I was an Interviewing Officer (IO) and Deputy President of 17 SSB in 2010–11. Since 2014 till date, I am guiding SSB aspirants. I find a lot of misconceptions about SSB as well as the Interview. In answering this question I will explain the perspective of the IO and what should be the approach of a candidate.
What an IO Assesses?
The IO, just like the other two assessors, is required to assess as to whether the candidate he is interviewing possesses the requisite 15 OLQs inadequate measure or not.
Methodology of IO’s Assessment
An IO tracks the life history of the candidate in front of him through his childhood, family and academic environment, the opportunities available, difficulties faced, successes and failures to construct a consistent behavioural profile. A guiding principle for all IOs is:
Past behaviour is indicative of future conduct; more consistent has been a past behaviour, more likely it is to be repeated in the future.
In about 40–50 min an IO completes the assessment. The questions posed are in roughly the following sequence:
- Initial introductory questions: For candidates who are interviewed immediately after the Psychology Tests the initial questions are about the place from where the candidate has come, journey and so on. For the candidates being interviewed during the GTO tests the initial questions are generally about the GTO tasks, group members and so on. The aim in the initial 2–3 min is to make the candidate comfortable and open up in a new and often (for some) intimidating environment.
- There are no “Rapid-fire Questions! A stupid, popular, terminology for the series of questions asked by the IO is ‘rapid fire’. There are no ‘rapid fire’ questions but a series of interconnected questions. These may be asked as follows:
- First series of questions for students: The first series of questions maybe like this:“Please tell me about your academic performance, starting from 10th, the percentage of marks you scored, your favourite subject-why was it your favourite? Which subject you did not like/why you did not like? Who was your favourite teacher-why was he the favourite? Which teacher you did not like/why you did not like? Who are your close friends/why are they close? Who among your colleagues you did not like/why you did not like? How you adjusted to hostel life? Also tell me about the sports and extra-curricular activities you participated in and achievements if any?”
- First series of questions for professionals: The first series of questions for professionals maybe like this: “Please tell me about your professional experience-what you like about your work/what you don’t like about your work? Any changes you would like to bring in your work-place? What is your opinion about your boss? How many friends you have at work? Why did you switch jobs? How you adjusted to leaving home? Why you want to leave the present job and join Army?”
- Second series of questions: The second series of questions would be about your family and neighbours. These maybe like this: “Tell me about your parents occupation? How do you spend time at home? Who are you closest to? In case of a problem who do you approach? Tell me about your relations with your siblings and neighbours?”
- Third series of questions: The third series of questions maybe like this: “Tell me about your hobbies and interests? How do you spend your spare time? What is your daily routine? What TV program you like? What do you like to read?”
- Subsequent Questions: After these questions IO may not ask any series of questions but may aske questions related to hobbies/interests, sports, achievements and GK. The IO may ask you to explain about organizing some event/activity. He may ask you about performance in Psychology Tests/GTO. He may ask things like: How did you prepare for SSB? Why you have opted for Air Force? If you are not selected what will you do?
- Probing Questions While Candidate is Answering: During the time a candidate is answering the IO may ask probing questions to check your academic knowledge, practical sense which maybe related to your favourite subject or a practical problem related to understanding of time & distance/dimensions & so on.
Correct Attitude/Approach to Answering Questions
A competent candidate’s approach to answering the questions should have the following ingredients:
- He/she should be confident of being selected.
- He/she should be transparent, truthful and have an attitude of not hiding anything.
- Opinions about teachers, friends, family members, boss & colleagues should be expressed freely and honestly not diplomatically.
- Do not treat any questions as tricky or asked with an aim to push you into a corner. Please consider in such situations that the IO wants to know the answer out of curiosity. Examples:
- Why your marks fell? (Honest answers are the right thing to do; in 99% cases the real reasons are incompetence or lack of commitment; the popular reasons given like: bike accident, grandmother’s illness, candidate’s illness are invariably false & do not help your cause at all).
- Why you got backlogs?
- Why did you quit the job?
Poor Strategy for Preparing for Interview
Most coaching academies coach aspirants to learn the questions likely to be asked and rehearse diplomatically good answers. This is a very poor strategy because candidates who go with this strategy often perform badly because of the following:
- If unprepared questions get asked the candidate gets stumped and panics. Such a situation almost always occurs.
- The rehearsed answers are invariably not all honest and consistent with the candidate’s personality.
Poor Strategy During Interview
Coached candidates are obsessed with answering the series of questions asked in exactly the same sequence as asked. At least 30% of their memory is rehearsing the questions that have been asked and as a result, suffer impaired attentiveness and comprehension and may often not comprehend some of the questions asked and hence give poor answers.
Correct Strategy During Interview
Please think that you are speaking to a friend, maintaining a state of relaxed attentiveness (as you would do while watching an interesting movie). Please do not try to remember the sequence of questions desperately. If you can remember it is fine & if you do not then also it is okay. Answer whatever questions you remember and if you have forgotten then seek pardon of the IO and ask him to repeat the questions.
Tackling Types of Questions
There are only three kinds of questions. Please answer them keeping the advice given below in mind:
- Questions about personal life: Please answer them honestly and undiplomatically.
- Academic questions/ practical problems: Please take your time to think and answer well. If you do not know the answer then state so. If you are confident about the answer but not sure then say: “I am not sure, but would like to guess & then answer.”
- Questions about general awareness: Answer these questions like the academic questions.
Please observe the above guidelines for success in SSB interview and ignore all trash advice given in websites and by coaching academies. Good luck!