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Initiating The Interview

This introductory phase of the interview is meant to get to know the candidate as a person. The discussion commences informally with the candidate by being asked a few encouraging questions to make him/her feel at ease. There are several methods of initiating the interview. The most popular among them are discussed below.

Initiation Based on Candidate’s Bio-data

The complete bio-data of the candidate, including his/her application form and covering letter, are examined by the members of the interview board and the file is kept open before the chairman when the candidate enters the interview hall. The interviewer addresses the candidate by name and initiates the conversation in a pleasant manner by making any of the following opening statements:
“Come in, Mr Mehta.”
“Mr Bhandari, you are welcome.”
“Mr Mukherjee, please come in and take your seat.”
Such an initiation helps in establishing a rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. Once the candidate takes his seat, the first question that may be asked could be the name of the candidate. Remember that a person’s name is often associated with some mythological or historical background. Therefore, it is essential for the candidate to know the significance and background of his/her own name. This can be understood by the following two extracts taken from an interview.


So you are Mr Sam Thomas. That’s a nice name.
Thank you, sir.
Before we start, please let us know if we can address you only as Sam or should we call you Mr Thomas?
Sir, Sam is my first name and the second name, Thomas, is my father’s which I use as a surname. You may call me Sam if you wish. (Here the candidate has directly informed the chairman that Thomas is his father’s name and to avoid confusion he preferred to be addressed as Sam.)
Ok Sam, that’s fine. Could you tell us something about the origin of your surname?
Sir, Saint Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. After the crucifixion, the disciples spread the message and teachings of Jesus Christ in different parts of the world. It is said that Saint Thomas reached India and travelled from the Himalayas to South India preaching the message of Christ. Saint Thomas is said to have brought Christianity to India. There is a St Thomas Church in the South and a railway station is also named after him.
Thank you, Sam. It is interesting to learn this from you.


Come in Mr K. Krishnan, and take your seat please.
Thank you, sir.
Mr Krishnan, could you please tell us what the “K” stands for in your name?
Sir, I am a South Indian and we usually prefix our name with the first letter of our father’s name. My father is Krishnamurthy Nair. Therefore, I use “K” as my initial name.
From the above examples, it is clear that one should be familiar with the significance of one’s own name.
Other questions usually asked to initiate the interview on the basis of the candidate’s bio-data could be as follows:
  • “So, Mr Srivastava, you have graduated from Pune ­University and have appeared for your MA final examination from ­Madras University. In your opinion, which of these universities has a better standard of education?”
  • “Mr Bhattacharjee, we see that you secured first-class marks in Economics. Is this the most interesting subject for you?”
  • “Mr Singh, so you come from D. M. College, Meerut. As you must be aware, recently it was in the news that D. M. College students are easily exploited by politicians. Is this correct?”
These opening questions may lead to further lines of inquiry by the interviewer, such as, queries regarding the reputation of the college or the university where the candidate studied. Based on such preliminary questions, the interviewer is able to initiate the interview process as these are some straightforward questions and the candidate should be able to easily answer them. Candidates should, therefore, prepare themselves beforehand for such type of preliminary questions by carefully reviewing their bio-data so that their answers can be quick and spontaneous.

Initiation Based on Candidate’s Interests

To make the candidate feel at ease before launching the main phase of the interview process, questions are usually asked related to the candidate’s interest in a particular field. This helps the board to e­stablish a rapport with the candidate and at the same time make the whole process of interview interesting for the candidate. Don’t forget that the interviewer’s job is to find a suitable applicant to fill a vac­ancy. Contrary to what you may think, the interviewer is not interested in trying to trick or trap you. He has to convince himself that you are the person to be selected and you have the qualities he is looking for before he can give you a job.
Questions on hobbies :
Every person has a certain favourite pastime or hobby in which he/she is deeply interested and through which he/she gets motivation. While mentioning your hobby, you should be frank and honest and should not mention exotic or ­unusual ­hobbies simply for the sake of making a favourable ­impression. ­Many ­candidates try to impress the interviewer and mention hobbies or pastimes which they do not pursue in real life. My advice is to be frank and tell your real hobby to the interviewer. Your hobby may not be very intellectual or useful to your career, but do not hesitate to tell the truth otherwise you may be trapped in your own web of lies.
Some of the hobbies generally mentioned by candidates include:
  • Reading newspapers:
    This is a good hobby, but mention it only if you really read newspapers every day. Be prepared to ­answer questions connected with the editor of the newspaper, ­number of editions, number of languages in which a ­particular ­newspaper is published, the name of the publisher or the group. Also, have a ready answer why you prefer a particular ­newspaper.
  • Reading biographies:
    If you have read biographies of great personalities, you may mention this as your hobby. Otherwise, be ready for questions pertaining to biographies of eminent persons, their qualities, character and why they were famous.
  • Reading novels:
    This may not be regarded as a very intellectual hobby but if you have mentioned this, make sure that you remember the names of authors, titles of the novels and their main characters. There may be questions pertaining to details of novels which you have read or those which appear on the best-sellers list.
  • Reading books and collecting informative material:
    This is ­really a good hobby and if you have mentioned this, be prepared to answer questions about the types of books you have read, their subject matter, their authors and even the ­publishers.
  • Listening to good music:
    This is a very good hobby and pastime but you should not tell lies if you are not really interested in music. It may put you in a very vulnerable situation, should the interviewer or any other member of the board really knows about music.
  • Cooking:
    This is a hobby you can safely mention as there is little danger of you being trapped in complicated questions related to cooking. Also remember, this hobby is not ­exclusively for females. Therefore, male candidates can also mention cooking as a hobby.
  • Watching TV serials:
    Candidates often mention “watching TV serials” as their hobby. If you have mentioned this as your hobby, you have to ensure that you remember the names of popular TV serials as to when they were telecast, how many episodes there were, their main characters and on which day of the week and at what time they were telecast.
In addition to the above-mentioned hobbies, there are several others which one can mention. However, the point to be stressed here is that the candidate should be frank and prepare relevant answers beforehand.


(This is a sample of an actual interview conducted by the Staff Selection Commission for recruitment of officers in the Income Tax department)

Mr Aggarwal, I see that you have mentioned cooking as your hobby.
Yes sir, that’s right.
But don’t you think that being a male and an aspirant for such a prestigious job, your hobby is not quite suitable?
Sir, I beg to differ here. Cooking is a good hobby and a useful pastime, and there is no reason why it should be the monopoly of ladies. I recall Neil Armstrong’s interview to the press when he returned from the moon. When asked about his hobby, he proudly said, “Well, I make my own puddings on Sundays.”
Member (Lady) (Intervening)
What do you do when you have put too much salt in a curry?
Madam, I prepare a small quantity of similar curry without salt and then mix both to balance the salt.
Member (Lady)
That’s fine, but you can also put a small ball of kneaded flour in the curry and it will absorb the extra salt.

Note: The candidate fared well in this question-and-answer session. To make his point, he gave a good example of Armstrong’s hobby.

In case you have no hobby
 : If you do not have any particular hobby, do not hesitate to accept it and boldly say so. This may, however, lead to further questions such as, “How do you spend your free time?” Prepare yourself to answer such questions.


May I come in, madams.
Yes, Miss Chibber, you may come in and take your seat.
(Taking the chair confidently) Thank you, madam.
Miss Chibber, I find from your bio-data that dancing is your hobby.
Yes madam, you are right. I find dancing an excellent form of exercise. It also helps me to relax and mentally unwind after the day’s work.
Miss Chibber, we would like to see how well you can dance. Would you like to give us a demonstration of the dance form you like best?
Surely madam, provided you can arrange for adequate music to go with it in this room.

Note: The last question in this interview is quite odd and could confuse the candidate. However, Miss Chibber has tackled it with self-confidence. This was part of an actual entrance interview for admission to a Nursing College; the name has been changed.

Initiation Based on General Awareness

This is a slightly difficult type of initiation. There is no limit to the questions that can be asked here. Questions may be asked regarding current affairs, both national and international, the current political situation in the country or any other important news item. For this you should prepare yourself on current topics and general knowledge/awareness. You can do this by taking the following steps:
  • Regularly reading the newspaper.
  • Collecting information pertaining to subjects of general ­interest. from books like India Yearbook published yearly by the Government of India, Manorama Yearbook, The Penguin ­India Reference Yearbook and Book of the Year published by The Hindu.
  • Reading monthly magazines like Career and Competition Times, Competition Success Review or Competition Master, where you will find a monthly summary of the main news items.
  • Reading popular magazines like India Today, Sunday Or Frontline, so that general information on the current political situation in the country is kept up-to-date.

Initiation Through Academic Topics

This method of initiating the interview is based on the candidate’s academic record. Suppose your interest is in economics or biology, be prepared to answer some basic questions on these subjects.
You should know your basics and be able to explain some common or fundamental concepts of your discipline. A student of ­economics, for example, may be asked, “Could you explain, in layman’s language, what economics is all about?” Similarly, a student of marketing management, for example, may be asked questions on the concept or definition of marketing. A student who has specialized in personnel management may be questioned on his/her understanding of concepts, such as industrial relations, human resource development or appraisal system. The answers here are expected to be short and precise. For such initiations you must brush up your knowledge of definitions and basic concepts of the discipline of your specialization.

Initiation Through Odd Questions

Remember that the interviewer’s main task is to analyse your overall personality and not to trap you. He has to convince himself about your suitability for the job. He may ask you odd questions which might confuse you but they are meant to assess your behaviour in a tricky situation. Some confusing questions may be as follows:
  • “How did you reach this place?” If the candidate says by taxi, they may ask the taxi number or the fare the candidate paid to the taxi driver.
  • “How did you reach this floor? By the lift or the staircase?” Here, you have to be very careful. If you came by the staircase, then say so because it may be possible that the lift might not be working on that particular day due to power breakdown. Sometimes they may even ask how many steps you climbed to come up.
For answering such questions, you have to be alert and pay attention to details so that you are able to give spontaneous responses.

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