Below are some of the questions that I faced in the interview and the responses that I gave. My interview board was headed by Dr. P Kilemsungla. On the day of my interview, the Chairman was late by about 30-45 mins. And so they were in a hurry and interviewed everyone for not more than 20-30 minutes. The board was very cordial and my interview lasted for about 25-30 minutes. Most of the questions were related to my background. I tried to reply in not more than 2-3 sentences and answered to the point.
I wasn’t very happy with my interview and I faltered at a few places, especially at the questions that were asked by the last member.
Me: May I come in madam?
[Chairman] Yes come in.
Me: Thank you madam. Good morning madam, good morning sirs.
[Chairman] Good morning, please take your seat.
Me: Thank you madam.
They went through my DAF prompting different keywords in my DAF.
Q. [Chairman] You left your job in 2013, what were you doing for the last 2 years?
Me: (with a smile) Madam, I was preparing for civil services examination.
Q. [Chairman] You come from an IT background, why is that we don’t have a Silicon Valley yet? Bangalore is said to be India’s Silicon Valley, but it is getting saturated and facing problems of its own.
Me: Madam, I don’t think we should ever have a Silicon Valley in India. Instead we should have well developed IT clusters throughout the country and I think we’re moving in that direction. For example, today IT is not just concentrated in Bangalore, but also in Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Gurgaon etc. There is still a lot of untapped potential in north eastern states.
Q. [Member 3 intervened] So you mean to say that the USA’s model of Silicon Valley is a wrong model?
Me: No sir, I only meant that it doesn’t suit our context. USA is a developed nation and economically, it has reached a position where it can afford to go for such a localised development model. For a diverse nation with extreme inequalities like India, such a model will not work.
Q. [Chairman] You said north eastern states. What potential do you see for IT in north eastern states?
Me: Madam, the potential in these states is their youth. And relatively IT needs very little investments compared to the manufacturing sector. So if we’re able to provide adequate educational and skill development opportunities here, the IT companies will get attracted to harness this potential in these states.
Q. [Chairman] What are your views on Bitcoins?
Me: Madam, since the Bitcoin currency is not backed by any monetary authority in the world, its value is not guaranteed. Also it is prone to cyber theft. For example, companies like Mt. Gox in Japan and Flexicoin in Canada filed for bankruptcy because their bitcoins were stolen from their e-vault. And that is the reason why RBI had issued a note of caution about its usage.
Q. [Chairman] So you see no scope for it in future?
Me: No madam, I see a lot of scope. When the virtual currency is backed by some international authority like IMF or World Bank and when adequate security protocols are established to prevent the cyber theft, then it can significantly facilitate global trade.
Q. [Chairman] Though India is growing in terms of IT, we do not have adequate fabrication units in our country. What do you think should be done?
Me: Madam, improving chip manufacturing capabilities is not just a good thing to have, but is quite essential. It is estimated that electronic imports would take over energy imports by 2020. So for that, electronics and chip manufacturing must be given a special focus in India’s Make in India campaign and India must actively engage with nations like South Korea, Japan and China to attract investments in these areas to our country.
Q. [Chairman] What makes you think you’re suited to be an administrator? (Unfortunately I have not prepared for this question, which btw is totally an expected one 😦 ).
Me: Madam, I think coming from a technical background and as someone who understands technology, I can easily identify areas where I can plug in the technology to improve the system. (After answering, I realised that this is not what she asked)
Q. [Chairman] Using technology is one thing, but an administrator needs many more things. You seem like a strong technical guy, what makes you think that you’ll be a good administrator? (I should have taken a few moments to think. I got tensed a little bit because I have not prepared for this question, although it is an expected one)
Me: Madam, I am a very patient person and am willing to listen to what everyone has got to say. Also, I am a slow learner and I think here it works to my advantage. (This is a blunder. I blabbered whatever that came to my mind and has no correlation to the question that was asked. Felt extremely bad after the question, but tried to keep my cool with a smiling face)
Q. [Member 1] You’ve mentioned reading about ethical hacking is your hobby. So what is ethical hacking?
Me: (Before answering that question, I got so excited, because I had thoroughly prepared for this question, that instead of answering the question I immediately asked) Sir, should I also explain why it is called ethical hacking?
[Member 1] Looking at my excitement, he responded “No” and moved on to the next question
Q. [Member 1] What in your opinion has been the government’s performance in protecting the environment?
Me: Sir, despite several initiatives, the performance has not been as good as it should be. But I see that the trend is now changing significantly – for example the recent government’s ambitious renewable energy target of 175 GW and nuclear energy target of 63 GW by 2022 and 2032 respectively. Also the FFC had given a monetary angle to the forests in its horizontal devolution formula, which I think is a significant step. Apart from pursuing these goals the government must move towards decentralisation and involving the local communities to the maximum extent possible. I think that holds the key.
Q. [Member 1] The government has been banning the NGOs receiving foreign funds amid several allegations about their misuse. Why do you think NGOs need these foreign funds in the first place, why have they not been able to raise the funds within the country?
Me: Sir, I do not think all foreign funds are a threat to our country. For example, it was the foreign funding of Rockefeller foundation that ushered in green revolution in our country. Sir, in the past India’s economic position was not so strong that it can fund these NGOs and thus they had to rely on foreign funds. But now we see several NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Prajwala which have been raising significant funds within our country itself.
Q. [Member 2] You worked at Google and what constructive role can it play in our country?
Me: Sir, Google today is partnering with the government to come up with several initiatives like AP Fibre Corporation to provide internet connectivity, promoting budding businesses to expand their reach by bringing them onto digital market. Few days ago Google decided to invest Rs. 1000 crores in Hyderabad to build the largest campus outside USA. This provides lot of jobs.
Q. [Member 2] What are all the places that you went for trekking?
Me: Sir I’ve been to Tada falls, Dandeli in Karnataka and Vaishnodevi temple near Jammu.
Then Member 2 asked me a few factual questions about the deity there, what form She is in etc.
Q. [Member 2] What all improvements would you recommend for this place?
Me: Sir I think transportation is a problem here. It will be great if wired cabs can be built so that it becomes more accessible.
Q. [Member 2] That’s all? What about security? (looking at the Chairman) There is a terrorist threat to this place. (Looking at me) You didn’t find any lacks in security?
Me: Sir, I felt that there was adequate security. And beyond that I cannot recollect seeing something that caught my eye.
Q. [Member 2] Why are the global rankings of IITs very poor?
Me: Sir I think there are mainly 2 reasons for that. First is that there are some flaws in the global ranking mechanism itself. For example, an IIT grad who goes and graduates from Stanford is considered an alumni of Stanford but not IIT. Also India being a developing nation, we cannot expect many foreign students to be coming and studying in India. The second reason is that there is a genuine problem in the area of research. It continues to be one area where we are still witnessing a significant brain drain.
Q. [Member 2] You were earning such a high salary at your previous job. How are you going to live with the pay cut.
Me: Sir, even though I got inclined towards civil services in college itself, I took up the job as a software engineer because the pay was good and that felt right at that point. However, during the 2 years of me working as a software engineer, I felt that money is not the only thing that can take me to work every day for the next 30-35 years. I realised that I must choose a career that would give me a greater job satisfaction. And civil services promised me that job satisfaction. Also sir, if we consider all the other allowances that a civil servant gets, then pay cut is not so big and I was willing to take that cut in lieu of greater job satisfaction.
Q. [Member 3] I have only one question to ask you. So think for a minute and answer. Today civil servants are being selected through an exam and by a bunch of 5 people interacting with the aspirants for half-an-hour. Even though UPSC is fair in all aspects, don’t you think this isn’t correct? I think many engineers and doctors like you are coming towards civil services and wasting all the money spent on making you engineers and doctors. Instead I think civil servants should be selected soon after 12th class, and then they should be adequately trained in all necessary aspects like polity, economy, technology etc and make them more suitable for administration. What is your opinion on this?
Me: (Silent for a few seconds) Sorry sir, I beg to differ with you on this. This is something I’m telling from my own personal experience. I don’t think that a 12th standard student will be mature enough to choose civil services as a career for right reasons. I think it is a very mature decision. Also sir, I think civil services is such a diverse career that it would want candidates from diverse profiles. It wants the best engineers, doctors, lawyers, MBA grads, economists etc.. On the other hand I feel that training all the 12th passed students to be civil servants would make all the civil servants to be monotonous. I think that diversity is one of the biggest strengths of Indian bureaucracy which must be continued.
Q. [Member 4] I understand why PM Narendra Modi is going to China and South Korea, but why is he going to Mongolia? (Just one day before my interview PM was visiting Mongolia). Just answer that in one sentence.
Me: Sir, at a time when China is increasing her presence in India’s neighbours it would be a strategic counter move by India to increase her presence in China’s neighbour.
(Bad time starts…)
Q. [Member 4] Do you think we should move from FPTP to Proportional Representation system?
Me: No sir, I don’t so. (Couldn’t recollect much points here) We have very low literacy rate in our country and they may not understand the complex voting system.
[Member 4] I do not agree with that view because it was these illiterate farmers who successfully implemented the green revolution. If they understand that they can understand this.
Me: (silent for a few seconds) Sorry sir, I’ll need more time to think on this.
Q. [Member 4] Should we move towards Presidential form of government because in reality that’s what we are witnessing in our country?
Me: (Again I cannot recollect many points here and started fidgeting) Sir I don’t think we should because the Executive is held accountable for its actions by the Parliament in Parliamentary form of government.
[Member 4] So is in the Presidential form of government. Infact, the President of US is more responsible to the US Congress than our PM to the Parliament.
Me: Sorry sir, I’ll need more time to think on this.
Q. [Member 4] Tell me just 3 or 4 points on what strategies we need to adopt to achieve 8-9% growth rate
Me: Sir, inclusive development
[Member 4] That is not a strategy, that is an objective.
Me: Sorry sir. Skill development (he gives a big nod), women empowerment (blank face again and when I was thinking more he prompted ‘tax’), tax reforms (and then silence again)
(This question is again a disaster. I got tensed and couldn’t answer this question properly. Correct response should have been – skill development, infrastructure development, tax reforms, labour reforms etc.)
Member 4 looked at the Chairman and said I’m done. Then Chairman looked at me and said, okay its done. I stood up and said, “Thank you madam, thank you sirs, have a nice day” and walked out.
I scored 208 out of 275 marks which is more than what I had expected.