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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 2, 09 - 15 April 2022

Civil Services Interview Main Ingredients of Preparation

S B Singh

Civil Services interview, also known as personality test, is tentatively scheduled from 6th April 2022 and will continue till late May. During this period, scores of candidates who qualified in the main examination conducted by UPSC will be facing the UPSC interview board in Delhi. A sense of fear and nervousness is inevitable because there is so much at stake for the candidates. However, there is no real cause to get scared because of three main reasons. One, there is nothing unpredictable that is going to happen at the interview. Of the three stages of the Civil Services examination, interview is the most predictable one and you can always anticipate most of the questions and issues put before you by the board. Secondly, the board is always very friendly with the candidate and instead of making you nervous; they will help you attain your poise. Thirdly, it is not going to be a question bombardment session; rather, it is going to be just an engaging conversation with the board. In any case, since it is a personality test, what is going to be tested is what all is that you have cultivated so far in life and not just what you are going to read few days before the interview. Therefore, it is absolutely desirable to treat the interview as a normal event and not as a super event.

Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher said, "Life is simple. But, we insist on making it complicated." In the same vein, Civil Services interview is simple. But it is deliberately made out to be complicated. In the good old days, there was no coaching to groom the candidates, yet, they used to perform well. What matters at the end of the day is not what others would like you to say or do, but what really you need to say and do from your own perspective. So, instead of borrowing often conflicting perspectives from others, you should trust your own instincts as far as preparing for the interview is concerned. This is not to say that outside help is to be discarded fully. All that is meant here is that you need to exercise caution in taking outside help, mostly coming from unreliable experts. Today, people without any knowledge of what the Civil Services interview is all about, are masquerading as experts and making big claims to groom you for the day. One should have a cautious approach while seeking guidance in grooming sessions because a lot of myths have been created about the interview by the self-styled experts. Remember, only highly experienced persons in the field with known caliber can truly guide you. Therefore, seek help of only the authentic, capable persons in the field of interview.


I.                   DAF or Detailed Application Form: This is a form that a candidate has to fill out after the results of the main examination and submit to the UPSC. This will be made available to each member of the interview board. The members take keen interest in reading the information supplied by you in your DAF and read it as if they are reading your horoscope! This is quite natural because your DAF is going to give them a fair idea of who you are, where you come from, what your parents do, which school/college you have attended, which subjects you have studied, what has been your performance in the examination etc. Also, your DAF will reveal your hobbies, extra-curricular activities, prizes, trophies you have won. Finally, your past job profile, if any, is also mentioned by you in the DAF, and that would make the members interested in your job profile, your job responsibilities, your ways of handling the assigned job and so on. Really speaking, DAF engages the board very well because it directly concerns you. Your entire personality is reflected by your DAF because it carries almost every relevant information about you. Therefore, defending the information given in the DAF can be quite challenging. In fact, many candidates, who do not appear before the board without much deliberation on their DAF, flounder when confronted with questions regarding the information furnished. Do not forget this: you have yourself furnished the information in your DAF, and it is expected of you to sound genuine. To take an example, suppose you have mentioned that you have worked for an NGO which looks after destitute children, you will have to convince the board that you had a real, genuine interest in working for the destitute children and you did not join the NGO just to embellish your bio data. If you really did not have deep commitment to the cause of the destitute children, it will be exposed before the board for sure, and you will be badly caught on the wrong foot. Similarly, if there is a gap of one or two years in your educational degrees, you cannot give them a fabricated excuse for this. It is always safer to speak the truth. If you tell any lies, you just won't be able to defend it. Therefore, learn to defend your DAF well with honesty.

II.                International Issues: Questions on current international issues are bound to be raised during the interview. More so this year, because so much is happening in the world currently. No matter what is your academic background, you will be asked about how you look at the important developments in international relations. If an aspirant has opted for the IFS (Indian Foreign Service), then he/ she will have to justify his/her choice by showing a keen interest in international issues.

Likely Questions: Conduct of foreign policy during the Covid-19 pandemic, relations with immediate neighbours under the Neighborhood First Policy, India and its extended neighbours-West Asia, and Central Asia, India's bilateral relations with its South Asian neighbours as well as with China, USA, Russia, Israel, Iran, EU, UK, France, Australia. India and the Multilateral Organizations like the UN, WTO, IMF, IBRD. Indian nuclear policy with special reference to no first use policy. India-Africa and India-Latin America relations, India's Act East Policy, Act Far East Policy, Arctic Policy, problems of Indian Diaspora. In the context of Russian invasion of Ukraine, a number of questions shall be raised about India's stand on the crisis, India- Russia relations, Russia - Ukraine relations, emerging cold war and the shape of a future world order.

Preparation Strategy: Apart from reading leading newspapers, one should consult some latest books on Indian foreign policy. Journals like Frontline, The Economist, IDSA journal will be helpful in preparing on international issues.

Important World Issues:

Russia- NATO relations, RussiaUS rivalry, US-China rivalry, Russia-China relations, IndoPacific Policy and Quad.

III.             Governance Issues: Minimum Government and maximum governance, issues of corruption, performance of the governing institutions like the executive, bureaucracy, reforms in the Civil Services, reforms in the CBI, CVC, NHRC, administrative tribunals, issues like deputation of Civil Services officers from the states to the Centre. New schemes/ programs launched in the latest budget. New acts passed by the Parliament and controversies around them, farmers agitation and farm laws, anti-conversion laws. Various schemes and programs being run by government and their effectiveness, difference between governance and good governance, issue area in Centre-State relations.

Preparation Strategy: A close look at the newspaper reports on challenging governance issues, Annual Reports of various Ministries, Economic Survey, ARC-II Report on governance. PRS India website provides good inputs on governance issues. Important legislation on various aspects of governance must be remembered well.

IV.             Social Issues: Women related issues are always important and bound to be raised during the interview. Emphasis should be given on the following: Women safety, female participation in labour force, women empowerment, marital rape criminalization issue, raising the age of marriage, hijab issue, atrocities on Dalits, problems of hunger and nutrition, trafficking in human beings, patriarchy and Indian society, problems of migrants, evil of drugs, liquor.

Preparation Strategy: Apart from reading newspaper articles, one must acquaint oneself with government interventions in the social sector by reading annual reports of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Social Justice Ministry, Health Ministry etc.

V.                Controversial Issues: Since many issues on which questions are framed are of controversial nature, taking a stand on them becomes a huge challenge for the candidates. The solution lies in presenting both sides of the issue, and then prescribing a balanced stand. One should never display personal bias on the controversial issues. Rather, a national perspective i.e., public interest, should be kept in mind while answering such questions. Caution must be taken not to criticise the government directly for its failures. However, if there is any deficiency in government action or policy, one must be frank enough to give suggestion for improvement and a better way of handling of the issue by the government. No harm in fair criticism of government policies with a view to improvement in governance. Likely controversial issues that may invite questions at the interview: India's stand on Ukraine at the UN, problems of Indian medical students studying in Ukraine, failure of farmers laws, hijab issue, marital rape issue, raising the age of girls' marriage, independence of CBI, transfer of Civil Servants from States to the Centre.

Preparation Strategy: One should study the main arguments on the controversy and formulate a stand that he/she can defend well before the board. One can take any stand on the issue provided there is sound logic to defend it. The interview board will appreciate good, mature arguments offered by the candidate.

VI.             Make Your Presence Felt: Apart from preparing on the above mentioned topics, it is also important as to how you project your personality during the interview session. A pleasant personality with a smiling face, depicting self -confidence through your body language, being courteous and respectful to the board members, not interrupting them while they are speaking, making eye contact with all the members, sitting in a proper posture in the chair, sounding genuine and authentic all the time- these are the ingredients of a good interview. Always project your authentic, real personality and don't try to project what you are not. At all times during the interview session, display energy, enthusiasm, and keenness to listen to the members. If a member cracks a light joke, smile with him. If a member tries to correct your answer, accept it humbly and thank him. Don't feel guilty before the board if you do not know something. It is only human not to know everything. Leave the interview room with a smile and wishing the board members.

The author is an academician and a Civil Service Coach. He can be reached at: sb_singh2003@ yahoo.com

Views expressed are personal