Interview Tips

Much of this article will apply for most interviews – CAT, UPSC and placements, though it is mostly intended for the CSE interview.

Interviews are mostly about the interviewers assessing whether you’d be a good colleague / junior to work with (for jobs) or whether you’d be a good student for college (I think you could read this as: Won’t flunk my course & will manage to get placed).

The first thing to know about the CSE interview is that it’s the easiest part of the process. So you don’t need to do anything for it till you’re done with the Mains exam.

In any interview, you can be yourself, or you can be someone else, meaning you put on a facade that isn’t you. It depends on you what you want to do – don’t assume that being yourself means you’ll always get better marks, and don’t assume that the interviewers will never be able to tell you’re pretending if you try being someone else.

This is an article from Anudeep Durishetty’s blog, which I’d say you definitely should read if you’re appearing for the CSE interview. Watch the video he mentions, it is very useful.

General Advice

  • You’ll always get feedback from the board on how to improve – a lot of it is good, some of it isn’t. Use your judgment. Many of the small things – how you walked to the chair, whether you dragged your chair or lifted it, whether you held eye contact for two seconds or three – don’t matter that much. The whole point is to do these things in a manner they don’t attract attention – just as you probably don’t notice whether your friend drags his chair or not when you talk to him. Similar for dress, I feel – if you’re not ostentatious or attracting adverse attention, it’s fine.
  • You will have to make an effort to be interesting. A board sees many faces a day, you can’t expect them to take an interest in you if you don’t do anything to deserve it. If you go with a preconceived model of an IAS officer and try to live up to it, you might get decent marks if you pull it off, but you might also be just one face among many. It’s probably safer, but it’s unlikely to be extreme – neither extremely good nor extremely bad.
  • This is something I do in interviews. The interview is about me, not about IAS.
    • So any question like why IAS (this was asked) – is about me, not about the service.
    • This holds true for IAS/IIM/job interviews. You can always say the usual cliches if you want about challenge/diversity – but then I’d suggest you should try to be interesting in your other answers or you’ll end up repeating what the board has heard from a dozen candidates already.
  • You can say “I don’t know” – I did that, and the board just moved on. They know you don’t know everything. And it takes humility to accept that.
  • Specially for B-school students and those who fond of jargon – don’t try that. Fancy terms like “empowerment”, “holistic changes”, or meaningless ideas like “change people’s attitudes” (how?) aren’t particularly impressive. Nor is this Mains, where you mention which committee said what (unless very relevant).

Interview Prep

  • Knowledge isn’t that important – it’s already been tested in Mains
  • You can divide the interview prep into categories
    • Personal – Hobbies, motivation for CS,
    • Education – Undergrad Subject, Basic knowledge of undergrad concepts
      • You don’t have to know everything, but knowing absolutely nothing about your subject doesn’t make a good impression
    • Professional – Job
      • Big picture – what does your organization do, how does your work contribute to that
      • Smaller picture – what exactly do you work on
    • Cities you’ve lived in – Hometown, college, current city
    • Current Affairs/ News
      • Understand that what was important for Mains very often becomes unimportant for interview and what is important for interview is very often unimportant for Mains
        • So, a question like “Is a Democrat President better for India than a Republican one?” wouldn’t be likely to come in Mains but can be asked in the interview
        • Editorials become more useful now
    • Job specific –
      • I preferred to give simpler, practical answers – things you can actually do, not big schemes or generic answers
        • What steps would you take to improve people’s lives in the district (I was asked this)
        • Handling a tricky situation (COVID, riots etc),
      • Diplomatic tangles – How would you handle the issues in India-US or Indo-Pak ties etc – particularly if you’ve given IFS as your first preference
  • Primacy effect matters – the news right before or on the day of your interview can be much more important
    • My interview was on the day of the hanging of the convicts in the Nirbhaya case.
    • 3 topics from could arise from this – violence against women, the slow judicial process and misuse, and capital punishment – for or against. The last one was asked – not hard to predict.
  • I don’t think what you’ve studied for the Prelims / Mains is very useful – it might be that you’re asked about your optional, but if you’ve understood it you shouldn’t have too hard a time
    • Since it’s an interview and time is limited, it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to expound in great detail

During the Interview

  • Go beyond facts to opinions
    • In Mains, you could cite the Law Commission or Bachan Singh case (rarest of rare doctrine), in Interview I think your view on it matters more – these can only support your view, they can’t be your view
  • You don’t have to give bland or boring answers, or even conventional answers if you can justify your stand
    • In most arguments I keep hearing that Scandinavia and co. have banned capital punishment, so we should too
    • I disagree with that, so I defended the need for CP, while also acknowledging it should be limited (rarest of rare came in here)
  • Your opinion might be countered – you can backtrack (if you believe the other view is valid and yours isn’t) or you can defend gracefully, by acknowledging the other point of view but holding to yours
    • I was asked by the Chairman if my job could be completely automated, I didn’t agree and gave reasons why.
    • Arguing for its sake wouldn’t be advisable, especially if you’re arguing because you don’t want to admit you’re wrong
    • But simply folding up and changing your opinion whenever you’re countered indicates a lack of confidence too.
    • So it might be better to appreciate all sides of an issue but stick to the one you think is right.

Some Specific Feedback

  • You might want to pause before you answer
  • Make eye contact with all the members – no one likes feeling left out
    • Even if they aren’t the ones asking you the question you can still address them occasionally
  • Don’t give extremely long answers for every question
    • Be specific and to the point
    • Some answers might be long (quite a few of mine were) – but don’t speak simply for the sake of speaking.
  • Don’t second-guess yourself and try evaluating how you’re doing in the middle of the interview.
  • Don’t be negative – criticizing your job/colleagues and giving an impression you’re running away from them
    • Negative people aren’t very fun to be around
    • Anyone can criticize, almost no one can come up with solutions
  • Don’t bother worrying about which board you’ll get – there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
  • Don’t go with an inferiority/superiority complex
    • It’s not as big a deal as you might think
    • It doesn’t matter if you’re not from a top college – what you say there counts for more and people from all streams have gotten good marks in interviews
    • It doesn’t matter if you are from a top college – what you say there counts more than the degree you have, and people from great colleges have gotten bad marks in interviews

Finally, to repeat the point I made at the beginning.

If you try to be yourself, you’ll find that your interviews will be more fun and interesting, to say the least. I’ve been rejected from two interviews in under 30 seconds (one was more like 10 seconds), and in a few others, had the interviewers trying to convince me to join them within a minute.

If you decide to pretend to be someone else, make sure you do a good job at it- you should not be below average.

If you try to give standard ready-made answers for everything, you should expect standardized, average marks. It is probably safer but also boring.

You should have hobbies. Life is nothing without hobbies – I can’t imagine how a person can not have at least one. If you don’t know your hobby, just make a note of where your time goes everyday for a week. Your hobby is whatever you’re spending time on regularly.

Don’t mention too many hobbies either, though. I like a lot of sports – tennis, soccer, badminton, basketball and others – but I didn’t mention any apart from weight-training, because I only like playing them, not reading about them, so I didn’t know much about them. And the more you mention, the more material you’ll have to cover in your preparation – so find a balance between too little and too much.

Finally, take my words with a pinch of salt, and don’t try to force-fit them to yourself – you can get a great score even if you don’t follow anything I’ve said.



Sir, in the ABOUT section of this blog, you asked to ask GENUINE questions, I didn’t find any space to ask question so I am writing it here.. 1. How do you define yourself as a person? 2.What’s your ultimate passion? 3. What’s that fire that makes you crack multiple exams? 4. What keeps you going? 5. If you do not find these questions GENUINE then please let me know what type of questions are genuine and to what questions you’ll reply?


I didn’t keep questions on that page because I don’t find it that useful- answers about myself hardly help anyone. If you wanted to clear UPSC or improve your physique it’d make more sense to learn the ideas behind it, not my specific way which wouldn’t work for others unless they modified it to suit them.

1- Not sure I get you. But I don’t define myself with labels like “liberal/conservative” or even based on my degree/job.
2 – Don’t believe in ultimate passions. I love lifting but it’s not an ultimate passion.
3- Nothing, cracking exams is just a means. More important is what comes after them.
4- Fun / Happiness. I stagnate if I don’t keep going. Just keeping on going is fun. If you stop, it gets boring.
5- Genuine depends on you –
What don’t you know the answer to?
Can you find it out any other way? Eg a simple Google search would give 1000s of book-lists for any exam; I don’t consider “Which book-list to use” a genuine question (though it’s the most common one)
Does it make any sense to ask? A question like “Can I clear UPSC?” is pointless. I don’t know whoever is asking, so I can’t answer. If i answered anyway and said yes, it wouldn’t change anything. And if I answered and said No, would that person really give up just because of what a total stranger said?
And lastly, my personal guide: Is there any point asking? Meaning am I going to learn something interesting (fun) or something that will help me (useful)? I’m not sure if talking about myself really fits here.

Rahul Pandey

Sir, I have heard from friends that people having right leaning opinions score badly in interviews. Is this the case given your experience?

  1. I don’t know if I fit in “right leaning” views, nor what you consider “right leaning”.
  2. I don’t know my interview marks yet.
  3. IF I am right leaning and I get good marks, it means that not all right leaning people score badly
  4. IF I am right leaning and score badly, it doesn’t mean that all right-leaning people score badly
  5. If I am not right leaning and score well, it doesn’t mean that all non right-leaning people score well
  6. If I am not right leaning and score badly, it doesn’t mean that all non-right leaning people score badly

So it’s both premature to comment, and one experience cannot lead you to any conclusion.

Also realize – every interview board is made up of human beings, and different human beings have different points of view. It’s highly unlikely all have colluded to be prejudiced against “right leaning” people.

The reason for this long post?
Don’t waste your time and energy thinking about these things.

Rahul Pandey

Sorry sir, I think I didn’t frame my question correctly. I didn’t meant to say you’re right leaning, rather I meant that since you’ve cruised through the interview, did you feel that the panel is a bit left leaning on social issues as per your assesment (if you’ve done any)?

I say this because I read an anon account of someone on twitter who said that the interview panel asked him about his thoughts on Sabarimala issue which he related with tradition & got a bad score. But again this was an anon account who could be a troll.

The purpose of my question was whether one should try to force fit himself/herself into a pre conceived liberal/progressive world view and curtail his inner honest thoughts on such issues to score good in interview when otoh people often say “be yourself” in interview?


No, I understood you – I think you didn’t understand me.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
One experience (if true, which as you said is unlikely) with one panel won’t lead you to the conclusion that all panels are left leaning.

Every panel has different people – you won’t know which side they lean.
You won’t even find out – the panel only asks questions. So I couldn’t say which way my panel “leaned”,

Be yourself v/s be someone else – none is “the answer”, you choose.

I choose to be myself because

  1. I like to think I’m good enough, I don’t need to pretend to be someone else
  2. If the interviewers (any job- not just UPSC) think I’m not a fit, then I don’t want to pose as someone else, who I’m not, just to get selected. I probably won’t like the work if I have to pretend to be someone I’m not on the job.
  3. Out of so many faces, if you do the same thing as everyone else, you’ll be just another face. Easiest way to stand out is just be yourself.

Ofc, this also means they might not like you – and give you a low score. Or they might give you a high one. Average is a little less likely.

Be someone else (liberal or right or progressive or anything)

  1. If you think you’re not good enough as you are
  2. If you think the interviewers only want a particular type of person (again, how can you know this given that you don’t know your interviewers?)

If you are pretending to be someone else (there’s nothing wrong if you do), pretend well if you want a good score (or you’ll just be a vague face to the board)
Doing what you think everyone is doing is alright, but you’ll probably end up with an average score. It’s probably safer. If you’re fine with it, it’s a better option.

I just hate average. I’d take a low score over an average one.


Hi Pratyush,

Hope you’re doing good.

Just a quick question, were you working while preparing for the UPSC examination ?

Aman choudhary

Hey Pratyush,
Does it matter if a person stammer in cse interview. It will be very kind of you if you can guide me.
Thank you