own previous professions and companies if any
Reason for a long time gap after graduation without employment (if applicable to you)
Date of Birth, Meaning of Name, any special occasion that coincides with your dob.
Awards and any extra-curricular activities.
Subject of graduation
Current Affairs includes basically current events that you should be familiar with.
For my interview preparation I consulted the following sources-
Madhukar Bhagat’s book which was extremely helpful in guiding me.
India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri
NBT books on Haryana, and other books on Punjab that are usually read by college students in the state.
Tourism websites of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh
Vajiram Interview Guide
2 National Newspapers- The Hindu and The Indian Express + one regional newspaper (The Tribune)
I also revised my Optional subjects. (Candidates should also have a brief overview of their graduation subjects especially if they are different from their Optional subjects.) Here special attention should be given on items related to these subjects currently in the news.
Please don’t forget to revise your GS basics. You should never do any mistake in any fundamentals like articles of constitution or important events in History etc.
Right after my Mains exam, I read some general books such as My Experiments with Truth, Discovery of India, Indomitable Spirit etc to gain a perspective of seeing things around me.
I had joined Vajiram, Samkalp and Abhimanu (in Chandigarh) for interview preparation. I also took guidance from Mr. Vikas Bhardwaj (my History teacher at Vajiram) who took personal one to one sessions for me and helped me polish my rough edges and also helped me to make some over-polished edges a little rougher. He gave me many useful tips about conducting oneself before the Board and how to think without any biases in mind. One has to understand that the Board does not like artificiality. The members are looking for original thinkers who can express their opinions crisply and in as short as possible. Your personality should not be overly-polished. It should be a little raw . You should be original and logical in your thinking. Unlike in the written exam where you could get away by replicating the opinions mentioned in editorials, in the interview you will be grilled for whatever stand you take because as a bureaucrat this quality of taking unbiased decisions that are logical and fair is extremely important. And most importantly please do not be desperate to get selected. Give your best but be patient- even if you do not make it, it is not the end of life. So please have an open-mind.
You can also watch some serving bureaucrats speak on television channels and try and emulate their style. In front of the Board always be patient . Let the members put forward their questions completely and take a pause before you start answering. Remember, there is no need to be in any hurry. Everyone is there only to evaluate you and to listen to you. They have all the time in the world to sit with you and so do you. After all these are few magical moments of your life that you will never forget. So make them count.
The following points must always be borne in mind while appearing for the Interview-
Read that morning’s newspaper. At least go through the headlines.
Be honest with the board. If you do not know the answer to a question, just say that- “I am sorry Sir/Maam, I don’t know”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know an answer, what matters is how you say that you don’t know the answer and how you react after that.
Always maintain your calm and composure.
Be patient. No hurries please.
Try and maintain a smiling face and a pleasant aura around you.
Appear for a couple of mock interviews before you sit for the final interview.
Try and sit in a group of 3-4 friends and interview each other. This exercise will help you in two ways- firstly while answering questions in front of your friends, you will be more at ease and can work on the content of your answers; secondly when you ask questions to your friends based on his bio-data, you step into the shoes of the examiner and you understand how he thinks and that will help you prepare better.
Sometimes you may come under a lot of stress during the interview for any reason. In such times, please keep your nerves cool.
Do not start assessing your performance while you are in front of the Board. You may feel that you are not doing good whereas in reality you may be doing brilliantly because many times rather than answering the question, it is more important to stay calm and even headed and move on to the next question with ease.
Be at peace with yourself. Always wear a thinking cap. Never be in a haste to give your answer. Speak slowly and give weight to your words.
Remember that this is not a repeat Mains Exam. It is an Interview- a conversation by which you will be judged. Come out of the written mode and into the Interview mode. Start researching issues on your own on the net. Form your original opinions and learn how to express your stand in 3-4 lines maximum.
Practice the art of speaking. I have to underline this fact again that Interview is a test of personality. When your mind is fed information from all sources, somewhere in the chaos, your heart looses its sensitivity. Please preserve that sensitivity. Make sure you show it in the Interview.
Interview is about YOU.
Before I conclude, it is important to pen down a few words on a very important question- Why you want to join the Civil Services? This question may or may not be asked in the interview and it may be asked indirectly too (as to why you didn’t continue with your previous profession, why you quit etc). Nevertheless, the very act of thinking on this question will be an eye-opener for many of you. It is a good exercise to really question yourself as to why have you come so far? What exactly is it that attracted you to the Services? The reasons can be numerous- social service, personal ambition, job security, prestige in the society, contribution to the nation, some childhood inspiration etc. These answers may sound repetitive to the Board but the real point of testing is something else when the Board asks this question. The main purpose of this question is to evaluate your honesty and your conviction for this job. The answer to this question lies not so much in verbal communication as it does in the non-verbal communication. Whether you realize it or not, there is something about this question that just exposes your real self. The examiner can easily see whether you really believe in what you are saying. And you will only believe in what you are saying when you are honest. Be honest not just to the examiner but also to yourself. I am sure each one of us has good intentions at heart but do we have the conviction to stick to them when the going gets tough. If you do, then you will not have a problem with answering this question.
Finally, please remember always that Interview is the icing on the cake. If the icing is good, the cake will taste better. Remember- when you score high in the interview and then get selected, it really boosts your confidence because then you truly know that you are in the right job and you belong here. Make the board feel good about yourself. All the best.