IAS Interview : A Test of Your Authentic Self

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Interview test is the last leg of a long
race towards IAS. After crossing two
major hurdles namely, the prelims and
main examination, a candidate sets
himself up for the D-day (interview day)
which would finally determine whether
he is going to be selected for the coveted Civil Services or not. It will also
determine his rank and service he is
allotted as per his rank in the merit list.
In other words, if interview creates a
sense of fear, it also offers the final
opportunity to boost success chances
in the civil services. In terms of marks,
the interview carries 25 marks more
than any single paper of the main
examination ( each mains paper carries 250 marks while interview carries
275 marks).
As stated by Union Public Service
Commission, the purpose of the
interview is to ‘ assess the personal
suitability of the candidate for a career
in public service.’ It follows from this
that the interview process is geared
towards judging the personal suitability
of the candidate for civil services. The
process of interview which roughly
lasts 25- 30 minutes, aims to judge the
qualities like mental alertness, critical
powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement,
variety and depth of interest, ability for
social cohesion and leadership and
intellectual and moral integrity.
These qualities, to be judged during
the interview session, can not be
understood as separate traits of personality. Rather, together, they present
a sum total of qualities a candidate is
expected to possess. When you are
being interviewed, you are simultaneously being judged for your wide interests, leadership qualities, clarity of
mind, a balanced approach etc.
Thus, contrary to the popular perception of interview being a question
answer session, it is much more than
that. In a setting which is formal but
undirected one (undirected means a
natural course is followed at the interview rather than a structured session),
the interview session seeks to evaluate
a candidate on the above given qualities. A proper understanding of what he
is going to be tested for will make a
candidate’s preparation close to its

IAS interview is NOT about
(a) a mere question answer session
(b) a test of knowledge or plethora of
(c) a deliberate attempt to  pin you down by difficult questions
(d) having extraordinary expectations
from you.

IAS Interview is about
(a) judging your authentic self
(b) an interactive,  friendly session
(c) extracting your
opinion and stand on vital issues
(d) exploring the quality of honesty, integrity, commitment, leadership etc and
(e) testing you more on where you know
rather than where you do not know.
It should be fairly clear from the
above that the character of the interview is an engaging conversation with
the board on a host of issues in a
positive setting where you are encouraged to express yourself naturally.

without fear or pressure. This descrip￾tion of the attitude of board should dis￾pel your fears about facing the board.
For most of the candidates, it is a
frightening scenario to face the board
and an unknown fear descends on
them just before entering the venue of
the interview. The reality is quite to the
contrary. The board is usually very
friendly and encouraging. If they find
that you are not able to answer questions from one area, they will ask you
different questions from those areas
where you are supposed to be strong.
In other words, they will provide you
full opportunity to bring the best in you
during the session.
Composition of the Board
There are 8-9 separate UPSC interview boards. Each board consists of a
chairman and four members. The
chairman is a UPSC member. The
other four members are external
members invited by UPSC. They are
bureaucrats, academicians, scientists, armed forces officers etc. They
all are very experienced, seasoned
persons with wide exposure in public
life. This gives them the ability to
frame very diverse questions and
evaluate your responses accurately.
It should be noted that there is no professional psychologist sitting among
the members.
The beginning of the interview
As you enter the board and occupy
your place after greeting the board
members, the chairman will initiate
your interview by asking a few questions. Usually he begins with reading
your bio data and asking questions
relating to information provided by you
in your bio data. He may also ask other
questions or else, he will prompt other
members to ask questions. This is how
the interview gets to a start and in the
next 30 minutes, you will be engaged in
a conversation during which questions,
counter questions, opinions, counter
opinions are exchanged between you
and the board. You may also experience some lighter moments during the
session to keep you at ease.
Preparing for the interview
Though in a strict sense, no specific
preparation for the interview is required
because it is a personality test and
what you have accumulated and
assimilated through your learnings,
experiences, exposures so far in life
will be judged during the interview. Yet,
some amount of grooming for the interview is definitely required. The ingredients of interview preparation are :

1. Learning manners and etiquettes
of interview :
(a)Be polite and respectful
(b)Greet the members with warmth
(c)Wear a decent, sober
dress which is formal and suits the
weather No fanciful accessories on
your body
(d)Do not interrupt a member while he/ she is asking a question or explaining a point
(e)An agreeable voice with the right pitch
(f)No frequent hand movement or
neck movement while you are
(g)A body language which transmits self-confidence,  resolve, determination under the frame of humility.
2. Covering up your bio data i.e. DAF
(Detailed Application Form) : You
have provided a wide range of
information in your DAF which is
before each member of the board.
This contains information furnished by you relating to your educational, family, professional background, your state, your hobbies, your achievements, your present occupations, your choice of service, cadre preference etc. A thorough preparation is required on leach aspect of the information you
have provided in DAF. For example, they may ask you to justify your preference of jobs. Or say,
about the choices of states as your
cadre. You must have a convincing
answer about all these. You will
have to defend all that you have
mentioned in your DAF because
you cannot retract on facts supplied by yourself. So I recommend
a serious thought on all aspects of
DAF before entering the board.
3. Covering expected current issues : There is no way to anticipate what
among the current topics they will be
framing questions on, however, it is
wise to cover recent current affairs
and form your considered opinion on
it. For example, some likely current
issues could be: Yoga and its role
in health and India’ image building
as a soft power, smart cities, sedition law, student politics in universities, intolerance incidents, crisis in
Arunachal Pradesh, Zika virus,
India’s current issues with its neighbours etc. These type of recent topics must be thoroughly covered.
Apart from knowing about these topics, you need to take a stand or form
a firm opinion on these issues.
4. Covering your own state: The
state to which you belong may be a
likely area of discussion during the
interview. You should be fairly aware
about the history, culture, society,
economy, industries of the state.
Also, you should have a critical
knowledge of recent developments
going on in your state e.g. some
policies like reservation, attracting
investments, transforming agriculture etc. India Year Book covers
briefly about every state. You may
refer to it for some basic knowledge.
Then, you should visit the state website for gathering current information
on your state.
5. Defending your hobbies: Almost
every candidate mentions one or
more hobbies in the DAF. It needs to
be defended and justified by showing adequate knowledge about it to
the board. They will watch you for
your earnestness with which you
have nurtured your mentioned
hobby. However, there is no need to
become an academic master of your
hobbies. You should just be able to
prove that your hobbies are genuine
and you have tried to pursue them in
your real life as much as possible.
6. Governance issues: Since you are
being tested for a job in civil services, some questions on emerging
issues of governance are quite natural to be asked. This will include
questions on present governance
patterns as well as situational questions like: if you are the DM or SP or
PM or something then what will you
do in a particular situation. So practice on some situational questions
and articulate your stand on them.
Some important tips
• Present your normal, authentic
self before the board : You are
supposed to carry your true self
before the board. No need to wear
a mask in order to appear what you
are not. They are not expecting
you to be an extraordinary person
with extraordinary capabilities. All
the board is looking for is your
commitment to certain values, certain personality traits and how suitable you will be for a job offered to
you in the civil services. You should
therefore never project what you
really are not There should be no
gap between your ‘appearance’
and ‘reality’.
• Be realistic and honest before
the board: The board is looking for
these two prime qualities in you.
Therefore, you must depict a
sense of realism so that you are
assessed by the board as a performer and not just a dreamer.
Honesty is the best policy before
the board. If you try to bluff, they
are bound to catch it and punish
you heavily for bluffing. It is very
common that when a candidate is
asked why he wants to join civil
services, he replies in terms of
being patriotic and doing great
things for the society and nation.
Such superlatives should be avoided. It is better to accept the fact
that the job security, status, prestige attracts you to the civil services. You can, however, add further
that civil services offer challenges
and a dynamic career and you like
diverse job challenges which
makes civil services your choice.
• Do not rely on myths built around
IAS interview: I would like to caution the interview aspirants to guard
themselves against many myths
surrounding the interview manufactured by ill informed mentors who
have no clue about the actual
process of the interview. A large
number of self- appointed experts
are in the market to distort your
vision and confuse your mind about
the interview. Take only reliable,
expert advice from people of high
• Practice before mirror: For few
days before the interview, stand up
before a mirror in your room for 10-
20 minutes and read from a news paper. This will help you have a
better command over your articulation. You may record your own conversation for self analysis.

( The author is an academician and
a civil services expert. He can be
reached at his email:
sb_singh2003@yahoo.com) �

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