Interviews conducted by UPSC for civil services are most popular in public imagination. However, UPSC conducts interviews throughout the year for various administrative and technical jobs. These interviews are as rigorous and comprehensive as civil service’s interviews. However these do not attract as wide publicity as attracted by the civil service interviews. The purpose of this article is not to go into details of genesis of this inscrutable anomaly. Idea behind the write up is to acquaint one with the wider idea behind the last ritualistic step in any mainstream recruitment process i.e. interview or more correctly called ‘Personality Test’.
I personally have the experience of appearing in civil service interview thrice and once for another administrative post of APFC (Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner). Though success still eludes me in civil service arena, I believe that certain help can definitely occur to aspirants if I can help in developing an elementary idea about the interview process.
As said ‘Last but not the least’, interview’s importance has never been negated by any successful aspirant. Relative importance of interview has further increased after the changes that were introduced last year. From this year onwards, marks in personality test will be awarded out of a total of 275 marks. Maximum marks in theory papers in Main examination have been kept at 250 each. Before the changes were introduced, evaluation was done out of a total of 300 marks in both interview and each theory paper. So in simple mathematically terms, interview is 10 % more potent in scoring marks for final rank list.
Besides, if one looks carefully at the scores obtained by students in last year’s Mains, where finding somebody scoring more than 100 out of 300 was like searching for a red herring and at the same time many students scored more than 200 marks out of 300 in interview. So in totality interview can be decisive in not only determining your service allocation but also even selection itself hinges precariously on your performance in interview. Interview’s importance has increased beyond doubt in last couple of years and it is completely in congruence with the principles of sound recruitment process.
The examination and interview methods have been adopted to determine the merit and suitability for recruitment across globe. An interview consists of systematically trying to find out the information, skills or views; a candidate has for the job for which he has sought the selection. Oral tests can gauge intangible qualities of character like, smartness, alacrity, emotional stability, confidence and fortitude. Relative importance of these qualities may be decided by the recruitment agency as per the need and demand of job. The technique of an oral test is that of a natural purposive conversation intended to reveal the qualities of the candidate. Probably that is the main reason why, UPSC prefers to call it personality test. Oral tests are considered as a necessary complement to written tests as the latter will always have limitations. Students with computer like mental make-up who lack in social skills are less suitable for jobs that require dealing with public in a big way.
‘Natural purposive conversation’ is the main idea behind personality test. Real nature of a person is hidden behind words that become mirror for knowing a candidate at Mains stage. But unlike in Mains the advantage of hiding behind words and taking liberty with time and choice of questions is severely curtailed at interview stage. Here one is present in body and soul. Natural settings are hard to be replicated in a stressed out environment. But UPSC makes it very sure that all candidates feel comfortable during the personality test. Initial questions are most often about one’s career, education or other details that are submitted by candidates themselves.
Only after candidates are comfortable more thought provoking and opinion based questions are asked. Caution: Interview can start abruptly and end abruptly also without giving you a chance to realize that your chance for the year is gone. But even if your interview starts on an unexpected ground, do take good control of your thoughts and behavior. You need not feel overburdened by the ‘not so satisfactory’ answers to starting questions. Board members are there to know the real you, bereft of all your pretentions. They will give you umpteen opportunities to show the real you. Even if you can show the strength of your true character in one single question, your evaluation will be unaffected by ‘not so satisfactory’ answers.
I have deliberately used the term ‘not so satisfactory’ answers as I personally feel that aspirants have proved their mantle beyond reasonable degree of doubt after sailing through preliminary and main stages. Most of the students who will be appearing for the interview (or rather Personality Test) are not going to give unreasonable or illogical answers. However, they feel more burdened by the weight of expectations and I need not elaborate more on this aspect. You must have felt the aura around you in your locality and community when they would have come to know that you are preparing for ‘The Civil Services’ and now you are inches closer to your aim.
I must elaborate on why I have raised the term ‘not so satisfactory’ answers. In my first PT (personality test), it started with a chemical reaction question, something that I have studied around 10 years ago. I happen to be a normal human being and I could not fetch that equation from the annals of my brain. However, I managed to answer the question in a rudimentary sense. But the damage was done to my confidence. Next came around 12-13 questions, which I could have answered in a much better way than I actually did. I was bogged down by first ‘not so satisfactory’ answer. The level of answers that came afterwards was not satisfactorily up-to the level that I had set for myself. Personally I was not happy with my performance. Later, score card showed that I got more than 170 and at that time it was considered a decent score. If I would not have let that ‘not so satisfactory’ answer to overcome me, it would have been better for sure.
So, the lesson that I have learnt and want to share with you is that you as aspirant will never be satisfied with quality of your answers. No matter how good you perform there will always be a scope of improvement (at least in your own personal evaluation). So, you can spare some time after Personality Test is over, for introspecting, discussing and at times cursing yourself. But do not let any portion of your mind be bogged down or feel low due to any ‘not so satisfactory’ answer.
Some rudimentary and basic idea about clothing, hairstyle, shave, saree, tie, coat, etc. you must be having. I would not waste your time here, just a basic idea. Dress and carry yourself in a comfortable way. This is not a fashion show. But one must show respect to the office and board members by her / his dressing and way of talking / behaving and responding. Now, I intend to talk about the nature of questions that are the soul of the whole process.
I would not be discussing any particular question that I have been asked. You must be having access to internet and numerous interview experiences are available at click of mouse. Instead of that, I must share with you certain insights that I could develop after repeatedly facing board members. First and most important thing about ‘not so satisfactory’ answer I have already shared with you. Next in line would be how you tackle questions about which you have no clue and you feel like lost in Amazon forest. Well, the most popular (and effective also) way out is to politely accept your inability to answer and escape out. You can give explanation for same if you think board members want to hear. Do not try to forcefully say or explain something which board is not interested in knowing. You must stick to the demand of question asked and try to finish your answer with minimum required words.
The idea that one must stick to the demand of question is valid for Mains also. But there if you do not do the same, you will be awarded less marks for the particular question and damage will be limited; I Can only speculate this, still, this is on informed speculation. But in interview, the answer sheet between you and evaluator is absent. Here, you cannot give an answer and strike it out. Your first answer has to be final and to the point. So, do not answer in thoughts and ideas that you want to say rather act as per the demand of questions.
Then comes the most debatable issue of range fixation according to first impression. Often it is said that once the tone of interview is set, then marks are invariable given in the range that board has found appropriate at the first meeting i.e. first question. It is believed that the level of your first answer sets the initial maximum to minimum range of the marks. Your further evaluation will be to determine whether you end at the lower end or higher end of the range. E.g. if board believe that your potential is in 150-200 range, then questions will be asked accordingly. To further upgrade the range you have to come up with continuously exceptional answers. And Personality Test continues further. The idea behind the logic of range setting is the proverb- First impression is the last impression. But is this always true? Board members are expert in judging aspirants. You, me or any of our friends might have faced 5 or maximum 6 interviews, but for board the number might be in 100s. They are experienced people who are best in business. Often it is said that one must not limit oneself in any rigid framework. Board also must not be having any fixed guidelines or range setting mechanism.
Overall evaluation in Personality test is about your personality. And only you can defeat yourself during this last and crucial stage.
The applicant was finally selected for APFC