ABC of Civil Services | Be prepared for the unexpected

ABC of Civil Services | Be prepared for the unexpected
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The civil service examination is a gateway to a world of responsibilities along with power and prestige. Though major part of the job profile is routine in nature, there can always be surprises to tackle. This is particularly true about field jobs in Indian Administrative and Police Services like that of district collector or superintendent of police. So ideally one who wants to be part of such services should be ready to manage any eventualities.

But, very few people like surprises and challenges in real life. The predictability gives a sense of assurance and that makes government jobs more popular in a country like India. This mindset is very much there among civil service aspirants too who prefer fixed study materials and direct questions in all the stages of the examination. For preliminary and main examination, there is of course, a fixed syllabus but still a lot of surprises are possible where the candidates need to apply their mind and rely on general reading.

ABC of Civil Services | Be prepared for the unexpected
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When it comes to the personality test too, people expect that certain questions should be asked to them. One reason for this is the way the mock interviews are being conducted. Since the biodata of the candidate called Detailed Application Form (DAF) will be presented in front of the mock interview board also, most of the time the mock interview revolves around the same. The panel members usually provide an additional set of questions to prepare as part of feedback. While there is no harm in doing so per se, if the candidate limits the possibilities of questions to this given list, there could be disappointment.

In the actual interview, the board need not touch upon every area in the DAF. I cannot help recalling an instance where a candidate in an actual interview volunteered about his painting abilities to a board who hadn’t asked him anything on his hobby! Well, the board would have been surprised by his audacity and the person ended up with low marks.

Don't try to fool the board

ABC of Civil Services | Be prepared for the unexpected
Photo: Getty Images

People who really think that they are smart put certain catch words in their DAF to attract the attention of the board. This usually happens with hobbies where people believe that a touch of novelty will fetch them laurels. That is how “analysing the playing tactics of Manchester United” and “Observing the rational economic behaviour of people” make it to the list of leisure time activities. This is way too obvious to fool anyone with average intelligence and the board either ignores this or tries to corner the candidate.

I have heard complaints about boards not asking opinion of candidates on important issues. One person told me that though he wrote an article on India’s moon mission, the board failed to ask anything about that. The person was hugely disappointed when he heard that this question was put to someone else without any direct connection to the moon mission!

In an actual interview, the DAF acts as a letter of introduction which helps the board skip the “tell me about yourself” routine. The chairperson can start the interview from any point in the DAF or otherwise. Mostly the starting question will be something like an ice-breaker (my interview began with the question, why I went to Mysore for my Post-graduation). But it is also not a rule. A headline in the newspaper could be a starting question too. The others can pick up from your responses, ask anything from the DAF or any subject of general interest. It can consist of questions of any combination and no two interviews will be the same as the questions are generated on the spot. Even after a lot of mock interviews and discussions, none of those questions were repeated in my actual interview and I ended up answering brand new questions.

ABC of Civil Services | Be prepared for the unexpected
Photo: Getty Images

The whole idea of a mock interview is to help you face any question. It improves one's ability to think and reflect on the spot. So, while doing mock interviews do not take them as an exact model of things to come. A good batsman should be able to play any stroke according to the nature of the ball delivered in a match. Similarly, one should not have too much expectation on certain questions, but should take the whole thing as it is intended to be; a purposive conversation.

(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)

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