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UPSC Civils Interview Part 3 – What the Board Expect From You

This is the third and final part of the UPSC Civil Services Interview Guidance. You can start with the Part 1. After being aware of the basics of Civils Interview, move to Part 2 for a sequence in the article where you will know the strategy for Civils Interview. Here comes the third part which deals with the inside board room issues in Civils Interview. Usually, the Chairman of the Board will open the interview by reviewing the highlights of your education and work experience from your application - primarily for the benefit of the other members of the board, as well as to get material into a record. Don't interrupt or comment unless there is an error or significant mis-interpretation; if so, don't hesitate. But don't quibble about insignificant matters. Usually, also, he will ask you some question about your education, your experience, or your present job-partly to get you started, to establish the interviewing - rapport. He may start the actual questioning, or turn it over to one of the other members. Frequently each member undertakes the questioning on a particular area, on in which he is perhaps most competent. So you can expect every member to participate in the examination. And because the time is limited, you may expect some rather abrupt switches of direction during the questioning. Don't be upset by it. Normally, a board member will not pursue a single line of questioning unless he discovers a particular strength or weakness.

How to put your best foot forward?

Throughout all this process, you may feel that the board individually and collectively is trying to pierce your defenses, to seek out your hidden weaknesses, and to embarrass and confuse you. Actually this is not true. They are obliged to make an appraisal of your qualifications for the job you are seeking, and they want to see you in your best light. Remember, they must interview all candidates and a non-co-operative candidate may become a failure in spite of their best efforts to bring out his qualifications. Here are some suggestions that will help you :

1) Be natural. Keep your attitude confident, but not stubborn. If you are not confident that you can do the job, don't expect the board to be. Don't apologize for your weaknesses, try to bring out your strong points. The board is interested in a positive, not a negative presentation. Stubborn behaviour will antagonize any board member, and make him wonder if you are covering up a weakness by a false show of strength.

2) Sit comfortably, but don't lounge or sprawl. Sit erectly but not stiffly. A careless posture may lead the board to conclude you are careless in other things, or at least that you are not impressed by the importance of the occasion. Either conclusion is natural, even if incorrect. Don't fuss with your clothing, or with a pencil or any other object. Your hands may occasionally be useful to emphasize a point; don't let them become a point of distraction.

3) Don't wisecrack or make small talk. This is a serious situation, and your attitude should show that you consider it as such. Further, the time of the board is limited; they don't want to waste it, and neither should you.

4) Don't exaggerate your experience or abilities. In the first place, from the information in your mains application and any other form which you may be asked to fill in before the interview. The board may know more about you that you think; in the second place, you probably won't get away with it in the first place. An experienced board is rather adept at spotting such a situation. Don't take the chance.

5) Don't dominate the interview. Let the board do that. They will give you the clues-don't assume that you have to do all the talking. Realise that the board has a number of questions to ask you and don't try to take up all the interview time showing off your extensive knowledge of the answer to the first one.

6) Be attentive. You only have thirty minutes or so, and you should keep your attention at its sharpest throughout. When a member is addressing a problem or a question to you, give him your undivided attention. Address your reply principally to him, but don't exclude the other members of the board.

7) Don't interrupt. A board member may be stating a problem for you to analyze. He will ask you a question when the time comes. Let him state the problem, and wait for the question.

8) Make sure you understand the question. Don't try to answer until you are sure what the question is. If it's not clear restate it in your own words or ask the board member to clarify it for you. But don't haggle about minor elements.

9) Reply promptly but not hastily. A common entry on oral board rating sheet is "candidate responded readily", or "candidate hesitated in replies". Respond as promptly and quickly as you can, but don't jump in to a hasty, ill-considered answer.

10) Don't be preemptory in your answers. A brief answer is proper - but don't fire your answer back. That is a losing game from your point of view. The board member can probably ask questions much faster than you can answer them.

11) Don't try to create the answer you think the board member wants. He is interested in what kind of a mind you have and how it works - not in playing games. Furthermore, he can usually spot this practice and will usually grade you down on it.

12) Don't switch sides in your reply merely to agree with a board member. Frequently, a member will take a contrary position merely to draw you out and to see if you are willing and able to defend your point of view. Don't start a debate, yet don't surrender a good position. If a position is worth taking, it is worth defending. There is a thin line of distinction between stubborness and being defensive.

13) Don't be afraid to admit an error in judgement if you are shown to be wrong. The board knows that you are forced to reply without any opportunity for careful consideration. Your answer may be demonstrably wrong, if so, admit it and get on with the interview.

14) Don't dwell at length on your present job. (in case you are working). The opening question may related to your present assignment. Answer the question but don't go into an extended discussion. You are being examined for a new job, not your present one. As a matter of fact, try to phrase all your answers in terms of the job for which you are being examined.

15) Don't bring in extraneous comments or tell lengthy anecdotes. Keep your replies to the point. If you feel the need of an illustration from your personal experience, keep it short. Leave out the minor details. Make sure the incidence is real and not imaginary.

Probably you will forget most of the "do's" and "don't's" when you walk into the oral interview room. Even remembering them all will not ensure you a passing grade.

But remembering them will help you to put your best foot forward, without treading on the toes of the board members.
Rumour and popular opinion to the contrary not withstanding, an oral board wants you to make the best appearance possible. They know you are under pressure - but they also want to see how you respond to it as a guide to what your reaction would be under the pressures of the job you seek. They would rather give you a good than fail you but there's is a heavy responsibility, for upon their decisions will depend, in some measure, the success or failure of a public service and the expenditure of large sums of the taxpayer's money. Whether it is contained in the area of examination or not, they will be influenced by the degree of poise you display, the personal traits you show, and the manner in which you respond. It is up to you to convince the board that you possess the necessary qualifications to assure satisfactory performance in the position you seek. Proper preparation should assist you in making this demonstration. Hope that this statement will help you do your better.


Mental alertness,
Critical powers of assimilation
Clear and logical exposition
Balance of judgement
Variety and Depth of interest,
Ability for social cohesion and Leadership
Intellectual and Moral integrity.


What is the standard of the candidates mental ability ? Does he think logically and efficiently
Is he business like ? Is he interested in the practical detailed of the scheme as well as the broad principles ?
Has he shown himself to be constructive and imaginative or does he merely reproduced ?
Can he express himself clearly ?
Does his record suggest vitality and stamina ?
Is he mentally adoptable and flexible or is his mind rigid and impervious to new ideas.
Is he a man with some continuity of purpose ?
Is his ambition reasonably attuned to the requirements of the public service?


Candidates from Andhra Pradesh have been doing very well at Interview in the last few years. Let us hope there will be a repeat performance and at least 75 candidates from Andhra Pradesh will qualify in the NANDANA NAMA SANVANTHRAMU.

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