ABC of Civil Services | Free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters

ABC of Civil Services | Free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters
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We often come across stories of honest civil servants who refuse to yield to political pressures. The collector demolishing the illegal constructions belonging to corrupt politicians is a scene worth appreciating in movies as well as in real life. Any civil servant who has to face political opposition is considered as a role model.

So when it comes to preparing for civil service interview also, this trait of honesty is important, right? One should uphold one’s opinion and take clear stand during a personality test. But interestingly, many candidates find it difficult to do the same.

Clarity of thought

ABC of Civil Services | Free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters

Recently, one candidate kept on asking us about which stand to take. He repeated this with every current issue. This happens mainly because people believe that there are right and wrong answers for every question being asked in a personality test even if it is opinion based. They think that though the question is “what is your opinion?”, one should answer as per the expectation of the board member who asked the question in order to get good marks. So, they are in search of that perfect point of view which will fetch laurels.

People even do elaborate background check of UPSC members to find out their opinion. Some people believe that since civil servants are part of government one should not criticise the government during a personality test. They always go for the pro-government stand in any issue.

I would like to add here that there are precious few aspirants who are exactly the opposite. They are the ones who take the above given picture of an upright officer a bit too seriously. They believe that if one agrees to a viewpoint stated by the interview board member, one will be perceived as someone who does not have an opinion of one’s own. So, they beg to differ with the interview board just for the sake of it. The whole idea is to project an image of a person with original ideas.

Some people actually lose their cool during the process of personality test. Once I asked a chemistry graduate to name the most useful chemical product according to him. He said: “Narcotic drugs”. When I suggested that why not something positive, he sarcastically retorted that in that case he may say soap or paste. The tone was too arrogant to be acceptable in a formal conversation.

In another situation, a very senior officer was asking about political developments and the candidate was having difficulty in answering the deep analytical questions. Instead of admitting the ignorance, she ended up saying: “What is the point of answering if you keep on asking counter questions?” The officer maintained his composure in spite of this and advised her to go and brush up the basics. Once a student told me that he actually heard shouts inside the interview room while waiting for his chance!

Most of the people are nervous during the process of personality test and do not want to make any mistakes. The academic system which emphasis on copybook answers makes them think about correct answers all the time. Many coaching institutes also capitalise on this anxiety by feeding them rumours about the process. They provide ready-made answers to all possible questions too.

Back your answer with facts

ABC of Civil Services | Free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters

The dynamic process of personality test emphasise on one’s grasp of things as well as presentation skills. In any issue, where a difference of opinion exists, one can opt for any of those with the support of facts. If one opts for an opinion which generally gels with one’s larger viewpoints, it will be easy to tackle counter questions. One can agree or disagree with the arguments put forward by the board as per the situation without any preconceived notion. This free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters in a personality test.

ABC of Civil Services | Free exchange of ideas with a clear stand is what matters

The interview board is there to help you cross the last obstacle. The board members are not cross-examining you and you do not need to argue your case. Instead, have a lively conversation with proper give-and-take so that the experience is both enriching and rewarding.

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

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