Group Discussion (GD) Tips

The GD is an indicator of the confidence of a person as well as his ability to work in a group. Students are seated in a semicircle. A topic is given and after about a minute or so, the group is asked to proceed. Most discussions last for 10-12 minutes and the group size maybe anything up to 15 people. Some institutes are known to have about students in a group, which makes the task of contributing meaningfully all the more difficult. Almost all students will be anxious to make a mark and sometimes there may be pandemonium. Often, aggressive and loud-mouthed individuals may corner the discussion. One should have a strategy for dealing with such situations too.

There are no fixed rules for a GD. There is usually a scramble to be the first one to speak. The first speaker should mention the topic and make a preface by stating the issues. He should not commit himself but only speak the introduction. Later, one may make some interjections and make one’s stand clear. The group should move towards a consensus but so great is the tension to make one’s point that this may not happen at all. The idea is to exhibit some leadership qualities in steering the group while making one’s contribution.

If the group is too noisy, the facilitator may allot one minute to each candidate to sum up the discussion. This is an opportunity to put on one’s best effort. Without criticising the group, one can sum up and give one’s own views.

How is one rated in a GD? Firstly, a candidate is evaluated on how he speaks. Fluency plays a role here. But this is not enough: what matters is also whether any meaningful contribution was made by the person. Thirdly, a candidate will score if he shows leadership qualities, that is, of guiding the group towards a consensus. It is clear that one should have read a lot if he is to exhibit any depth of knowledge. If you have kept up with the newspapers and magazines, it will certainly be of help. Read carefully the debates and argumentative questions and chances are that you will get one of these topics for discussion. Read also items of economic importance and learn the figures of growth rates, GDP, deficits and so on.

How to contribute in a GD There are always two ways to look at any topic: for or against. Take the example of economic liberalisation. It can be argued that it was a very good thing since a number of foreign companies came into the country, bringing technology and efficiency. Employment and growth rate improved. The people could buy all the world class products which earlier had to be smuggled.

On the other hand, it can also be argued that all kinds of non-essential goods came into the country, like hamburgers, fried chicken and soda water. The infrastructure remained poor. There was no fresh growth as the MNCs simply bought the Indian companies. The technology they imported was outdated and most of the goods were so expensive that most people could not buy them. Liberalisation was trumpeted to be a good thing since politicians were using it to rake in personal wealth.

Whatever personal views one may have, it is important to know both sides of the argument. If the discussion is heading towards a particular direction, a candidate can take a totally opposite view and consequently will become the centre of the discussion. Of course one must be able to defend one’s viewpoints and therefore the need to have read widely. In the case of liberalisation, many people will defend it, since that is the viewpoint most often published in newspapers. If a student can bring in an opposing viewpoint and mention some convincing reasons, there is no reason why he will not be selected.

The trouble is that most students have not faced anything like the GD before. How is one to speak in a group of 15 strangers in a language we do not usually speak? One way is to read about a topic and then debate with parents, uncles or elder cousins. Tell them to ask you questions and try to trap you. The more you do this, the more clear will your own thoughts become. Of course practice in a larger group can be obtained only by joining a professional institute.

Another way to practice is to tape your speech. Try to speak about a topic for one full minute into the tape recorder. When you listen to the tape, you will be able to spot your mistakes, the points on which you falter and the words which you cannot easily speak. You will also be able to know whether you make any sense or not. Ask your friends to listen to the tape critically. Often, people can discover their weaknesses and speech impairments by this method.

You can also use mirror therapy. Stand before a mirror and speak extempore on any topic. Practice sounding assertive and firm. If you think your voice is soft or shrill, especially for girls, speak loudly in front of the mirror as if you are speaking to a stranger. Have a conversation with yourself. The mirror will tell you whether you have a habit of looking away while speaking. It will tell you about your body language also. These will be invaluable insights for participating in groups. You must look at all the members when addressing them. Looking away will cause you to lose your chance and the other person will carry on without letting you complete.

The mirror will also stop you from fidgeting, as many people are prone to do when they are speaking or are nervous. The therapy will be greatly enhanced if you can get your family members or friedns to practice with you.

Take care also that you do not stray from the topic. One way to avoid this is to write it down and keep it in front of you. By periodically looking at it, you can arrange your thoughts mentally. Remember that the interjections should always be in the form of a paragraph, not a question. Do not get into cross talk with any person in the group. Do not start quarreling if someone is against your stand. Instead, address the group.

In any GD, a common situation is that everybody wants to speak all at once and some individuals will dominate on account of their loudness. After all, everybody wants to make a mark in the limited time and it is survival of the fittest. Making an interjection at this stage is rather difficult.

Start off with meta-language: “I agree with you, but…” or “We have heard many viewpoints and I would like to say….” Do not lose your cool if nobody listens. It might pay to raise your voice for the opening sentence and then go ahead to make your point. Never criticise. If you do not agree with a particular viewpoint, start with: “You may be right, but I feel….” or even “I agree with you on certain points but there is a contrary opinion that….” Be polite but firm.

A common situation is that whatever points you have thought of have already been said by someone else. Do not become nervous should this happen. Instead, quickly assess the situation and the direction of the discussion. Take a few deep breaths and think whether anything has been missed out or whether you can turn the discussion around. Usually, there is always some uncovered ground and a person can steer the discussion in a new direction. “We have been discussing the positive side of the matter”, you can say. But there is a more serious dimension that we have ignored….” Chances are that you will become the centre of discussion after this. Even if you have not spoken during the first half of the session, you will have turned it around to your advantage.

Assume a leadership role if you do not have much to say. Give a chance to others who have not spoken. Guide the discussion by restoring order. Keep an eye on the time and after 10 minutes or so, begin summing up. This will show your leadership qualities. However, if you do not contribute in any other way, this strategy will not be sufficient to see you through.

Interjections should be made without being rude. Do not cut into mid-sentence. On the other hand, if someone cuts into your speech, politely ask to be heard: “I would like to complete what I was saying….” rather than rudely asking a person to shut up. Sometimes all these rules do not work, especially if the group is a rowdy one. Since it is survival of the fittest, do not be cowed down and make a bold effort to make yourself heard.

Why group discussions?

Most jobs and management schools do not want bookworms, but people who are outgoing and smart as well. Group discussions help check whether a person can articulate his thoughts and hold his ground.

What is observed?
* Leadership skills
* Confidence
* Consideration for others
* Manners
* Aggressive behaviour
* Substantial viewpoints vs frivolous viewpoints

Some common topics for Group Discussions

Reservation for women is desirable
The impact of India’s nuclear tests
Advancement in science would lead to destruction
Who is responsible for ills of our country: politicians or bureaucrats?
Should there be a Presidential form of government?
Management is an art or science?
Are small States preferable to large States?
Is our culture under threat from cable television?
Environment vs development: which is preferable?
The role of multinationals in the economy

How to prepare?
* Form an informal group and discuss serious issues
* Discuss current affairs with parents or elders
* Watch news and current affairs programmes
* Read some good magazines. Read all the discussions featured in The Competition Master in the past months
* Always think of points in favour and against the topic


Some important tips
* Always be polite
* Never criticise
* Give others a chance to speak
* Make sure you intervene 4-5 times in the discussion
* Be coherent, make your point and let others discuss
* Do not be aggressive or loud
* Play the leader

SSB Interview Defence Services Recruitment

Armed forces offer very exciting career to young men and women in several fields. Career in the forces, in addition as a career, is also an adventure in itself. To ensure that appropriate candidates are chosen, a comprehensive selection process is adopted by the armed forces through Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. This system of selection is based on the “trait theory” of leadership which assumes that every leader must have some specific and pre-determined leadership traits. It also presumes that such traits can be acquired by a candidate with the passage of time meaning thereby that a person once rejected in an SSB interview is likely to succeed if he acquires some of the traits with the passage of time. The present system of selection, although is long and takes four to five days, is thus based on an objective assessment of each candidate in which the qualities like initiative, alertness, judgement, courage, physical fitness endurance, cooperation, group planning, decisiveness, knowledge, etc. are judged. In addition, psychological and mental robustness of the candidate vis-a-vis requirements of the Armed Forces is judged and finally an overall assessment of the personality of a candidate is made by way of an exhaustive personal interview.

Scheme of Selection
The existing scheme of selection was initially designed in the US army, after the second World War. The system was adopted in the selection of officers in Army, Navy and Air Force for induction through National Defence Academy, Army Cadet Corps, Officers Training Academy, Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy or Naval Academy.

The selection process has the following stages/components.

(a) Psychological/Intelligence Test.
(b) Group Testing Officer’s (GTO’s) Test.
(c) Personal Interview.
(d) Medical Examination.

It is evident that the interview is mainly confined to first three stages of examination while the fourth one concerns the medical examination of only those who get through in the SSB interview comprising of first three components. Evaluation of a candidate is made by three independent examiners. The psychological test is carried out by a psychologist and GTO test is given by a Group Testing Officer (GTO). Personal interview is carried out by the interviewing officer who usually is also the President of the Board.

The interview being an integrated process, culminates with the conference on the final day when all the three examiners get together to give the final assessment of the candidate. If there is any doubt on any aspect of the personality of the candidate, a few questions are put to him/her and the evaluation is done accordingly. All the candidates who manage to obtain minimum prescribed marks are declared selected. There is no quota or percentage fixed about the number of candidates to be selected and the selection purely depends on the performance of the individuals. The selected candidates then have to undergo a comprehensive medical examination to be finally recommended for selection.

Through this series of features on careers an effort is being made to acquaint the candidates, particularly the fresh candidates, with the techniques of SSB interviews and strategy to be adopted to overcome this final hurdle to a challenging career in the defence forces. In the first part of this series, psychological tests are being dealt with in detail.

The scheme of selection is almost same for Army, Navy and Air Force with the only difference that in case of interviews for the flying branch of Air Force, an additional aptitude test is given to the candidates right at the beginning. The interview usually lasts for four to five days and the arrangements for free boarding and lodging are made for the candidates. Moreover, the candidates appearing before the Board for the first time are entitled to claim travelling allowance for to-and-fro journey up to the selection centre.

Immediately on arrival at the Selection Board a questionnaire is given to all the candidates in which, in addition to personal details, including educational qualifications and details of family, hobbies, games and other extra curricular activities, details about other important happenings in life, friends, ambitions, etc are also sought from the candidates. This questionnaire usually forms the basis for interview. This part also assumes importance, considering the fact that it is of importance to a psychologist to know what a candidate thinks of oneself.

Psychological Tests
(a) Intelligence Tests: First and important part of psychological tests is the intelligence test. There are two types of intelligence tests. In the first, usually 80 questions are required to be answered within 30 or 35 minutes. The time is lesser for the second in which 60 questions on figures are required to be answered in 20 to 25 minutes. This test presumes that even under adverse circumstances an intelligent person will be able to answer more number of questions accurately. The questions are objective type with multiple choice answers.

To attempt maximum number of questions correctly, the candidates are advised to attempt those questions to start with, about which they are fully sure. The questions which need some more time to answer, must be skipped initially and if after attempting other questions there is some time left, it can then be devoted to the left-out questions. Exhaustive practice in these tests, which appear regularly in the Competition Master, can be of great help in attempting the intelligence tests effectively. A candidate who achieves a good score in these tests may get the benefit of being placed higher in the order of merit if he/she finally makes it in the interview.

(b) Word Association Test:This test aims at judging the personality traits and basic psychology of a candidate. It brings out attitudes, thoughts, desires, feelings and even negative aspects of one’s personality. For testing the word association, candidates are shown a word of common usage for about 15 seconds, during which time candidates are supposed to write a sentence. After 15 seconds are over, another word is exposed for 15 seconds, the process continues and candidates are asked to write 50 sentences. The words are easy and of day-to-day usage. Time given to the candidates is so short that they have to write down the very first thought that comes after seeing the word. The psychologists analyse the personality traits, attitudes and feelings on the basis of these natural reactions of the candidates to specific words.

There can be no ready-made solutions to the word association test. However, with a little bit of practice the candidates can choose correct sentence. The pessimistic, negative, pervert and counter-productive feelings must be avoided whereas positive feelings of success, honesty, respectfulness, uprightness, optimism, humanism, etc should be highlighted. For example, the word “failure”, can be used as “Failure cannot always be avoided”, or “Failures are the pillars of success”. Whereas the former sentence depicts pessimism and defeat, the latter sentence shows how a negative word can also be used in a positive manner. On similar lines the candidates must prepare himself beforehand for words like defeat, death, disease wrong, etc. It must be ensured that the sentences used are small and convey some positive aspect of one’s psyche. Due care must be taken to ensure that the sentences do not depict the feeling of fear, insecurity, anxiety, cowardice, etc. To do well in this test the candidates must practice with several sets of words and do the self appraisal.

(c) Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): This technique, also called picture story writing, is one of the most important aspects of psychological test at SSBs. This technique aims at judging the overall personality of a candidate by judging the traits like fearlessness, positive frame of mind, initiative, judgement, courage, temperament, ambitions, and more particularly candidates’ suitability for the armed forces. This test is conducted by showing several slides/pictures (usually ten) to the candidate for a short while. Then he is asked to write a small story on the picture. The picture is shown for 30 seconds and the candidate is given a time of 3 minutes for writing a brief story. Needless to say that the time duration is very less and the candidates must think and write fast to complete the story within the stipulated time.

The candidates need special practice to attempt this test successfully. It must be clearly understood that the story which is written by the candidates, depicts their own thoughts, perceptions and imaginations. Hence the initial 30-second time while the picture is displayed, must be utilised in most useful manner. After devoting minimum possible time for understanding the picture, the candidate should appreciate the situation, identify the hero of the story and prepare a simple but well thought of plot for the story. The plot should be simple considering the fact that the story has to be written within 3-minutes. The planned story should depict the feelings of courage, success, hard-work, initiative, ambition, achievement, helpfulness, patriotism and positive bent of mind. It should be ensured that no unnecessary time is wasted in describing the picture. The picture only depicts one of the situations which could form part of the story. It is pertinent to add that candidates may expect at least one picture each about hospital scene, war, road accident, a captive lady, a frustrated youth, a river, a thief, a graveyard, etc. There may be a few vague pictures also. Practice on writing stories on above situation/pictures would assist the candidates to do well in this test.

(d) Situation Reaction Test (SRT): This is last in the series of psychological tests. In the SRT, the candidates are given 4 to 5 reactions to a particular day-to-day situation and the candidates are asked to choose the most appropriate one. This test aims at judging a candidate’s aptitude towards cooperation, group interests and positive thinking. No answer is out-rightly incorrect or correct. The candidates get weighted marks depending on the degree of correctness of an answer. In all 50 to 60 situations have to be reacted upon in 25 to 30 minutes. The candidates must exercise due care while choosing the alternatives as two to three alternatives may appear to be correct. The answer which appears to be the best in a real life situation must be chosen. Initially, questions appearing easier to answer should be chosen and the candidates should avoid conflicting replies and be considered.

The second part of the interview contains Group Testing Officer’s (GTO’s) Test. While the first part aims at testing the intelligence and frame of mind of a candidate, the GTO’s test is a complete test of one’s personality, including physical fitness, mental obtuseness, leadership qualities, planning flexibility, expression, knowledge, argumentative capabilities, etc. In other words, the performance of every candidate is gauged as a member of a group, and leader of the group, so that his/her behaviour as equal, superior or subordinate is keenly observed and assessed. The group worthiness of a candidate is tested.

The GTO’s test includes the following six broad sub-tests:
Group discussion
Group planning exercise
Group obstacles
Command Task
Individual obstacles

Group Discussion
Candidates are divided in groups of 8 to 10 and each group is tested by a GTO. Usually two topics of general interest are given by the GTO to the group and the group is asked to choose one of the topics, on the basis of which the group is asked to proceed with discussion. Every candidate is supposed to express his opinion and views on the topic given. The time for discussion is approximately 20 minutes. After the discussion on the first topic is closed, GTO gives the second topic. During the discussion, the GTO quietly observes the performance and behaviour of the candidates and makes his own assessment.

The group discussion tests the expression, argumentative capabilities, depth of knowledge, initiative, flexibility, participation and authenticity of a candidate. The candidates must comprehend the topic properly, carry out a mental framework of line of discussion to be pursued and plan the discussion quickly. It is always better to take the initiative to start the discussion. Self confidence, clarity in expression, appreciation of opinion of others, keen interest, flexibility and knowledge are some of the properties which are sought by the GTO. Proper tone, volume and level of voice are other important aspects of a good candidate. To do well at group discussions, it is suggested that the candidates should prepare well by selecting certain topics of general interest like role of science, democracy, role of women, sports, evils of dowry, family planning, compulsory military training, students and politics, status of Indian women, etc.

Group Planning Exercise
Under the group planning exercise, a situation is given to the candidates usually on a sand model or cloth model. Each candidate is given the situation in which some problem like taking a patient to hospital within stipulated time, reporting the matter to the police or any other situation is depicted and certain facilities as well as limitations are explained. Considering these given limitations and facilities, the candidates are required to prepare a plan to successfully accomplish the task. The time allotted to the candidates, to write down the solution, is about 10 minutes. Soon after writing down the solution, the group is asked to discuss the solutions and arrive at a group plan. The group then nominates a leader who gets up and gives the group plan. After this, others are also asked to give their plans if there is some material difference in the plan. For this exercise a further time of about 20 minutes is given. The test is planned to test the understanding and analytical capability of the candidates. In addition, in a group where no one is nominated a group leader, opportunity is provided to the natural leaders to emerge as leaders and take over the reins of the group. The individual plan tests the analytical ability and the discussion of the group plan sees whether the candidate is prepared to accept a superior plan over his plan or he is able to convince the group about superiority of his plan against an inferior plan being considered by the group. The candidates must properly appreciate the problem, take stock of the resources available with them and then try to generate some alternatives in the given situation. After considering the pros and cons of every alternative, best alternative should be accepted. By actively participating in the group plan discussion, the candidates should try to get themselves nominated as the group leader to get an edge over the other candidates.

Group Obstacles
Next part of GTO’s fest is the group obstacles. It has four sub-parts including Progressive Group Task, Group Obstacle Race, Half Group Task and Final Group Task. These tasks are designed to test the behaviour of a candidate in a group where there are no group leaders nominated. The GTO, therefore, keenly observes the candidates for their qualities like cooperation, group belonging feelings, natural leadership qualities, planning, initiative and task orientation. Group obstacles in all the four sub-parts are in the form of obstacles which cannot be negotiated by an individual and need a group of persons to cross it. The group is explained that within the obstacle area, in which particular parts are “out of bounds”, the entire group has to cross the obstacle within a given period of time with the assistance of tools like ropes, planks, wooden logs, etc. The progressive group task has four tasks with each successive task getting tougher and final group task is the repeat exercise to facilitate the GTO to observe only the potential candidates.

The group obstacle race is in the form of an inter-group race in which they also have to carry a sack type of load while crossing the obstacles. Half group task is given by dividing the group into two sub-groups, facilitating the GTO in observing the candidates in a better manner. While crossing these obstacles, or planning to cross these, the candidates should think objectively to negotiate the obstacles with the help of given material. There are usually more than one solution to each obstacle. Immediately on getting the solution, the candidates must start asserting themselves by also seeking advice and suggestions of other candidates. Even if the candidate is unable to arrive at any solution he should try to assume the role of a mediator between several candidates having diverse solutions. Even while actually negotiating the obstacle endeavour should be to take on the most difficult tasks so that an impression of task orientation and leading by example is created in the mind of the GTO.

Command Task
Command Task is aimed at testing the leadership and command capabilities of candidates. In all the earlier exercises, the natural leaders are allowed to emerge. But in some cases, where there are more than one natural leaders, the strongest one will overshadow rest of them. Similarly, a person who is shy by nature, may not be able to exhibit his leadership qualities in a group of equals and hence an opportunity is given to such candidates to show their worth in a formalised situation, where they are declared leaders. In the command task the nature of obstacles and facilitating material remain the same. The only change is that one candidate is nominated as a formal leader, asked to choose his team, plans to negotiate the obstacle and finally executes the plan. The candidate’s judgement, planning and analytical capabilities are checked and his capabilities to get a task executed are also tested. The candidate must, therefore, choose his team carefully, choosing the best candidates who are cooperative and physically strong. This reflects his objective assessment of subordinates. Then the leader must explain to his men the objective or task, the facilitating material available to them and spell out the plan as to how he planned to accomplish the task. The plan should be clear and spelt out in clear and commanding manner. After explaining the task to his men, the leader should go ahead with the proper execution of the task by properly supervising and giving supplementary instructions if required. Normally, the work should be got executed from the chosen candidates, but in case some part of obstacle negotiation needs his assistance, he should be ready to do so. At times, the commander may find it difficult to plan a solution to the obstacle. Under such a situation, the commander may ask the members of the group to suggest to him the possible solution.

Individual Obstacles
There are 10 obstacles which are required to be negotiated by every individual within a stipulated period of 3 minutes. The obstacles are not very tough and can be negotiated by any candidate with average physical fitness. These obstacles include climbing ropes, jumping, swinging on ropes, climbing wall, walking over a beam and parallel ropes, etc. The relatively difficult obstacles carry higher marks and easier ones have lesser. In case a candidate can repeat some of the obstacles, after completing all in the given time period, such a candidate gets more than maximum marks to the extent of repetition of obstacles. To do well at this test, the candidate must try to achieve a particular level of physical fitness before proceeding to the SSB interviews. Easier obstacles should be attempted first and even if one is unable to complete all the obstacles within three minutes, one should be satisfied as in the words of one GTO “armed forces need officers, not monkeys”. Nevertheless, this test aims at looking for bare minimum level of physical fitness, which can be built up by rigorous pre-commission training in the Training Acadmeies.

Lecturette is last in the series of GTO’s tests and is aimed at testing the speech of a candidate. A leader should be able to speak effectively, attract attention while he is talking, have a clear head and clear line of thinking. These qualities are tested by giving a small test to the candidates known as lecturette. This candidate is given about four topic of general nature which do not need any specialised knowledge. The candidates are required to select one topic, prepare for three minutes and then deliver a speech to the group for a period of three minutes. While taking this test, the candidate must select the subject/topic on which he is fully confident of having enough knowledge and material to speak for three minutes. Unnecessary movements of hands, legs, fingers etc should be avoided and the speech should be delivered in a pleasant but authoritative voice. The views expressed should be balanced and extreme positions in views should be avoided. The clarity of thoughts and ideas must be insured.

It is evident from the above that the GTO’s test is a comprehensive test of one’s personality. An objective assessment of personality of the candidates is made by observing their behaviour in a group and as a leader as well. Capabilities of the candidates like knowledge, expression, leadership, initiative, physical fitness, planning capabilities, understanding, disposition, grasp and task orientation, etc are tested by following a comprehensive and objective method of personality test. The GTO makes the assessment by assigning marks in each of the six exercises and then finally allots the aggregate marks on the basis of overall average assessment.

Personal interview is the last hurdle in the selection process to the defence forces through SSB Interviews, apart from the medical examination. Every candidate is tested by a psychologist, G.T.O. and finally by the President or Deputy President of the Selection Board.

The aim of the personal interview is to have a closer look at the personality of every candidate through conversation in friendly discussion. To keep the interview formal and the candidate at ease, only one interviewer interacts with the candidate. The information given by the candidate, on the very first day in the questionnaire, forms the initial basis for questions during the course of interview.

At an average, every interview lasts about 30-40 minutes. The President of the Board begins in a very friendly manner by asking very personal questions from the candidates like name, detail of the brothers and sisters, occupation of parents, names of good friends, place to which the candidate belonged. About 10 minutes-time is devoted on these questions so that the candidate is put at ease. Name of the educational institutions where one studied, subjects offered, marks obtained etc are a few other questions that may be initially expected. In addition to putting a candidate at ease, the President also observes the qualities of friendliness and the ease with which one can handle simple and personal questions. Other questions in the interview may be about games played, hobbies, girl/boy friends and the means adopted by the candidate to remain fit. As a young and educated person, one is expected to either play or have keen interest in some games. Similarly, every person is expected to have a hobby, be it reading, playing games, swimming, driving, gardening, philately, riding, photography or travelling. Every young candidate, aspiring to become an officer in the armed forces, is also expected to have friendship with the opposite sex. Hence all these questions must be answered accordingly.

Final part of the personal interview may include a few questions on current topics, general knowledge, some imaginary situation for reaction and small simple problems for judging the administrative planning capabilities of the candidate. Problem solving may be judged by depicting a simple real-life imaginary situation involving the brothers, sisters, parents or friends to which reaction of the candidate is judged. Similarly, a small administrative problem may be given to a candidate including organisation of a match or a picnic. The candidate is then asked to give his/her step by step planning and execution and perception of happening of the event, without its actually taking place.

How to tackle?
As has been hinted above, the questions in the interview must be tackled very carefully. The candidates should not be in a hurry to reply the questions. The questions should be properly understood and after considering the contents for a while, reply should be given. Regarding personal questions, the candidates should be careful that they do not hide material facts or try to give wrong facts. It must be understood clearly that the President conducting the inverview handles several candidates every day and does the same thing over the years. Moreover, he is trained to interview candidates in such a manner as the truth comes out. Any attempt to hide some facts or give wrong facts will be certainly picked up by the experienced President and they usually make the candidate realise during the interview itself that he/she was trying to bluff. Moreover, no candidate is expected to be perfect, as every human being does have some weaknesses. However, it should also be ensured that no unnecessary details are given by the candidate. The replies should be to the point and relevant to the questions asked.

The same principle applies to the other questions like games played, hobbies pursued and friends (particularly from the opposite sex) held. The games which are stated to be played by the candidate should be ones about which the candidate has complete knowledge and is able to reply to most of the questions. Similarly, the interviewer devotes a lot of time to the hobby named by the candidate. The candidates must, therefore, make sure that the hobbies and games they name must be fully known to them. Rather than bluffing in this regard, it is better to give a negative reply. Moreover, as earlier pointed out it is good to have friends from the opposite sex with healthy and friendly relations. But in case there is no such friend, the fact should be admitted without hesitation.

Finally, the questions on current affairs and general knowledge need a little-bit of brushing up of knowledge in this field. Candidates who feel less confident in this part are advised to consult the General Knowledge Refresher by O.P. Khanna.

The questions on the reactions in given situations have to be handled very carefully. The candidates must grasp situation completely, clarify the doubts if any and after taking some time to think, come out clearly with the course of action. Choosing a right course of action is not very difficult. The candidates must imagine themselves in similar situation and consider the most probable course of action which would be taken by them, which invariably is also the right solution to the problem. In their reactions, the candidates must not bring in any artificiality and unnecessary heroism. They should react as if they would have done in a similar real life situation. Due care, therefore, must be exercised as this is one of the most crucial aspects of the interview. Two more questions which must be prepared properly are (a) “Why do you want to join the Defence Forces?”; (b) “If you are not selected what would you do?” These are often-repeated questions and must be answered very honestly and correctly, without any exaggeration.

Balanced Behaviour
While proper replies to the questions are important balanced conduct of the candidates is still more important. The candidates should avoid use of slangs and be very respectful to interviewer. Use of language and expression are the plus points but the candidates are usually not penalised for weak expression, as it is believed that the problems of fluency and expression are overcome during the training period. The candidates must be composed and maintain their poise. Lack of confidence in replying to the questions reflects lack of knowledge and self-confidence. At the same time one must not be over confident or arrogant.

The interviewers are trained to identify the signals sent by the body language along with the spoken word. Whatever is spoken from the mouth must be reflected from the eyes of the candidate as well the tone of his/her voice. Hence, body language must be controlled to convey the same meaning as the word of the mouth. Any contradiction reveals the untruthful intention of the candidate. It should, however, be kept in mind that no unnecessary gesticulations are made with hands and sitting posture is also proper, as recommended for the interviews.

The appearance and bearing of the candidate helps in making a good first impression. The clothes need not be new or highly fashionable and bright, but should be sober and properly cleaned. Hair should be properly groomed and hands should be properly cleaned with the nails cleanly cut. While describing their achievements, the candidates should be modest without being boastful and while admitting weaknesses and failures, they should not be ashamed or evasive. There must be eye-contact with the interviewer for most part of the interview.

The last stage in the selection process is the conference which takes place on the last day. During the earlier three stages, three selectors i.e. the psychologist, G.T.O. and the President carry out their tests independently. At the conference all the three selectors sit together, call the interviewee and ask two-three formal and routine questions. Candidates who qualify in all the three tests independently are declared successful. All those failing in all or any two are declared unsuccessful. A few candidates marginally failing in one of the tests, may expect a couple of more absorbing questions, including a situation, and on the basis of reply offered by the candidate, final decision about his/her selection is taken. The result is announced soon after the conclusion of the conference and all those who are selected are required to stay back for the medical examination, which takes another three to four days.

Medical Examination
The selected candidates are then required to undergo medical examination. Prior to the medical examination, a form is given to the candidates to be filled which mainly relates to the past medical history of the candidate as well as his/her members of the family. The candidates who pass all the medical tests are finally declared as successful and may expect a call to join the training academy concerned within a month or two of the selection. However, the call letters are issued after clubbing the marks obtained in the written examination of the UPSC as well as marks obtained in the interview. At times it may so happen that even a candidate getting through in the interview finally, may not get a call to join at the concerned training academy if the number of vacancies is less or the candidate is very low in the order of merit. Hence, the candidates are advised not to leave their studies or jobs till they receive a call to join at the training academy concerned.

Interviews – What do they look for

Interview, according to Collins Concise English Dictionary, is a formal discussion, especially one in which an employer assesses a job applicant. ‘A formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications (as of a prospective student or employee)’, defines Webster’s Dictionary. It can be meeting with a candidate to ascertain, by questioning and discussion, letters suitability for a post.

The art of interviewing forms the very basis of the utmost input requirement, in the form of humans, of organisations. The process constitutes an important part of the recruitment procedure.

The interview Board, in the allotted time, has to bring out the best and the worst in the candidates and then arrive at conclusions, most subjectively, on a common-sense basis, since assessing a candidate on each and every attribute infallibly is neither possible nor feasible for the interviewers; rather there are chances of faltering.

To find the ideal candidate for any post is not possible, nor it is easy to define the concept completely in the context of the metamorphosing managerial and administrative values. The best course left to the Board is, therefore, to pick the best of the available candidates; to obviate repetition of the entire gamut of the selection procedure. This holds good, more often than not, in the case of selections for senior positions.

Often for the purpose, the Board evolves a check-list, an exhaustive but practical one, where-under ratings are accorded for different personality traits. Experience has shown that this strategy works quite satisfactorily in all types of interviews.

The undermentioned can be the tentative parameters for the Board to look for its picks; not necessarily in the same order or weightage, for they may vary from post to post and from organisation to organisation, depending upon their needs.

The candidate, prima facie, ought to have the needed potential and keenness for the purpose of being developed into a better one, in the near future, and on, to impart benefits to the organisation, for it spends its resources on the new incumbent with an eye for good returns.

Self-acceptance of the past failures, if any, by the candidate will prove an asset, a qualification. It will speak of his frankness and will inculcate value ethics in management – compelling need of the hour the world over.

The candidate should be able to ‘look within’ as Christ has said, in the face of taking decisions, especially when confronting with hard situations. He must have a clear vision of himself and of the assignments required to be accomplished. As a matter-of-fact, his performance itself is a perennial source of inspiration to him; a source of fulfillment and pleasure; and a robust antidote to (counter) the stress, both in his personal and official life.

To be receptive and considerate to the aspirations and expectation of colleagues is the need of the time. The Selection Board therefore, looks for such a possibility and potential in the prospective candidate. Not only that, the ability to inspire confidence among the staff, while inter-acting with them, is also a prerequisite to be searched and found out by the interviewers.

Another sought-after trait is candidate’s ability to communicate not only his ability to express, as is generally mixed up. For this purpose, the interviewers have to try for all the essential parameters of a good communicator viz; logical flow of thoughts, direction in the needed side for the needed purpose, maturity in expression and communication, ability to listen and the art of a rational persuasiveness in arriving at the right decisions and passing on the instructions germane thereto to achieve the results. The art of communication is the hub of successful and result-oriented human relations.

The candidate should evince an abiding interest in updating his knowledge to qualify for being selected by the Board. Especially, such a policy plank is more needed when the interview is for the selection of a specialist. Both depth and breadth of the candidate’s knowledge are indicators to his intellectual seasoning.

The candidate is expected, rather is required, to exercise self-check in all situations that he will face in his would- be organisation. He is to be assessed on his ability to shoulder both, praise and criticism, success and failure, authority and responsibility, with equanimity. Self-control, self-management, shedding of false egos are the time-tested recipes for successful managers, together with courage and conviction, backed-up, nevertheless, by firmness of action. A stiff and artificial stance will never be appreciated by the Board.

And over-zealousness in conduct may also jeopardise the chances of being selected. If not checked, temperament can always sway away one’s decisions to an unwanted level of human relations, which may turn out to be a point of no-return. On part of the candidate, the deepest mental posture, even if provoked during the course of interview by the Board members, is sure to carry the day. This will help him give balanced answers to the satisfaction of the interviewers.

The interviewers end up, with the best available of the lot: the near-ideal; but not the ideal.

Some Frequently asked Questions in Selection Interviews
Tell us about yourself.
Why do you want to do this course/job?
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Who is your role model and why?] What do you think about the current economic/political situation?
What are your hobbies?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
If you are not taken, what will you do?
Questions about your background and academic record.
Questions about your habits, likes and dislikes.

First Impressions
Prepare for the interview:
Do not leave preparation for the interview for the last stage, or hope to say anything that comes to your mind at the moment. Developing confidence is a long-term process. Make it a point to discuss issues with family and friends. Carry your certificates in a file. Make it a habit to read extensively. This will prepare you for the interview.

Dress formally: Be neat. Boys should make sure they are shaved while girls can apply a light make-up. Well groomed hair, cleanliness, polished shoes are some essentials. Avoid jewellery, trendy clothes and casuals such as jeans. Formal dress should be worn: keep a suit away for special occasions and do not wear your everyday clothes for the interview.

Be on time: Err on the side or caution. Take a bus to the destination a few days before the final day. If that is not possible, allow yourself adequate time to find the place or unforeseen circumstances such as traffic jams. If you are early, do not go directly to the office but to a nearby restaurant and have something to eat.

When you enter: Greet the interviewer by saying, “Good morning, sir”. Do not be over-friendly. Do not sit down until asked. Sit straight and do not fold your arms. Look in the interviewer’s eye while answering questions.

Avoid controversy: Always stick to the subject, without giving opinions. Do not be critical of your institute or past employer. If you do not know a particular question, say, “I don’t know, sir.”

Listen carefully: Pause before answering a question to gather your thoughts. Listening will help you realise what the interviewer wants. Do not ramble or use long-winded examples.

Be pleasant: Keep a cheerful disposition, do not contradict the interviewer even if he is wrong, keep a pleasant outlook. Do not be funny, though one can be witty.

Tricky situations: If you are nervous, admit it. Stay calm, even if provoked. Of course, one cannot anticipate all questions so be ready for some surprises, too.