A written examination followed by a personality test is mandatory for selection to any job nowadays. Though the weightage of marks for the personality test is lesser compared to the written part, people are more worried about facing an interview board and answering questions in person. The personality test of the UPSC civil service examination therefore becomes tricky as people are worried about creating a good impression not only by looks and talks but through body language too.
It's the time when people try to memorise body language tips from corporate grooming experts. Certain traits are given excessive weightage to get that perfect picture of a confident candidate. People are asked to smile irrespective of their natural comfort. This sometimes create awkward and nervous expressions if one is tensed up.
Another popular advice is to maintain proper eye contact. Well, I had once seen a candidate with a thick eyebrow staring and making the person in the mock interview board uncomfortable! He was taking things too literally.
I was blamed for nodding often by many 'experts'. The lack of or excessive hand movements are also subjected to general criticism. One is advised to sit erect without crossing the legs as well.
As the people in the interview board watch you the moment you enter the room, the starting point of proper body language is your gait. A smart walk with a straight posture will surely create a good first impression. Particularly it is expected of people from uniformed services and people who were part of National Cadet Corps or sports field.
Sitting comfortably is also important. Use the back support and sit straight. Do not keep the hands on the table. Use minimum hand gestures but do not raise your hand above the shoulder level.
When it comes to eye contact, one should look at the person who asked the question while answering. One should not look up or down while speaking and should generally be attentive.
If you have a naturally pleasant face, maintain it that way and do smile whenever there are lighter moments. People who have a serious expression normally, need to retain an attentive expression throughout the process and they also should smile on appropriate occasions.
If one has an odd mannerism like blinking too often, one should try to correct it. But sometimes if a candidate is really good in speaking, the board may forget to notice certain shortcomings. A student of mine had a problem of her hands shaking while speaking. But since her answers were so good, it never became a hindrance in getting maximum marks in the interview.
Are these tips too difficult to memorise? Don’t worry; to get your body language right you just need to relax. The idea here is to have a positive attitude about oneself. In the civil service interview, the selected 2,000 candidates have already faced two tough selection procedures in prelims as well as in the main examinations. They are the chosen ones among around five lakh applicants. So first of all, the candidates should feel confident.
Why am I emphasising on confidence here? Believe me, once you get it right, everything else will fall in place. Let us start from the walk. A confident person walks with an easy grace which will be just right for the situation. Confidence helps one to sit comfortably without shifting to the edge of the seat. If one is calm and composed, the expressions will automatically be pleasant and the responses like smiling will come naturally at the appropriate situations. The confident state of mind automatically can control both stiffness and exaggerated hand movements which are a sure giveaway of nervousness.
So, body language is the last thing one should worry about during the UPSC interview. Prepare well and be confident for the D-day. You will be just fine. To quote the great yoga teacher B K S Iyengar “Meditation cannot calm the mind but a calm mind can meditate”. Similarly, one cannot practice proper body language to show confidence, but a confident person can show proper body language.
(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)