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General Interview Structures

Interviews vary from relatively informal talks that resemble everyday conversations to those in which rigidly prescribed questions are asked in set order. Depending upon a specific purpose, the interviewers select the interview structure, or combine various types to create a unique interview structure that best fits their need.

Throughout this book you will find stress being laid on the practical aspect of interviews. For this purpose, we are folding up the interview structures into just three need-specific types, which are relevant for students in the Indian scenario. These are:
  1. Job Interviews—for employment in private and public sectors.
  2. Admission Interviews—for admission to colleges/institutes, such as business schools.
  3. UPSC Interviews—for government bodies and commissions like UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) etc.

Job Interviews

Perhaps, of most concern to the college students is the job or ­employment interview. Employers are looking for people who are confident, competent, hard-working, dedicated, loyal and are able to get the job done. The job interview process with its often ridiculous questions is designed to weed out applicants who do not possess the right traits and work habits. Employers feel that asking applicants tough, strange, weird or difficult questions can reveal about the personality of the applicant and whether he would fit well into that ­organization’s culture. Therefore, do not be surprised if ­interviewers ask you strange questions, such as, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” or “See this pencil—try to sell it to me now” or “What kind of car do you drive and why did you buy that ­particular model?” or “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?” Interviewers will also ask you difficult ­questions, such as, “What are the reasons for your success?” or “Why should this company hire you?”
Interviewers will ask you embarrassing questions too, such as, “Why have you had so many jobs in such a short period of time?” or “Why have you been searching so long for work?” or “Why are there ­several big employment gaps on your résumé?” Since the average person looking for employment usually gets called for 10 to 15 interviews before getting a job offer, it would be prudent to prepare for the job interview beforehand. Like it or not, you must endure the interviewers’ questions if you want the job and you must be able to answer most of their questions reasonably well. The only way to do this is to practise beforehand so that you feel confident before the interview.
The typical job interview:
The purpose of a typical job interview is to screen a handful of applicants who have made the final cut ­after a lengthy process of weeding through hundreds of résumés or job applications to select qualified candidates. If you are called for a job interview, it means that the employer believes you have the basic skills and experience required for the job. However, he wants to see you in person so he can learn more about you, your personality, your appearance, your demeanour and your ability to do the job. Depending on the employer’s requirements, you could be competing against as little as three or as many as 30 other applicants. Do not be surprised if you are called in for a second or third interview, particularly if you are applying for a position in a large company.
Most job interviews follow a standard format.
  1. The interview may begin with greeting and small talk to put you at ease and break the ice. The interviewer may give you a preview of what will occur during the interview.
  2. The employer may give you a brief overview of the position or additional information about the organization.
  3. You respond to questions. If it is a good interview, this will be the longest segment and you should do most of the talking.
  4. You ask questions to the interviewer. Be prepared with at least five or ten questions beforehand.
  5. The interviewer closes the interview and explains the next steps in the process. Be sure to thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Admission Interviews

These interviews are for school or college students who are trying to claim a seat in the professional courses of various institutions or universities. The interview panel will learn about the candidate’s interests, talents and if clever enough, some of their weaknesses and liabilities too. In most of the cases, the interviewers look for candidates with skill sets and intellectual abilities that suit their teaching methodology and environment. For instance, an admission interview for a business school will focus on selecting candidates with good communication skills and analytical abilities. Most of the admission interviews have another component, such as group discussion (GD) or résumé of the interview, added to the interview process.
Most admission interviews follow the steps given below:
  1. The candidates have to clear a set benchmark in the written tests and fall in the merit list of that entrance test.
  2. The interview call is given to all the meritorious candidates.
  3. The interview panel mostly consists of the faculty members
  4. of the institute and sometimes personalities of the industry, who are mostly the alumni of the institute.
  5. The interview process takes about three to five days, wherein candidates are placed in various groups based on parameters like scores in written test, reservation class, local/outstation, etc.
  6. The groups are put onto group discussion (GD), and then on individual interviews, called personal interviews. There is more than one round of personal interviews in some institutions.
  7. The performance of the candidates in the entire admission ­process—scores in the written test, performance in GDs and in the personal interviews—are then clubbed together. ­However, the scores in each step and their significance to the ­eventual admission may vary as per the policies of the institutes.

UPSC Interviews

Before we start concentrating on the different aspects of interviews we would like to discuss the UPSC interviews for the candidates preparing for the civil services examinations conducted by the UPSC and other government bodies that follow a rigidly prescribed order for the interview.

According to the UPSC prospectus for civil services examination (formerly known as IAS and Allied Services examinations), the ­interview is meant to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for the service which he or she has applied for by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The board will have before them a record of the candidate’s educational and career details as furnished by him or her in the application form. The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest as well as the subject he or she has opted for in the written examination.

Through personality testing, the board tries to gauge the candidate’s mental calibre, attitude, balance, judgement and leadership qualities. In other words, the UPSC interview is an assessment of not only intellectual qualities but also social traits, ability for social cohesion, general awareness and interest in current events. It is not merely a question-and-answer session but is a natural, though directed and purposive, conversation intended to reveal the candidate’s mental capabilities.

Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subject of academic study but also in the events that are happening around them, both within and outside their native state or country. They must also be aware about the modern current of thought and new discoveries which should arouse the curiosity of a well-educated youth.

How to prepare for the UPSC interviews?

From the above ­account of the UPSC interview, it is apparent that the interview is a personality test that reflects all that you have read and absorbed in the past many years as well as those qualities that are inherent in you. You have to garner all your energy to prepare for this interview. Start your preparation by making a list of all the possible questions and their suitable replies relating to:
  • Your birthdate, birthplace, hometown and state.
  • Your educational and professional background.
  • Your hobbies and extra-curricular activities.
  • Your optional subjects in the main examination and reasons for opting for those subjects.
  • Applicability of your subjects of specialization as well as of ­optional subjects.
  • Major current national and international events or other ­burning topics.
  • Social, cultural, political and economic problems related to India: their reasons and solutions.
  • Problems of various states in the country with special ­emphasis on your home state.

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