My Interview Experience – UPSC IFS.

This was my second UPSC interview. In 2017, I missed in UPSC CSE final list by 9 marks. Though I scored decent 162 in the interview, I felt I could have scored more. The board in 2017 was Madam Sujatha Mehta. Though my order of preference in 2017 was IAS, IPS, she asked mostly from Foreign affairs (She is a diplomat) and I managed it well. But I made a few mistakes in 2017.
They are :

  1. Hunger – yes, myself was the last one to be called into the interview (around 5.10 pm). As a result, I was so hungry that my eyes went around tea and biscuits kept in front of UPSC members. Though Tea and biscuits were available in the waiting room that didn’t fulfil my hunger.
  2. Time – As they were refreshed by Tea and biscuits they went on to ask around 38 questions in 40mins. My throat was dried up, I failed to ask for water in middle. As a result, I couldn’t think well before answering a few questions at last.
  3. Attire – I was the only one without Blazers. I thought I should have worn blazers. Though this didn’t affect my interview performance, I put some blame on my attire for my average marks.(An interview attire shows your sincerity towards it – my belief).
  4. Local politics – I neglected to form my opinion about local issues like Jallikattu. I was well prepared for national and international ones, but I thought I could easily manage local issues. But No, they cornered me there -I managed but not up to my expectation.
  5. Optional -Few questions (Factual ones) was asked about it. Since I didn’t revise my optional after mains I couldn’t answer them.
  6. Submissiveness – I asked too many sorry, put too many sir/mam – I felt I was too submissive.
  7. Too formal – It was like a question and answer session. I didn’t like it.

In spite of all these, I scored second highest interview score on that day(162) and overall a decent score, on that year from Madam’s board majority scored below 150. But I thought I am capable of scoring more.
So I rectified all my mistakes done in 2017.

  1. Took some snacks and banana with me (the instant energy meal)
  2. Asked water in the middle of the interview even before I went dry ( Used this drinking time to think of few answers and clear my mind – What a trick !!!)
  3. Went with Blazers – now I cannot blame on any external things.
  4. I was thorough with local news – read Metro plus for 2 months as I was from Chennai and covered holistically issues of TN and also about my hometown Namakkal.
  5. I revised my optional after mains thoroughly
  6. I decided to be bold and not to ask sorry unnecessarily.
  7. I decided to take the interview as a conversation – so smiling, greeting, welcoming members etc…these are the techniques I used to make the interview as a conversation in 2018.

Here come the events unleashed on the most beautiful day of my life: 2018

Board: Sir Manoj Soni -Background -Youngest VC of independent India

Members – 4 (1 lady member)

(Had a good mini meal, snacks, water etc… With perfect attire)

Entered with a smile. (No one smiled back) . Said Good morning to all. (My interview was at 10AM) . And I was asked to sit
Chairman:

Chairman: Your name is Vejayanantham rt?

Me: Yes Sir (Thank god, a person sitting in Delhi pronounced my name for the first time correctly, many even in south fails to do so)

Chair : Okay, Vejay – do forest gives rainfall ?

Me: Yes sir ,Absolutely

Chair : Tell me the scientific mechanism behind forest and rainfall.

Me: Sirappu (3 seconds – nothing came to my mind – I was wondering why he asked a scientific question at first – I couldn’t find any words – evapotranspiration, cloud formation ..nothing) I decided to say NO. But then I realized I shouldn’t say No sir. I replied, “Sorry Sir, I forget to recollect it as of now”.

My mind went on to think – the first question itself stumbled. What the chairman going to think of me ???. But I strongly believed that I can give a good comeback. Then I pacified myself in seconds and I was back to normal.

Chair: What is afforestation

Me: Answered

Chair: Tell what are the afforestation projects you know
Me: Told scheme names.

Chair: Tell me any specific place where afforestation pgm has been carried out that you know in detail.

Me: (Following local news helped me) I told about the one that was being carried out in my hometown itself.

Chair: What trees

Me: Replied

Chair: Why that particular tree?

Me: Explained with Agro-climatic reasons.

Chair : Ok.
Member 1 Started.

M1: Do you know Guindy national Park ?

Me: Yes sir (I am from College of Engineering Guindy – the most expected question). I was very happy that he going to ask me about animals there – I visited the place before the interview.
Twist.

M1: Do you know Romulus Whittaker

Me: Yes sir (Got Padma Award in 2017)

M1: What is the relation between Romulus and Guindy?

Me: (Goyale , thank god ,I read Metro plus – a news about him and his relationship with the park came just a week before).

Me: Yes sir, he was a pioneer of the park

M1: What project?

Me: Anti-venom project

M1: Why

Me: Told reasons

M1: What snakes? – only indigenous or exotic also.

Me: (I just used common sense there – Anti-venom project needs only native breeds as people used to bitten by native snakes only) – I said – only native breeds.

M1: Have you visited the park

Me: Yes sir.It’s a beautiful one. I welcome all the members to visit the park once when coming to Chennai. (Summa solli than parpome!!!)

M1: good. But I have visited it many times. (Goyale ne Tamil ah ?…Aapu vaikkuradhu ellam Tamil alungala than irukkanga – mind voice)
M2 Started:

M2: Why IFS

Me: Give trademark reply (crafted to suit my DAF)

M2: Why elephants migrate (That day morning elephant migration in Dharmapuri district was a headline in The Hindu with a big picture of the giant animal)

Me: For food and water

M2: other reason?

Me: Genetic flow, its ingrained in their mind for centuries.

M2: Some other reason?

(Vida mattar polaye….I decided “sorry mattum ketka kudathu”) – silent

M2: Why they need to migrate from Kerala to TN ?

Me:(Meesaya murukkida vendiyadhu than) Sir, unfortunately, elephants don’t know political boundaries, it’s we human dissected forest for our convenience.

(OMG….I was very rude to him – then I realised that I gave a valid one)

M2:Tell me technological solution to man-animal conflict

(Lottery – I was prepared for it – but asked a minute so that they should believe that I crafted the answer then and there)

Me: After a min – told the beautifully crafted answer

M2: Tell the technological solution for watershed management

(Marupadiyuma…)

Me: Again asked for a min. Came up with an average solution with new tech like automation etc,…

M2: Don’t you know Remote sensing,GPS etc?

Me: Yes Sir, but I wanted to come up with latest techs

(Asked some water – refreshed myself)

M2: You are a freelancer – tell me the benefit of the freelancer to the society

Me: (Instantly) Sir, a freelancer is free to take up problems of the society and find solutions to it. we are not bound by any organizational rules and restrictions.

(Everyone showed some expression – I saw Chairman’s eye- surely he was impressed – Yes this was one of the best answers I gave in my interview instantly) – the same I felt in that elephant migration question also. I put the priority of elephants(animals) before humans though unconsciously. Those two questions made my day.
M3 started: (lady member – the only one other than myself who smiled in the interview)

M3: You spoke about Genetic flow. What is it?

Me: Explained (thank god I revised my optional)

M3: You told about Gene pool. What is it?

Me: Explained with the example

M3: What is Genetic diversity?

(I realised that she was collecting all the words I said in the interview and asking the definitions of it – so one should know the meaning of the words he/she is using – “The real personality test”)

Me: Explained.

M3: What is Ecology?

Me: Explained

M3: What is Ecosystem

(I was fine with these rapid-fire questions as I read well and revised my optional especially definitions a week before)

Me: Explained

M3: Tell about IPR

Me: Explained

M3: Tell me the relationship between Benefit-sharing and IPR and Tribes?

(OMG , I admired her sheer brilliance – how she framed this question? – Nevertheless – I recollected what I have read)

Me: Explained everything – tribal rights along with Nagoya protocol. (She was very happy when I said this word – Nagoya protocol) . Got appreciation.

(They test your personality when you connect your static knowledge with reality)

M3: Tell me the relation between Geology(Your optional ) and Forest?

Me : Explained

M3: Are you are web developer?

Me: Yes mam.

(Sooper, she gonna ask a question about UPSC website – I was well prepared for it)

M3: Have you ever visited FRI(Forest Research Institute Website) ?

(Mind voice -Sirappu)

Me: No mam.

Chair : Ok Vejay .Your Interview is over. All the best.

(Enna posukkunu mudichutanga – only 20min? …Full rapid fire questions – it was like thousand wala cracker – finished off in a spark but with too many questions)

I thanked everyone and left the room with a smile.

My inference:

  1. I was confused whether I have performed well as I didn’t answer the very first question. But as the day passed I realised I did better than last time. And it’s a personality test – its ok not to answer as I gave a good come back after that.
  2. Be ready for everything – in 2016 Madam Sujatha Mehta was a diplomat – many International affairs questions came. This year Manoj Soni sir – Acadamecian – many factual and academic questions. So, its based on the board.
  3. Mostly New members put less marks compared to senior members -> Last year Sujatha mam, This year Manoj soni sir. Both were new members. So, I had little fear. Yes, this year Manoj soni sir and last year Sujatha Mehta mam put below avg marks to many candidates. Nevertheless, if one performs well he/she can get a decent score. I scored 177 in my interview. (A decent score)
  4. Reading local news saved me. And revising optionals too.
  5. I performed well in unprepared questions than in already crafted ones. Yes, those things that come naturally from your heart is your real personality. So prepare for the interview but don’t craft answers.Let your heart flow in the interview. Be natural.
  6. For IFS – most of the questions revolved around the environment. But this is not true in all the case. Many of my friends who went to Sujatha Mehta and other boards had questions about international relations and internal security too.

So ,
IFS interview = UPSC interview + more detailed knowledge in Environment. (Thus you need to prepare more for UPSC IFS interview.
Mistakes:

Though I rectified my mistakes from 2017, this interview was not the perfect one. This too had some lessons for me.

  1. Expectations: I had the interview on the very second day. The people who went on the first day said Manoj Soni sir was very cordial he even laugh aloud like that. So, I thought he will be the same the second day. But he was the exact opposite. He didn’t even give a smile when I smiled at him. He was very rigid and calm. Suddenly I went low – but I realised that inspite of being him rigid I shouldn’t lose my personality. So, I laughed alone then and there throughout the interview and that lady member accompanied me some time. So don’t expect anything, go with the free mind, be who you are and give your fullest there.
  2. Think simply – I answered some questions too technically but then I realised they are having a generation gap with me.So, I decided to go with them and said same old stories like remote sensing , GPS etc..leaving out big data, automation etc…
  3. Avoid general answers -They expect specific answers with the applied concept from us, But we inorder to escape used to tell general answers. As a result, they need to keep on asking follow up questions to get a specific answer from us. Ex: my afforestation answer – I started with general one and took 3 questions to realise that they are asking specifically. So be specific – escapism won’t work here.

My interview mark – 177 (A good score in that board). And safely landed with AIR 50.
PS: All the above are my inference. And may differ from others.
My way of Interview Preparation:

  1. attended atleast 10 mock interviews in different institutes and different panel – gave me insights on probable questions from my DAF.
  2. Prepared well on my DAF – each and every word
  3. Revised optionals
  4. Recorded my answers and corrected stumblings.
  5. Exercise and improved my physique to increase my confidence level.
  6. Being cool, bold and straightforward.

That’s it.

All the best.

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