Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Interview Tips

Hello Friends,

Its that time of the year again. :) Best wishes to all those who cleared the mains written exam to proceed to the interview stage. Remember that the interview can make or break your entire effort. Last year I scored only 50 marks more than the written cutoff mark, but my interview scores propelled me into a decent rank and service (333).

For all those who couldn't make it through all the way to the end- we live to fight another day (and year). Good luck for the prelims. :)

Well, am pitching in with my two bits of interview experience and advice, for whatever it is worth. Feel free to drop in with questions/queries/comments 

Our mains application is one thing on which we must be thorough. The interviewer can throw any issue at us, and we may/may not know it, but there is no excuse if you cannot justify whats on your application. Regarding this I read one very useful tip -am posting below:

1. Firstly, take a printout of your mains application form. From that in a notebook write down each word of your application form on a different page. Ofcourse write relevant words, for example
----- the name of your school(s): Kendriya Vidyalaya or if it is named after some person after whom the school is named, like St. John/ Shyama Prasad Mukherjee etc.
----- If your address contained some persons name, eg mine contained "Assaye Lines"- I learnt that it referred to a battle of the Second Anglo-Maratha war. 
----- If you lived in any place then the history, geography, economy of that place, something its famous for- like artifacts, personalities, dams,industries etc. If it has been in the news recently.

Basically once you have written all relevant words on separate pages, then start thinking of all the questions they can ask about that word. Seek help from friends and family in finding questions they can ask. Then ofcourse prepare answers for all of them.  This way you will be confident when you walk into interview.

Other tips from my experience:

2. The interviewers jot down some topics beforehand on which they ask questions- for example last year I was asked about Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi's ten-point programme, Green Revolution, paid-news scandal, since my interview fell on the birth anniversary of Ambedkar they asked me, "What is important about this day"- I said Ambedkar's anniversary, then they asked me what are some of the books he has written etc. Some of them as you can see, were completely out of the blue like Mother Teresa and Indira Gandhi's ten-point programme- answer them as best you can, and for what you dont know politely say that, "you are sorry, you dont know/cant recall" etc.

3. From the Ambedkar experience, remember to read the newspaper of the day on which you have your interview.

4. Some questions will undoubtedly be inspired by your application. For example I was asked about the place of my birth (Nalgonda), why it was famous etc. Nalgonda has been a hub for communist/naxalite activity since the 1940s, so I was asked about the state of Naxalism now- I said it wasn't very active now and one of the panel-members asked me if i was sure about that. - From this, I think if you are sure about something you should be assertive on it. If it does turn out to be wrong, then you can say that "you stand corrected" etc.

They will usually pick up some out-of-ordinary fact in your application form to ask questions about. Say, you have mentioned some different hobby, studied some place not usual etc, so expect questions on those areas.

However despite all preparation some questions inspired by your application will be a complete googly. For example I studied for sometime in London, so despite all my prep about my university, subject, burning issues in UK, they asked me about "London traffic". I was a little stumped- so the lesson is, expect the unexpected- you never know what will trigger their imagination. But such questions will be few and far between- dont let it unnerve you.

5. Usually the chairperson of the interview panel (who is always a Member of the UPSC) will begin questioning. He/She will ask a few questions and then request the next member to continue. Initially I felt that each member has a set of questions they ask, after which that issue is not repeated, but I was wrong. One of them asked me about Green Revolution and I didnt answer satisfactorily-when his turn ended I was relieved that the topic was over, but to my bad luck the last member again picked up the same issue. So a topic can continue.

6. BE PRECISE in your ANSWERS. They dont wait very long for your answer- so practice being precise in your answers. Write down 2-3 line answers for all the questions you have prepared.

If I remember any more then I will write again, but I just want to write some info on the physical process of the interview which may help first-time interviewees in becoming familiar with the process. So here goes:

a. When the interview list comes out, you  will see that against each day, the forenoon session and afternoon session are mentioned separately. Remember that the order in which your roll number appears on that list will be the order in which you will be called for interview. It helped me to know this, cause I was the first interviewee of the day.

b. The UPSC gates open at 9, so be there on time. Show your letter - enter the gates - enter the waiting hall. Here each of you will be given a table number where you have to be seated. This table is the group of aspirants who will be interviewed by the same panel. If you are carrying a mobile phone then there is a deposit facility before entering the waiting-hall.

c. Then they will ask you to show your certificates, photocopies, sign some forms, photographs etc. After this your certificates will be verified and the originals returned to you. 

d. Then they will place a big bundle of newspapers on every table for you to pass time. But if you are the first/second interviewee then you wont have much time, so read/browse the newspaper before you reach UPSC.

e. Then each interviewee will be called for the interview. You have to take your originals with you. You are taken to the interview room and made to sit outside on a bench. They have water bottles for you to drink there, (if you forget to take one along, like me).

f. Then you are called inside the room. These rooms are actually the rooms of each of the UPSC members-they are not very big. There are about 4-5 interviewers + 1 chairperson, so in all about 5-6 of them. They will be seated around the table and you will be motioned to a seat across them. When you sit, try and sit comfortably- with your back touching the backrest, feet on floor, open palm resting on the arms/in your lap etc (if you cant because you are short, or there are no armrests don't fret, just be as comfortable as you can)- this is basically so that you dont fidget during the interview

g. Ofcourse before sitting, greet everyone. And smile and try to relax. I was initially nervous and it showed in my answers but in a span of 2-3 questions i tried to relax and then my answers were better too.

h. The interview process usually lasts about 25-30 mins. But it could be shorter or longer and the length of the interview does not determine how well it went. I read an interview experience last year, where the interview lasted only a mere 15 mins but the guy was scored a 245 in the interview. So try and respond as best you can and to those you cant answer as many others would say, just say sorry that you dont know.

i. At the end of the interview thank everyone, and collect your file and leave.

Hope this helps. Good luck for the ongoing prep.

Best Wishes


  1. Hello Sir,
    Thanks for sharing this detailed info on ur blog Please share ur detailed strategy regarding prelim 2012

    Thanks again
    God bless you success in interview 2011

  2. Hi Rajeev,

    Thanks for the wishes for the interview 2011- unfortunately I wont be attending it this time.

    Regarding Prelim 2012, hmm...there's nothing different from the usual:
    - NCERT books for History, Geography, General Science
    - ICSE 9th and 10th book of environmental studies
    - any civils magazine specialising in environment
    - Laxmikant for Polity
    - any good civils compilation for Economics like Pratiyogita Darpan, Wizard, Competition Success etc
    - for current affairs- regularly follow any magazine from September 2011 till April 2012
    - For Maths and data analysis, reasoning etc. practice from NCERT/RS Agarawal type books and any CAST special publication.
    - Also remember that the prelims is still connected to Mains preparation through General Studies. So for GS read one newspaper daily (preferably Hindu) and start making notes area wise- eg: foreign affairs, science and tech, environment, policies and programmes of govt etc. One can ofcourse read compilations on these various areas in magazines, but making personal notes will help you remember and also improve writing skills.

    For prelims try and go through all the material atleast thrice to be thorough.

    Thats all i can think of now, if you have any questions write in.

    Glad to be of help

  3. Thanks a lot Sir for ur reply

    and Happy colorful Holi


  4. Hi, jst curious .. 2012 will be ur 3rd attempt ? And u must be in training for service .. Which service u r in ?

  5. HI Ankur, Yup- 2012 will be my 3rd attempt. And I joined the IRS(C&CE)and am on leave right now.
    Are you preparing for interview now? Good luck with that.

  6. Well I m too actually preparing for prelims again.