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[Guide] For Candidates with - First Interview , But not First Attempt

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  • This is based on my annual experience with some of the candidates that I meet for the personality Test. A lot of candidates who are appearing for their first Interview, and have good communication skills make a few mistakes, which I feel should be documented.

    First Interview, Many Feelings

    One, I have seen that people who have gotten their first Interview - after several attempts often have a lot to say in their UPSC Interview. This overwhelmed-with-the-Interview-call is understandable , after all it has nearly taken your life to reach here. When you have a lot to say, you tend to be emotional about it.

    Second, some of such candidates, even in the mocks tend to over speak because of their emotional attachment with the cause ( IAS the job, or burning issues that are contentious - such as Sabrimala, Women Empowerment etc ) . This is again very common - because in Mains, you hardly get the opportunity to speak your mind given the time constraint, lack of human interface and "how-to-write-the-best-answer." guides.

    Thirdly, a lot of people / coachings / our elders / parents / well-wishers ( especially , who think we will make a good officer and have all the qualities such as sympathy for the poor, weaker sections, women etc. ) tell us this is a personality test, and you speak your mind. Do not hide your personality.

    Its larger than life. Its life itself.

    Fourthly, we often, as aspirants make the exam - larger than life

    ( and we should , because if we have to achieve something , we have to make it worth achieving. This larger than life imagination creates the driving force for the attainment of the goal. I myself have cried in the washroom, when someone I was expecting and gave hours to does not make it to the expected rank and have danced with joy, when someone I worked with and expected made it. I make such things larger than life for me, or else it would reduce my commitment or enthusiasm. And people around me often wonder why I make such a big deal about it when I am running something as inglorious as coaching! ).

    Thus we have a certain world view about what is the requirement from us as IAS and IPS Officers aspirants who will run the country.

    I would like to argue a few things, and some people who have appeared for the Interview more than two times or so will be able to understand at least some of my arguments.

    Keep the butterflies quiet

    Firstly, while you may be overwhelmed with feelings at this stage - if you are appearing for your first interview ( and you feel your life depends on it ), we have to be rational and objective in our outlook. By this I mean to say is that we should not be emotionally attached to the issues that we read about and are asked in the Interview on day to day basis. Keep those butterflies quiet.

    I am aware of a close friend and student, who got her first Interview call after several years, and on being asked this question - "Why IAS", she got emotional and got carried away. She had a real reason, which was a very personal one, and she disclosed it to the board. Because she was close, she confessed to me that she did this. In fact she had tears and her emotions could be seen during the interview. She admitted it all. A little shamefully.

    All this drama did reflect in her Interview score.

    ( I know that this happens to a lot of people, but many will not admit it because (a) it is embarrassing and (b) everyone would look down saying why the hell did you do it. )

    Being outstanding at Mains, she did get the service, but her Interview marks were a poor reflection of her personality. So if you are aware of emotions running high at this stage, try being objective and a little detached in your arguments.

    Moral of the story :

    • Do not cry in the Personality Test. It is more common than you think.
    • Do not get into an argument. It does not go well even if you win the argument.

    Be a rebel. But some other time.

    Secondly, some of us when told something that is contrary to their conduct, often have the rebel rise up in them - at the wrong time. The rebel in us which should be there at adolescence suddenly springs up in the Interview, and we decide to speak our minds , without caring for any feedback given to us by some people.

    I want to tell you that when preparing for Mains, you focussed on writing answer as per UPSC requirement - you wrote the essay as per UPSC requirement - and not your best answer or best essay - why shy away from preparing for the Interview as per UPSC requirement?

    Then why a rebel attitude at the wrong time?

    I am no saying or suggesting that "there is a fixed requirement" and that "i alone know the requirement", but I would suggest that "there may be a requirement of certain qualities, certain traits suitable for a person who has to do the job" and the "requirements can be understood by actually understanding the nature of the job that is to be done by an IAS" - which is not social service ( it is not social service if you draw a salary for doing that particular work, even if the salary may be a meagre one , because you last MNC paid you really well ), but a job of managing and pursuing hundreds of schemes, rule and regulations, circulars and orders". Some of these schemes will make no sense to the area you work, but being a hierarchy based organisation, you anyway have to do it. Most of the times, the service requires people who just do their job. Being public spirited merely makes it easy to do the job, and is an added quality and not the most primary one.

    I have had the opportunity of working with District Collectors and Secretaries and I can tell you that the job requires unbiased people who will do their jobs. Some of these people sit in the interview board , and are likely to chose people like themselves.

    So, again, I would like to reiterate that calmness of mind has to be achieved, and any rebel feelings have to be curbed at this time.

    You have to score marks - as immoral, lowly and cheap as it may sound - and not to convince a board of how you think the country has to be run.

    Pre-pared or pre-meditated ?

    Thirdly , a lot of people believe that answers should NOT be prepared beforehand - even the basic ones like "why IAS , Why leave that xyz job and do this?".

    They say that I would like to be original and do not want to "ratto" an answer and speak it like a parrot. In my experience, people who do not want to "prepare" an answer thinking that it hampers their free speech, creativity - often end up saying things that they did not intend to say . They also end up saying different things when asked the same question again and again.

    Do not believe me?

    The curious case of board-not-satisfied

    I can explain. Have you heard from your seniors / friends that the board kept asking a question again and again and that "they were not convinced". I have done it myself. I take some mocks myself, and on being asked a question repeatedly, people do change answers!.

    It is often in the third or fourth iteration, they actually say the truth / the reason what is commonly behind a certain choice.

    Believe me you, what fantastic answers they give when asked the same question 4-5 times, without accepting it the first time.

    Why not do this at home then? Why do this rehearsal in the UPSC?

    Rattofying is not the solution, Reflection is.

    At this point, some people may accuse that I am asking you to ratto some answers. I would not be more misunderstood than this. All I am arguing for is that can those questions be reflected upon beforehand?

    We often mistake the first answer that our mind gives us as the correct one ( and by corollary any suggestions from outside as wrong, externally imposed ones ) . I can bet that if you think deeply enough, and follow the Socratic method, you will end up knowing the actual answer yourself.

    Why I am asking this is because this is what I see

    • People often give different answer to the same question depending on mood, time, who is asking the question and what they last read or who they last spoke to. This means that your answers are not genuine.

    • People who do not prepare give random answers. And they have trouble recalling what they said in the Interview. They end up saying "what they think they said" but not what they actually said.

    • Some people who do not document their Interview Script often ( not all of them ) fall in this category.

    Its not a Harvard Application or a Google Interview

    • Some people think that UPSC Interview is about thinking out loud. When asked question, you dump all that you think - in fluent English without a break.

    I have cracked Interviews with Microsoft and a couple of top tech companies, and I can tell you that this is only a corporate requirement.

    In Top private companies, it is commonly held that I am not interested in what you are saying, I want to know how you think. Also they have infinite time. Interviews are of 6-7 rounds in top companies and can go on till midnight.

    In UPSC, most people will tell you that whatever you speak, think and speak. The interview ill not exceed the stated time by a large margin, wont go till late night, and if it is running late and you are the last candidate, you will be winded up in 15 mins.

    In short, dont speak the first think that comes to mind. Take you time, take 10 seconds and say a final answer. Do not think aloud, and keep speaking on and on.

    When a senior asks a subordinate a question ( or the Chief Minister asks an officer a questions ) , it is not expected that the subordinate thinks out aloud and speaks garbage. It is expected that he gives a final answer, and on being asked why he thinks so, he should be able to defend his answer, with solid arguments - that should not fall apart when confronted with the first counter question.

    I rest my case.

    P.S. I am documenting this because though a very limited number of people suffer from the issues listed above, it affects them hugely.

    The above may partially, completely or totally not apply to you. People are unique, so while it may be very irrelevant for you, it will be supremely relevant ( and deciding factor ) for some. Appreciate the diversity.

    If this resonates with a problem you are facing or you have faced, by all means, give yourself some time, reflect and you will be good to go. No personality change is required, merely the way you approach the interview has to be seen through a different frame of mind.

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