What are the qualities required for scoring high in an IAS interview?

Most of the aspirants consider that there is no need to prepare for the interview as the candidates already have it, are ready for it and they have a personality fit for it.

One must understand that the Interview is the final frontier to clear the exam. The knowledge part has already been tested in the Mains, and the last thing the UPSC wants is to test is the information level of the candidate. Someone may think of Interview being a test of knowledge, but it is more than that. It is a test of wisdom, the ability to take decisions with the help of knowledge, based on vision, based on variables that are visible or invisible, and based on the ground reality.

The expectation of UPSC towards its candidates for the purpose of handling administration is:

1. Balance of Perception, and Objectivity of thinking in the candidate

2. Reality based, rather than perception based opinion, an opinion that the candidate can defend.

3. Highly developed sense of observation.

4. A very good and enhanced communication skill.

5. A solution oriented thinking.

6. Loads of Leadership traits, and

7. Ability to build social capital.

8. A service spirit.

1. Balance of Perception & Objectivity of thinking.

Balance of Perception means ability to strike equilibrium between different perspective, different viewpoints, and different opinions. There are the traits that allow the candidate to have continuity of administration even during different governments, with differing ideologies.

The bureaucracy has to embrace unbiased disposition. The UPSC wants to see that the candidate doesn’t suffer from biases either towards the citizens or towards the governments.

2. Reality based opinion.

Rumours and here say shouldn’t influence the decisions of the administrator. The prospective administrator must have the capability

The prospective administrator must see what is there, rather than what is to be seen. This requires an uncluttered mind, clear innovative thinking, logical conclusion and more importantly the process of deriving at the logic all of which must be very clear. A mind and personality that arrives at any conclusion on the basis of heresays or rumours, is a very weak personality. He or she can be swayed away very easily and the conclusion arrived at can be very disastrous at times. Normally, a good number of students who are the product of coaching culture, indeed take a lot of their decisions based on rumours, and do follow a herd mentality.

3. Developed Observation Sense

An administrator has to meet an amazing variety of people for imparting administration to the people as well as to solve their problems or to take aid in solving their administrative problem or give them aid to solve their problems. Besides, other things, he has to have mass contact. He learns mostly through meeting people and the people in turn make him learn. The administrator cannot walk along with people for some time and for certain distance in order to know them. He has to make some judgments. This must entail development of deep observation sense to make a value judgment about the surrounding, about the people, about the event, etc.

4. Communication Skills

There are two types of communications — verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication is through words while non-verbal communication is through body language expression, eyes, gesture, etc. Effective communication means use of both verbal and non-verbal in a manner that both are complimentary to each other, and they should never contradict each other.

Communication skills are in the form of one’s ability to express one’s views and listen to other’s views effectively. In a two-way communication the most important rule is to be a good listener, and listen to what is being said, not what you think is being said. This trait is not found generally in practice. Candidates are always found to be eager in talking or giving answers. But one must understand that the answers become relevant only when you have responded correctly, not reacted to whatever you have already perceived as per what has been asked to you. So the foremost thing is to develop the habit of paying attention to what interviewers have to say, then only one has to respond after giving it a thought.

Remember these couple of points for how you should make your responses.

1. Be very careful in choosing the words in whatever language you happen to speak, as inappropriate words here and there might change the meaning completely. Always speak your minimal, try to be as precise as you can but at the same time be clear at your exposition.

2. You could also use persuasive communication. Persuasive communication aims at persuading others to see a problem from manifold perspectives and try to press to the point one is more comfortable about. Sometimes, the interview is guided by what you have answered (Lead Interview). Most of the questions would arise from the answers you have given. So, with persuasive communication one can more or less devise the course of interview. But, this needs thorough practice and adequate preparation.

5. Solution Oriented Thinking

An administrator’s job is to constantly look for solutions to the problems that exist or are evolving in response to the changing milieu.

Problem-solving skills are relevant for evolving solutions to a problem or set of problems.

Problem solving skill is an attitude, a personality and character trait, and the trait is inbuilt, ingrained or enshrined in one’s personality or the trait can be acquired as well, with proper practice.

A problem is a gap between desired state of affair and actual state of affair at a particular point of time. In order to overcome this gap, relevant action is required. For identifying this action, problem-solving skills are required. Problem-solving skills are relevant not only for case-based group discussion as widely perceived but are relevant to topic-based group discussion too. Anyone’s problem-solving skills are reflected in some actions, group discussion process, etc.

While discussing a topic or case, the candidates should adopt systems approach, that is, treat the topic/case as a whole. A system is identified in its interrelationship and its different components (technically called subsystems) and their interrelationships. For example, if the discussion is about status of education in India, then it is pertinent to classify education into three categories: primary education, secondary education, and higher education; these three categories of education have high degree of correlations – a higher-level education is highly dependent on a lower-level education and to spread lower-level education to masses optimally. In order to identify issues involved in the case you can identify root causes underlying issues. For example, while discussing the reasons for poor status of education in India, first differentiate education form literacy, and do not just mention lack of funds, lack of discipline in the society, etc. These may not be root causes but intervening causes resulted from root causes, for example, lack of commitment on the part of concerned governments or similar such causes.

While suggesting a solution to any problem, check its feasibility and its effect on other components of the system, otherwise, there is likelihood that your solution may solve one problem but may generate more problems. It can also be mentioned how the solution can be implemented in brief and can be approached optimistically. For example, if the suggestion is on allocating more funds to education, it has to be mentioned from where these funds should come as governments always feel lack of funds, how increased fund shall be effective and how should government go for it.

6. Leadership traits and social capital formation

UPSC is placing high importance on those candidates who can build social capital, who can be part of a team and can become good team players. These skills are problem-solving skills, human skills, communication skills, volunteering initiatives, and leadership skills. These are known as core skills for a good administrator. This is the reason why these skills are being included and checked right from the preliminary levels, which is reflected in the new type of questions asked in Prelims and more and more in Mains examination.

Evaluators focus on these skills and traits while testing the performance of candidates during the personality test.

Leadership is all about taking initiative, decision making, connecting people, involving people, serving people and influencing people for the cause.

Leaders are able to defend their actions. Leaders do not think like masses, therefore leaders are always alone but ahead.

For an administrator, leadership is all about taking a lot of people together, being with them, making them feel collective; and convince them of the wisdom of their proposed actions.

The bigger the social capital the more support the administrator can get from people and easier will be for him/her to implement some strict measures as well.

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