If you thought completing the IAS Main exam would mark the end of the tough journey towards a successful career as a civil services officer, you couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, the time after the completion of IAS Main exams is the most precarious period for the aspirants, as it presents an uncertain situation, where aspirants can’t decide if they should begin IAS interview preparation or begin their studies for prelims.
The best way to move ahead in such a situation would be to stay optimistic and begin your IAS interview preparation so that you have enough time to work upon the nitty-gritty’s that are required to emerge victorious in the final stage of your IAS journey.
UPSC refers to the interview stage of the selection process for civil services examination as ‘Personality Test’ and there is a good reason for this. In fact, UPSC goes a step further and explains that the interview is not a cross-examination technique intended attesting either specialised or general knowledge of the candidate.
Through the interview stage, UPSC is trying to ascertain your personality traits and qualities and see if they are in line with those required to be a good civil services officers. Every action you take, your subtle body language traits and answers to all the questions being posed to you during your IAS Interview are designed to help the interview board have a glance at your personality.
Therefore, in order to crack the IAS Personality Test, you have to develop an appealing and pleasing personality that has traits required to perform duties of an IAS officer. These may include mental alertness, social assimilation, and focused approach to critical problems, moral integrity, honesty, personal interests, and socioeconomic awareness and leadership qualities. These are just a few factors that you should try and inculcate as part of your personality to ensure that it meets the requirements that the interview board is looking for.
One of the wittiest and popular questions asked to an aspirant during an IAS interview was regarding the number of stairs he climbed to reach to the interview hall. While it may sound something out of the ordinary, the interview panel is often known to pose such questions to check the mental alertness of the students.
While, the above question is just an example, but the general sense that you as an IAS aspirant should derive from this is to be mentally alert to all your surroundings. While no one can be completely sure of everything that is happening around them, making being mentally alert a conscious habit of your daily routine will go a long way in helping you during your interviews.
One simple way of doing this is by building associative relationships between things. For instance, if you read a news story, try to identify all the important aspects related to it in other events that are happening around us. Through questions that pose a query to your mental alertness, the interviewer is not interested in actually testing your knowledge, but how smartly can you answer a simple question.
Another simple way in which you can hone your personality for IAS interview process is by inculcating social etiquettes. Remember, you are appearing for an interview to be part of the elite Indian Administrative Service and once appointed you would be acting as the direct representative of the Indian government.
In the course of your service, you would be dealing with high-level officials as well as state dignitaries and eminent personality from different fields. Dealing with such a diverse group of high profile people would need great social etiquettes and awareness about protocols to be followed.
Along with your etiquettes, body language is another factor that will be looked into deeply by the interview panel. Simple factors like, how you greet the interview panel, your interpersonal skills and leadership qualities will help you score well in this aspect.
As made clear by the UPSC, the interview process for civil services exam is not a cross-examination of skill set or knowledge base of the candidate but a personality test. However, many aspirants, either in the excitement or nervousness of the moment end up answering the questions without actually listening or understanding what is being asked.
Apart from coming across as rude and arrogant, trying to answer a question midway also leads to candidates often not listening to the complete question and answering it as per their pre-conceived notions. In the majority of cases, the questions being posed by the interview panel would have direct hints or clues to the way you should assimilate your answers.
Therefore, it is very important to infuse listening skill as part of your personality. Apart from the interview as well, being a good listener would also help you in long run to listen and address problems being raised by the people to you as an IAS officer.
Logical & Targeted Answers
This point is directly related to the one we were discussing above. I think the first thing that the majority of IAS aspirants need to understand is that the civil services examination does not test to screen experts and this theme also runs in the interview round.
In other words, through a particular question, interview panel is not only trying to assess the depth of your knowledge in a particular field, but how well are you able to answer it, even with limited knowledge. IAS officers often have to deal with a variety of problems, issues and subjects that do not necessarily fall within their comfort zone, but yet they have to solve them.
The only way they can do that effectively is by offering logical and targeted problem-solving answers that do not require in-depth knowledge of the subject but a generalist understanding of the problem. Therefore, while preparing for your IAS interview, you should try and focus on building answers that aim practical and achievable solutions to the problems being presented before you.
If you thought your tryst with newspaper and magazines is over after the IAS Main exams, think again. UPSC puts a lot of emphasis on current affairs, general knowledge and contemporary socio-political scenario at all the stages of civil services examination, including the interview.
The main reason behind this is to help aspirants inculcate the habit of being abreast with the latest happenings around them, be it in the social, economic or political spheres. During the interview phase, candidates need to focus on current affairs more than ever, because the interview panel comprises of subject experts from different fields and the common denominator for them would always be in current affairs that affect their respective subjects.
Taking the theme of ‘Personality Test’ ahead, the IAS interview process is not really an interview but an intelligent conversation with the exchange of ideas with the interview panel. Ok, I know it sounds a bit unorthodox to treat your interview as merely a conversation, but past IAS toppers have often reverberated the same feeling. In fact, if you visit this link on the UPSC website, you will find that the interview phase is termed as a ‘purposive conversation which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.’ So, there you have it, UPSC also seconds treating the interview phase of IAS exam as a conversation.
Now, the question arises, how do you prepare for it, the simple answer is by having intelligent conversations with your peers, mentors, seniors and teachers. Having intellectually stimulating dialogue with your friends and mentors will help you assimilate different point of view and ideas on a variety of subjects and also assist you in preparing the flow of the answer in a logical and appealing fashion.
After current affairs, socioeconomic issues would the second most important topic of conversation during your IAS interview. The reason behind this is, as a civil servant you would be part of the governmental machinery deputed with the task of solving these issues. Therefore, it is very important for the interview panel to know and understand your stand, opinions and in a few cases the prospective solutions that you have to offer for such issues.
Keeping the diversity of India, these social issues can range from something as relevant as poverty and corruption to something technical as the development of domestic cryogenic rocket engines in India. Therefore, it is important to build a basic foundation for these issues and have a personal opinion on them.
Personal experiences play a vital role for candidates when it comes to the interview phase. It is rightly said by someone that we are a collective whole of millions of small experiences we have. Therefore, when it comes to IAS personality test, your personal experiences can help you a lot. The majority of questions posed by the interview panel (excluding the technical ones) would relate to the general socioeconomic and political problems faced by India as a country in a variety of fields.
Considering that you have lived and been part of the same India, means you would have a few special experiences to share with respect to these issues. Giving a personal colour to the question being asked by the interview panel presents you as someone who actually relates to the problems our country is facing is committed to solving them. Be it the pathetic condition of Indian railway coaches or declining fiscal deficit; you should try to frame your answer to these topics based on your personal experiences.
Honesty & Integrity
The most important factors that would impact your performance in IAS interview are honesty and integrity with which you choose to answer the questions being posed to you. Rather than treating the queries presented before you, you should consider them as topics on which the interview panel is seeking your opinion. The more honest your opinion, the better are your chances of being selected. Indian bureaucracy has been accused of being a corrupt agency by all, and these panellists are not interested in adding another dishonest officer to this rank.
IAS aspirants should remember that the interview panel comprises of experts with years of experience during which they have seen it all and they would quite easily be able to tell when you try to bluff yourself out of a tricky question or make a half-hearted attempt to answer a question about which you have no information.
Therefore, try to exhibit your original thought process and true self in everything you say and do during your interview, be it answering questions, greeting the panellists or even sharing your opinion about something.
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