Before I get into nitty-gritty of my Interview experience at UPSC, let me explain why this interview has been called by UPSC in another nomenclature, “Personality Test” and what does it really mean? While Interview could be defined in a specific manner where there is an interaction between panel and the candidate with focus more on technicalities, Personality Test as put by UPSC encompasses broad sphere. It focuses on gamut of traits which a candidate must possess like clarity of expression, grasp of narrative and argument, reasoning ability, presence of mind, awareness and concern for socio-economic problems, ranges and depth of interests and attributes relevant to interaction with people. If I would have to arrange these in orderly manner, priority would be focus on awareness and concern for socio-economic problems and rest all can be arranged depending on individual subjectivity.
Coming to the ‘knowledge part’, it is important to have ranges and depth of interest but rest assured they do not want candidates who can floor them with their knowledge but rather a person with genuine awareness of overall development in society with whom they can engage in wider aspects of discussions. In a nutshell, honesty is the best sword you have as an aspirant who is out on journey to become an administrator because without being honest, it’s really difficult to find out your short comings. An honest analysis of self is the first requirement in path to become an administrator in general and to excel in Interview in particular.
Last year has been a paradigm changing year for civil services aspirants. There have been major changes in the pattern of Mains examination with focus shifting towards General Studies, Essay and Interview. Even though Optional might still create blunders by putting some candidates at disadvantageous position and creating ground for some others, shifting focus has been on providing level playing field. It is in this level playing field competition that Personality Test matters and it matters more as score level varied from 90 to 240 last year. Overall, the weightage percentage of Personality Test in the entire score (Mains and Interview) absolute figure came out to be 13.04 % till last year. However, since current pattern, there has been slight increase in weightage of Personality Test to 13.58%. Though people could have cakewalked to services earlier, solely banking on optional scores, that concept has been facing a volte face where there is a greater chance that if a candidate flounder in Interview or scores less, he / she might not even get into services, leave aside higher echelon services.
Stress could be provided on importance by quoting more and more data regarding these aspects but a glance at last year’s overall marks would suffice to prove my point. However, it is rather easy to judge someone from an individual perspective because at the end of the day, it’s the truth that subjectivities are involved and subjectivities could be in myriad forms. For an example, Panel looks for certain attributes in an administrator. No matter how honest and mesmerizing qualities we might have, it has to fit into the bill of requirement of administrator. From my experience, I have seen lot of people average in communication (read oratory skills) scoring on higher line and very fluent orator also getting average marks. In a nutshell, I can say it all boils down to “How much you know yourself and how passionate you have been to improve”? This applies throughout the phases of preparation as it is rightly said that personality building doesn’t take place overnight. It is an ongoing process and person keep on evolving.
Mistakes which I committed were some very common ones and some, which have been my own prejudices. Common mistakes are easily committed when we are nervous like bending to sit even before we are told (Trust me it looks very cozy to just sit somehow after travelling all the way to the interview hall. with peon), which shall not be done. Few students definitely commit such mistakes.
Secondly, after the conclusion of Interview, before getting out it’s a general tendency to look back when the panel talks and laughs among themselves. Don’t do it no matter how tempted you feel. It is another sign of nervousness (Why I did, god knows? But one thing was sure I was nervous)
Thirdly, when any simple questions are asked after long battle of words, remember it’s their way to calm you. Appreciate that and try to recoup your calmness. They have the experiences to see through you. They don’t want you to be perfect but they at least expect certain efforts from your side. Show them your willingness.
Fourthly, when there is an ongoing conversation with a particular member, maintain eye contact at least once with the entire panel but that must not be overdone. (For example, one elderly member was focused on his biscuits and snacks while I was forcibly trying to convince him by my arguments. It looked so out of place. I should have focused more on those who were paying attention to my details)
Fifthly, know yourself and your Bio data very well. I had written four hobbies and was not able to prepare on them. (Frankly, I didn’t expect interview call because of public administration fiasco)What is written on that DAF was written by you and you were not forced by someone to write so, it’s better if you work thoroughly on this aspect.
Last, it’s ok to accept your ignorance no matter how much your heart says that such a silly question must be answered. In that moment, trust me, no questions are silly. So apologize politely and move ahead. Remember, you have already been tested for knowledge and you are among chosen few called for interview. So don’t let your ego come in your way to reveal your true self. Let your humility aspect of human take over you. At the end of the day, there will always be certain bouncers and googlies thrown at you (Cricket terminologies) but not necessarily every such ball bowls you out. Show respect to them and dump them by ducking and move on.
Last but not the least, enjoy the entire process of Interview and trust me on this aspect, when you come out of the interview hall, a part of your personality definitely changes without even knowing yourself about it.
The applicant scored 162 in the Interview