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 KAS Interview - How to achieve

By Syed Shahnawaz Bukhari
The Interview stage, third and the final stage of the civil services examination, has emerged as the most deciding phase of the exam. I extend my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to all those who have made it to this stage and to all those who could not, I put in my sincere appeal to carry on and prepare for the next time. This 250 marks test, may not be of the qualifying nature, but is very central in your selection and putting your rank up or down the final list. Therefore one should take this final step very seriously.
You may call it interview but the more appropriate term is the personality test. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of supposedly competent and unbiased observers- the Members of Public Service Commission. The test intends to judge the mental caliber of a candidate. In broad terms this is really an assessment of not only of his intellectual qualities but also the social traits and his interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are 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. These traits cannot be acquired overnight, but are embedded in your personality developed over your age. Thus, theinterview shouldn’t normally require any extra preparation other than being aware of issues and especially those related to one’s home state. Bio-data is also important topic.
The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural and purposive conversation, which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate. The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidates which has been already tested through their written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country.
Although the number of members is not fixed, generally the interview is conducted by a board consisting of 5-6 members including the Chairman of the Commission. These members are from different fields, including subject matter experts, psychologists, bureaucrats, educationists etc. All of them are highly experienced and ask searching questions to the candidate.
Personality test
The Public Service Commission is looking for some traits in you, which can be summarized below:
  1. Suitability to a public career
  2. Mental Caliber and Constructive thoughts
  3. Not only intellectual traits but also social traits
  4. Interest in current affairs
  5. Mental alertness
  6. Critical powers of assimilation
  7. Clear and logical exposition
  8. Balance of judgment
  9. Variety and depth of interest
  10. Ability for social cohesion and leadership
  11. Intellectual and moral integrity
  12. Fresh and unique ideas
  13. Honesty
  14. Commitment
  15. Firmness
  16. Patience
An ideal civil servant should be a gentleman. He should possess good character qualities. He should have courage of conviction, intellectual and moral capabilities, leadership qualities and capable of taking the right decisions at the right time. He should have in-depth professional knowledge, self confidence, and good communication skills, analytical in his thinking, flexible and not rigid, must be able to inspire and motivate his colleagues and his sub-ordinates. There should be a balance of judgment in decision making.
Type of questions asked by the Interview Board
A natural question must have emerged in your minds is, “What would be the nature of the interview questions?” The things that trigger a question in the mind of the Interview board depend on the first impression created by you in the mind of the members of the interview board, your background, and the mood of the members. Indeed, there are trigger areas in which you could focus during the preparation. Some of the possibilities are indicated below:
·        Meaning of your name,
·        Questions on your village/ town/ college.
·        Sometimes questions on your hobby.
·        Family background, history of your clan/caste etc.
·        Job experience (if any) and particularly, government job.
·        Extra curricular activities.
·        Educational institutions attended.
·        Why did you choose public administration / sociology/ mathematics / history / electrical engineering / and so on as your subject of specialisation?
·        If you are a professional like an engineer or a surgeon, an agriculturalist or a veterinarian, you may be asked how you would use your specialised skills you have gained through hard work.
·        Questions based on situations, like how you would have faced the recent flood havoc Leh as an administrator.
·        Your preferences among the different services, KAS/KPS etc.
·        Broad understanding of History, Geography and the political aspects of Jammu and Kashmir.
·        Latest developments in the national/ international scene.
·        Hot topics of the day. (You have to update your knowledge on current affairs. If something significant happened a day or two before the interview, you should gather full details and be ready with our views and comments on it.)
By preparing well on these triggers, you can also work on their presentation as well so as to avoid giving unnecessary triggers through our answers or positively giving triggers that will lead the board to our familiar territory.
Although the interview is very unpredictable, there still are certain common questions, for which you should prepare well like why do you want to join the civil service? After your degree in engineering or medicine or other professional field, you are opting for the civil services. Why? Does it not amount to wasting your hard work in technical studies? Even though the question seems pretty straightforward, many candidates find it quite difficult to give a convincing reply to it. One of the reasons for this is that the interview board members do not want clichéd replies like “because I want to serve my people” and so on. Also, avoid coaching class answers. These board members can easily pick up a reply that is not genuine. In fact you can be chided for giving replies taught by people at coaching academies in Delhi. At the same time you should also be prepared for some follow on questions for all the expected questions.
You can guide the interview course
You can nudge the board members into asking questions on your well-prepared topics by purposely mentioning these in their answers. For example, if a candidate is asked to list the steps required for boosting the economy, he or she may deliberately stress on banking services if it is related in some way to the candidate’s profile. And the next question could well be on the banking sector which the candidate will find easy to negotiate. There’s no need for guiding the interview if you are well prepared. And above all, the board members are quite experienced to know the strong and weak areas of any civil services aspirant. So it may not work even if you tried it.
Be prepared to answer some tricky questions
Answering the question requires your presence of mind. If the members ask you a recall or memory based question, you will either answer it or say you don’t know. But if the question is a bit tricky then you will need to be alert to answer it. For instance if you are a physics student, then be prepared for some confusing question like “With what velocity will Afridi have to hit the ball to make it go beyond the Earth’s gravity?” If you are a cricketing fan like me, then you could be asked some unexpected questions like the records of some famous cricketers. It is not necessary you know them, be polite in confessing that I don’t know.
Stick to your stand
Many times candidates are quizzed to ascertain their firmness in making decisions or statements. Once you take a stand and you believe you are correct, in spite of contrary claims by some members, stick to it. Don't try to be a 'yes sir' person. Our whole system is suffering because of such chaperone's that change colour faster than a chameleon. If you can convince the questioner regarding your stand, in a polite manner, then the other members will be greatly impressed. Even when consensus is not possible just say that you respect his or her view but do not agree with it. But in case you realize that the member was correct after all, then you should admit it and thank the person for shedding extra light on the topic, which you were unaware of.
Keep your presence of mind
Many candidates, especially those appearing for the first time, lose their composure the moment they are unable to answer a few questions. Relax; the board members aren't just testing your knowledge during the civil services interview. In fact, more than knowledge they want to assess your personality, your traits, and your ability to work under pressure, to handle a tricky situation. After all, this is precisely what you will be facing in an intensely politico-administrative environment once you enter the civil service.
If you don't know a particular answer, just say so politely. Do not try to bluff the members or hazard a guess. Most likely, they will feel insulted and that will be the end of your interview and that year's attempt. These members have vast experience and knowledge and they can easily make out when a candidate is trying to fool them. They will in fact appreciate your honesty and courage in saying that you do not know the answer. Just keep your poise and smile intact.
Remember: One good, convincing answer is better than ten half hearted answers that lack conviction.
The Getup
As with all formal interviews you are expected to dress formally. It gives you more confidence. Just ensure the colors of your clothes are sober to suit the occasion. No fancy shirts and dresses here please. You’ll have all the time to wear these once the interview is over. One reason why you should avoid fancy clothes is that such clothes tend to distract attention of the board members from you to your clothes, which is not desirable.
Folks go ahead! Arise awake and rest not till the goal is achieved. Victory belongs to the most persevering. Ifyou work hard towards yourgoal, then the Almightyconspires to help bestow you with luck.
(Feedback at essenbukhari@gmail.com)