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Stategy of IAS Officers for Interviews

A note on the "Interview" as experienced by Raghuraj (interview marks 210, AIR-25)
First things first. Interviews styled as personality tests are no tests of personality in the real measure. Personality of a person is something that does not change over a period of a few years. The intrinsic traits and most of the external characteristics remain the same and it is well and truly impossible for any body to assess accurately the personalities thrown in front of them in a span of 30 to 45 minutes. If I do not admit this (or accuse so, I give you the option), it would be difficult to find an explanation as to why varying marks are obtained by the same candidate in different attempts. It would be equally difficult to explain how some outrageous personalities are rated high and how gems are given a go by in the interviews, be it in the UPSC or otherwise. Now with that caveat, I would like to suggest some things that worked in my favour (in my opinion) in my second interview.
  1. In my first attempt, I had been so very confident of a good performance in the Mains examination that I had it some where at the back of my mind that I would qualify irrespective of my marks in the interview. I did qualify, but the deficit in the interview meant that I qualified for the allied services! Take the interview with the seriousness it deserves. The mains examination puts you on the platform and the interview is the leap that you take. In Mussoorrie, you realize that there is not too much of a difference in the Mains score of the successful candidates. It is interview that comes in as the major differentiator.
  2. Dress well and be comfortable with dressing well. Coming from down south, I had never bought for myself a blazer. Tie was a pain in the neck during the first working days of my school days and one was relieved to be out of it in college. Now, I had said up front that it is too much to expect from any board to fish out your personality and earnestness in 30 minutes. So help them by showing in the most visible manner that you are earnest about the attempt. Plus it adds to ones own confidence while answering the questions (shall I reframe it as while making the conversation). I am sure it is not the correctness of the answer that is being valued out there - in that case they would have restricted themselves to questions where there is just one correct answer!
  3. Speak in the interview as if you are speaking to your parent's (or grand parent's - depending on the age) friends. Now this is not my statement and I don't remember where I read it. But it sounded sensible to me in approaching the interview. It suggests the right amount of respect and assertiveness in facing the interviewers. This will help you smile when you answer. This will help you listen carefully to their words. This will help you in realizing that they have their own opinion about the state of affairs. And most importantly this will help you avoid an out and out argument.
  4. It does not matter how right your answer is. It all depends on how rightly you put it. Ever heard about that joke about diplomats - that when a diplomats says yes he means may be; when he says may be he means no; and when he says no, oh then he is not a diplomat! In thirty minutes, if some one is able to provoke you into an argument in the UPSC interview hall, then he/she/they have just been able to prove that you are not the best pick for jobs where you have to constantly listen to illogical unreasonable out of the world unacceptable rubbish. I suggest the maximum you do in expressing absolute disagreement is to say, " I understand there is a alternative view point". Now am I suggesting that you lie by not telling them how you feel about it - Yes!
  5. Don't cook up answers. Now the person in front of us knows a thing or two about what she is asking. Not too many of us would ask about the technological lacunae in India's cryogenic programme if ever asked to put in a question during the UPSC interview. That is because not too many of us know about what that thing is all about. (at least I don't). Now if some body does ask you that question in the interview - I am assuming that we do not know the answer here - the best way to tackle is to admit to be not too well versed in that area. And if you are guessing, ask for permission from the Chairman by may be saying " I am unsure; but I can make a guess if you would allow me to". And then he has the bad fortune of listening to a howler from you, it is his fault. It becomes a little difficult when the question is related to your area of specialization. Now am I suggesting that you tell the truth about how much you know about it - Yes!
  6. Not being able to answer a question or two does not matter. But letting it affect you during the interview does matter. Life is not so kind as to give us questions that we will always be able to answer - and interviews are not any kinder. May be one should plan for it that one or two questions would not be answered to the perfection. Planning for that makes the frown on your face a little less when faced with the situation. If the board answers a question for you, listen to it eagerly and thank them for doing that.
  7. Speak slowly and deliberately. In case your English is not the strongest in the world it helps in avoiding grammar mistakes while speaking. If you make a mistake and don't get to know about it, it is still fine. But if you realize that you have got it wrong with the grammar soon afterwards, it can affect the confidence with which you speak which is even more of a problem than the mistaken grammar.
  8. Begin well. It is very easy typing away on the computer more than two years after my last UPSC interview, but I admit it was not that easy when I had to actually do it. In my first attempt, I began with a most courteous Good Morning Madam, Good Morning Sirs. (Ladies first - Protocol adhered to perfectly). The only problem was that it was two in the afternoon and the generous Chairman of the board smiled and wished me Good Afternoon Mr. Raghuraj. I don't remember the rest of my interview. I was kicking myself for that mistake and when the results came I realized that I was not alone in kicking myself! In my second attempt again it was the same time of the day and I was praying to my lords in heaven that I should not be going again for the Good Morning thing this time around. And the lords were very generous in granting the wish and I ended up saying Good Evening Madam, Good Evening Sirs. Thankfully it was around three o' clock this time and the Chairman was gracious enough not to have made that an issue. Suffice to say, begin well and even if you are not able to, do not let it affect you

And of course, be very specific with your prayers - the lords are short on processing time! Wish you all the very best!

Cheers!!! We are also coming up with the strategy of the person who got 235 in the interview.

Gaurav Uppal, IAS (AIR-3/ 2004)
Raghuraj Rajendran, IAS (AIR-25/2003)
Ankaj Sharma, IPS/2004
Aruna Rajoria IAS, (CSE 2003)
Pradyumna P.S. IAS (CSE 2003)
Tarundeep Kaur IRS (CSE 2006)
Anupama Singla (IRS/2006)
Amit Singla (ICES/2006)
Strategy of IAS Officers for
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