Monday, January 5, 2009

Season's Greetings and gear up for Interview

Preparation for Personality Test has to be done as seriously as if appearing for Prelims or Mains exam. It is not possible to judge somebody’s suitability/unsuitability for Civil Services within a period of 30 minutes (my own interviews have not been more than 16-18 minutes). That’s where preparation comes in handy. Be prepared with answers for some of the expected questions on CV (from Mains form), background, optional subjects, Civil Services as a career option, current affairs etc.

Regarding Current Affairs, it is time to voice you opinions – yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is finally time to air your voice on issues as you see them and not as D.D. Basu or Supreme Court sees it. Take 26/11 as an example. What went wrong? What should be done to prevent further such calamities? Can we do an Iraq to Pakistan? Should we or should we not? Get your brain cells working on any matter that makes news. To get an in depth understanding of issue, EPW (Economic and Political Weekly) is an excellent source. It’s time to consult it. Regular reading of The Hindu along Mains pattern should be continued. But have your opinions on issues and be ready to supplement them if facts as and when required.

Questions on CV have to be guessed and prepared on your own. Be thorough with areas of interests, hobbies, your Home State and choice of Services. I had read Geography of Punjab, its history and culture especially related to Sikhism (3 books of BA syllabus), Human Development Report of Punjab (available on internet) to cover topics related to my home state (no question was asked on these, but it’s always good to be prepared).

My areas of interests and hobbies included Bird Watching, Skating, work with NGOs. Since I had pursued these interests quite seriously I didn’t have to work up much on these except revising my work experiences and learnings from these activities. I was asked nearly 8-10 questions on bird watching (difference between falcon and hawk, name of bird kept by Guru Gobind Singh, famous Congressman who was also a bird watcher, latest books about Indian birds, which species of vultures are dying and why, which community would suffer the most if vultures were to get extinct), though none on other interest areas.

Be thorough with basic principles of your optionals. Preparation should not be as thorough as Mains preparation, but basics must be quite clear. Moreover, their application to governance/administration must be done. For example, I had Electrical Engineering as an optional. I consulted Ministry of Power website for latest developments/schemes, role of regulatory commissions, non-conventional energy sources in India etc. from it. During both my interviews, nearly half the questions have been from background topics.

Personality Test is an interesting exercise because it allows your own style to show. Some like to answer a question in 20 seconds, others answer the same question in 2 minutes. No problem with any style as long as you hit nail on the head. I remember answering my opinion on liberalization in India in 2 sentences i.e. around 20-25 seconds (many candidates can speak on it for 3-4 minutes), and a friend of mine answered a most basic equation in Physics in 10 sentences (I would have answered it in a single sentence). Both of us had good marks. All that matters is whether your content was relevant or not.

To improve spoken skills and expand your horizons, sit in group discussions with friends/fellow competitors. It is a must as it brings differing opinions to the fore and increases ability to tackle different point of views. Take mock interviews after getting interview call. Not more that 2-3 mock interviews – any more practice will take way your spontaneity.

Learn to say “I don’t know” to questions on which you know nothing about. It is safest reply to factual questions about which one has no idea. If many questions are going “I don’t know” way, try to hazard a guess but after saying “I don’t remember the answer, but I think, it is …..”. It is quite normal not to know answers especially in pressure cooker situation. However, try to answer opinion/situation based questions (that do not require prior memorization) to the best of your ability. Keep thinking!!

There will be tricky moments; there will be some serious moments. And if lucky, some humorous moments too in the interview. Just try to give a good account of yourself. Don’t show arrogance. If questioned on opinion, state facts to prove it. If questioned on fact, state your reference source or humbly say “I have forgotten the source, but I will check it up”

Lastly, be true to yourself during the interview and believe in God. It’s gonna be just fine.

Questions faced during CSE 2007 personality test:

What is your Roll No. and Date of Birth?
What is your work experience till date?
Why do you want to shift from Engineering to Civil Services?
1st Member:
How does a Hydro electric generator start?
What are the various ways of generating residual flux in hydro-electric generator?
What are the energy sources from ocean?
What is the status of Tidal energy and wave energy in India?
2nd Member:
What is your opinion on increasing inequalities due to liberalization in India?
What are the demands of rebels in Nagaland and why cannot State give in to these demands?
3rd Member:
· “Democracy is against law of nature. Explain”
4th Member: Questions on bird watching as described earlier
· Delhi Police writes its motto “With you, for you, always” on its vans. Somebody wrote underneath it “That’s the problem”. What will you do to correct image of Delhi Police?

My interview lasted for 17-18 minutes and was filled with “I don’t know answers”. Especially in the question “Democracy is against….”, my interaction was somewhat like this.

Board Member (BM): Democracy is against law of nature. Explain.
Myself (C): According to Darwin, stronger survive at the expense of weaker while democracy tries to protect all.

BM: I am not interested in Darwin. You have a background in Physics, think along those lines.

C: (After a pause of about 10 seconds) I cannot think of an explanation right now, Sir.

BM: You have done Physics, you have studied Engineering. Think along these lines. I give you more time.

C: (Again after a pause). I am sorry Sir.

BM: What do you know about “State of Entropy”

C: I don’t know, Sir.

BM: You don’t know what entropy is?

C: Sir, entropy is state of disorder of system. But I don’t know the term “State of Entropy”

BM: Ok, water flows from high altitude to lower altitude; current flows high potential to low potential. Can you think now?

C: Sir, a natural process goes from low entropy to high entropy.

BM: Now can you answer the question?

C: Sir, Democracy tries to bring equality –a state of low disorder or entropy. Hence it is not a natural process.

BM: Yes, now we understand why Communism failed!

This interaction lasted about 3-4 minutes. Needless to say, I was at my wits end and trying best to extricate myself from the situation, but to no avail. In retrospect, what probably helped me was that I did not panic and secondly, took questions after this one in right frame of mind. It is easy to think after a bad phase in interview that all is over. Avoid that. A few good answers can dramatically alter the scenario. KEEP YOUR COOL. TREAT QUESTIONS ON MERIT.

My conversation on “your opinion on increasing inequalities due to liberalization in India”: Sir, when a new system comes in place it is quite natural that people who are ready for it will benefit while others will lag behind. It is the role of government to make sure that all people benefit from the new system.

BM: Then where has government faltered because inequalities are rising in India?
C: Sir, I believe we have policies in place but they are not being implemented properly due to various factors.
BM: So, you are positioning yourself to become a bureaucrat?
C: (At this I could have said that above was true and various factors are so and so. But question was “Am I placing myself to become a bureaucrat”. I coolly decided to say:) Yes, Sir. (All the members laughed at this, and I was thankful for it. It was a double edged answer that was taken in good spirit by the Board).


Unknown said...

thanx Supreet, very insightful. Its heartening to c u hav put a lot of effort into ur interview prep

Unknown said...

Sir your tips are really helpful to me. thanks for your valuable times. hope i will meet you as your junior. thank you and best of luck for your future.

Lost said...

Hi Supreet
What backups you had just in case you didnt make civil services?


Rahul said...

hi supreet sir,
i sent you an email regarding some fundaes about interview prep. could you please help me. I was your batchmate at srirams and your junior in the college.


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Dear Lost,

I had backups in form of joining a company opened by my friend from college or doing an M.Tech. from IISc Bangalore. But, frankly, I would have been "lost" if I hadn't cleared the exam. Keep your interests in other professions alive and have good backups. It gives lots of stability and peace while preparing for exam.

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Rahul/Mumbo,

I have just come back from Bharat Darshan. Give me some time to reply. It would be useful for others and easy for me if you can use this forum for asking your doubts.

Lost said...
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Rahul said...

If I dont have any "opinion" for any "opinion based question", should I frame the answer at that instant itself or is there any other way? for example any controversial issue.

ankit tiwari said...

hello sir,myself ankit from delhi n m from dias coaching too..sir i am in a big dilemma n wil be very thankful to u if u can help me out.
actualy sir right now m in final year,i hav got placemnt in infosys n i hav 2 join in jan 2010.but sir i had planned not 2 join.but besides parents u also said that there should some sort of BACKUP,wen u came in our coaching in sir please very strictly tel me what to do.n from my side all is that finaly i hav 2 crack this exam..n m not much interestd in job.thank you sir.

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Ankit, I saw your question quite early but didn't reply. Whatever I wrote appeared like imposing my views on you. It's a decision you have to make yourself. All I say is: I recommend backup but to agree/disagree is upto you. Secondly, backup need not always be in form of a job. CAT, GRE, GMAT or whatever you fell strongly about could be a backup. My only concrete suggestion is: If you're from a good engineering college, finding job, let's say, even 2 - 3 years from now will not be a problem.

Sorry for a very delayed and vague response but choice is yours. Think it out well on your own. God bless.


Lost said...

I appeared for the first time in CS(P) with electrical. I expect about 175 in optional and 63-64 in GS.
Do you think i have a chance of qualifying?(I know it is difficult answering without seeing the questions, but i will really appreciate any inputs from you)


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Deal Lost,

I'll obviously be comparing with my experiences in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I know a person who cleared Prelims with nearly the same expected marks in 2007. In EE merit is usually low and you have a chance at qualifying Prelims.

But, why is your score in EE low? EE Prelims is much easier as compared to Mains. Pull up your preparation for Mains.

Supreet Singh Gulati

Lost said...

I missed almost all the questions in machines,power system/protection and power electronics.I started preparing in mid Jan and did my best to cover these topics...but in exam just could not do ..
Thanks a lot for your inputs! I will start preparing for mains as if i have qualified :)

Vishal Modi said...
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Vishal Modi said...

Hi supreet sir, Many Congrats for the grand success !! This is vishal from iitb, 08 btech..

Sir, my score in prelim'09 is 215-220 in physics + 41 in GS.. After scaling in physics, should I be sure to be called for mains & keep preparing ?? (with maths & physics by brilliant tutorials & for gs, standard books, civil services cronicle as magazine).. Ur tips on physics & gs are very useful and helpful for mains. Thanks a lot for giving time to this blog.. Even in mussoorie, u still think for other aspirants. Please guide, sir can u give some tips / idea for maths ? Thank you for inspiring & helping us through this forum sir.

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Vishal, your score in GS very poor. I don't know people clearing with such low score in GS - at least not tll 2007. But there's no choice about not preparing for mains - you have to utilise this time as if you are clearing prelims.

I don't recommend Brilliant Tutorials for civil services. Please look for better sources. Books and past year papers will be much better sources.

For Maths - I'll ask one of my colleagues. Since I am no longer in mussoorie (i have just joined for district training), give me some time to locate my batch mates.


Deepti said...

gd mrng sir
m in my final year f engineering n am the beginner for the preparation f this xam.
sir, how can i improve my gs

Anonymous said...
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rajesh said...

do u have scan of old ncert books scan 2002 edition?