What is a Personal Interview?
Interview is an art of holding “purposeful conversation“. It is a dependable means of gathering information about even a stranger as it provides the stranger with a platform where s/he can express his/her opinions in a structured manner. With the new normal setting too, the central idea around which an interview revolves is that the participants, both the interviewer as well as the interviewee need to be able to look at one another, listen to each other’s voice and be able to get over the barrier of language or any other kind. So, we can say that an interview is an encounter between two or more people where exchange of thoughts and intentions takes place through exchange of words. One thing unique about Interviews which also distinguishes this form of interaction from daily conversation is that in this conversation, the process of turn taking is more formalised than any other form of conversation. Despite its popularity, the success and validity of an interview totally depends on the Interviewer and if not conducted correctly, it can be a poor predictor of subsequent job performance of a selected candidate.
What is the purpose of an Interview?
As discussed earlier, the aim of an interview is to provide an opportunity for people to meet and talk with each other and exchange information for mutual benefit. Thus, we can say that the purpose of an interview is to explore the candidate’s mind nd sentiments, to obtain information regarding specific situations or attitudes, to establish eligibility, to ascertain information, to evaluate personalities/resources and so on. Being a face-to-face interaction, an interview is more revealing than a written test or an examination. A candidate, who has performed well in a written and practical examination is not necessarily the best person for doing a job. A written test may have revealed a number of mental abilities of a candidate. But if various behavioural aspects such as initiative, self-confidence, tact, adaptability, leadership skills need to be assessed, then it can be easily done in a personal interview. These building blocks of a human personality can not be satisfactorily tested by way of written answers or practical experiments done by the candidates. Hence, the method of judging a person’s knowledge, skills as well as his/her personality is used by inviting a candidate for a Personal Interview.
What are the various features of an interview in SSB?
An effective interview is one in which the flow of information is efficient as well as sufficient for the purpose it is conducted. On the face of it, a natural and genuine desire to learn more about human affairs goes a long way in making the interviewer’s job a satisfying one. The chief aim of any selection interview is to gather sufficient nd good quality information on which the interviewer makes some reasonable predictions about each candidate.
- In case of SSB, one needs to understand that the Personal Interview is totally based on whatever Personal Information one fills in the Personal Information Questionnaire. Even the questions related to current affairs would also come out from the cities where a candidate has spent maximum years of his/her life, the educational institutions one has studied in, the subjects one liked or hated most, the teachers one respected most, how one spent time with the friends and family members, hobbies and interests and any other co-curricular activities one was involved in. Although there is a standard pattern in the sequencing of questions, here is nothing that is asked in remote isolation. Every question that the Interviewer asks is to provide the candidates with an opportunity to express one’s opinions and especially, personality traits suitable for the job of an Officer in the Armed Forces, popularly known as the Officer-like-Qualities.
- The Personal Interview in SSB lasts for 40-45 minutes for each candidate. The Interviewer gives each candidate complete opportunity to express his/her personality uniformly. Many times, candidates fail to make any significant impression upon the interviewer because of the friendly way in which the Interviewing Officer conducts the Interview. The Interviewer tries to make the candidates perfectly comfortable and relaxed as s/he knows that only then will the candidate’s true thoughts and habits come to the fore. As a result, many times the candidates forget to display the appropriate personality traits and get involved more in describing their personal opinions.
- Personal Interviews in SSB are an independent form of assessment which takes place on afternoons somewhere in between Day02-Day 04. While candidates appear for the Interview, they have finished their Psychological Tests and are undergoing the Group Tasks in the mornings. The most important point to note before appearing for the Personal Interview is the fact that the Interviewing Officer does not(Repeat) does not see the candidate or go through his/her performance in the other two forms of assessments. The only document which gives any insight to the personality of the candidate prior to the actual interaction is the PIQ. The Interviewing Officer makes a list of questions where s/he wants to probe the candidate and tries to look for the appropriate Personality traits which an Officer needs to display.
- Once the Interviewing Officer starts the Personal Interview, s/he does not make any personal comments on the answers given by the candidates. Even if the candidate gives an incorrect or vague answers the Interviewing Officer maintains a pleasant stance and gives every opportunity to the candidate to feel comfortable and at home. Once the Interview is over, the Officer makes his assessment based on the 15 Officer-like Qualities individually on a rating scale and then s/he discusses the candidate with the other two assessors only during the Final Board Conference.
- In the Final Conference, the Interviewer holds maximum weightage of marks. In addition to the initial assessments done by the three assessors independently, the candidate is again assessed in the Final Conference. In this the Interviewer’s marks being maximum, hold a key to the candidate’s successful recommendation for next steps.
What is the Key to succeed in the Personal Interview in SSB?
- The main aim of the Personal Interview in SSB is to try to gain optimum information in the shortest possible time. The interviewer will therefore control the flow of information in order to get a hint of the appropriate personality traits of the candidates.
- What the candidates need to do in such a scenario is to be prepared well in advance with the PIQ. The PIQ formats are generally available in any decent guide books on SSB, they need to download the form, fill it at least two or three times and be ready with the information that they want to tell the interviewer about.
- The next step that the candidates need to take is to be prepare the answers for the kind of questions they expect the Interviewing Officer can ask based on their PIQ.
- Then comes the actual dress rehearsals where the candidates sit in front of the mirror in a Mock setting that will be similar to the actual Interview setting. Candidates should try to sit in the same position for 40-45 minutes, wear the same formal clothes and be prepared with answers to certain questions such as:
- Tell me something about your educational journey starting from class VIII onwards, which subjects did you like, which subjects you hated, which teachers you respected the most and why? Any co-curricular activities you pursued in the school time, the class mates with whom you spent your most of the school time? Any outstanding achievements in school?
- Tell me something about your family, your siblings, your parents, with whom do you spend your most of the time at home, one person in whom you can confide almost anything, how do you all spend time at home?
- Tell me something more about your hobbies and interests? Any activity in which you have represented your school, college or club? Any outstanding achievements, any posts of responsibility that you held?
- Tell me what are your strengths and limitations? How do you plan to overcome these?
Personal Interview conducted by the Interviewing Officer in SSB is a healthy combination of a direct and indirect Interview. In such an Interview the candidate is allowed to maintain spontaneity and also gives the interviewer an opportunity to analyse and interpret the candidate’s responses. That is why the interviewer uses a preplanned pattern to guide the candidate in the desired direction and illicit required personality traits of the candidates. Candidates need to remember that even though the interview is conducted in a formal setting, it is the best opportunity to score maximum by trying to show the consistency of your character, through your words.