Key to crack SSB exams: How to prepare for the interview round - Hindustan Times
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Key to crack SSB exams: How to prepare for the interview round

ByShishir Dixit, New Delhi
Mar 07, 2024 04:20 PM IST

The parameters for selection in the armed forces are based on military leadership qualities, referred to as Officer-Like Qualities (OLQs).

In the five-day-long SSB process, the personal interview phase stands out as the most pivotal juncture. It is a formal conversation in which the interviewer assesses the different personality traits of the candidates to ascertain whether they possess the leadership qualities required in the armed forces.

In the five-day-long SSB process, the personal interview phase stands out as the most pivotal juncture.((PTI File Photo/ Representational image)
In the five-day-long SSB process, the personal interview phase stands out as the most pivotal juncture.((PTI File Photo/ Representational image)

The personal interview round in SSB includes a wealth of questions asked by the interviewing officer (IO). These questions range from the personal profile, academic profile and social profile of the candidates to their cognitive aspects. Based on their responses to different questions, the IO draws a mental picture of the candidates and prepares a report accordingly.

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Fill Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) neatly and clearly

Your Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) consists of 95% of your past information. If you have worked hard, grabbed opportunities in life, taken responsibilities in your early life, and utilised available resources judiciously, it is well reflected in your PIQ. Since the personal interview is a semi-structural test, the IO gets to know possible questionnaires for each candidate based on the PIQ analysis.

The importance of body language

The body language of a candidate has a decisive role in the assessment of one's personality profile. The level of self-confidence, first reaction after entering the room, common sense, level of anxiety, how pleasant the personality is, dressing sense, the way the candidate shakes hands, and if the individual is sweating while shaking hands - all these aspects are sufficient for the IO to draw a mental picture of an individuals personality. Hence, working on body language is paramount to excel in the personal interview.

Introvert vs Extrovert

An introvert is someone who tends to be reserved and thoughtful and may find social interactions draining. On the other hand, an extrovert is typically outgoing, sociable, and energised by social interactions.

In SSB, while introverts are expected to demonstrate qualities like self-confidence, assertiveness, and effective communication, even if they are naturally more introverted, extroverts might be assessed for their ability to listen attentively, show composure, and avoid dominating group discussions. The crux is that both introverts and extroverts can succeed in SSB interviews if they display the essential qualities and adapt to the situation as required.

The importance of participation in sports and extracurricular activities

The PIQ form has been designed in such a way that only 5% of candidates excel when it comes to leaving a mark on the IO with their outstanding performance.

The common pattern of PIQ reveals that candidates who are good in academics somewhere lack in sports, or those who are excellent in sports lag in academics. Therefore, it is advised to be honest while filling out the PIQ form; however, your fair amount of sports participation and physical fitness are desirable as an armed forces aspirant.

The routine of a candidate

While interacting with many young aspirants at Centurion Defence Academy during their 21-day SSB training, I have observed that many of them explicitly try to show that they are very studious and spend most of their productive time in their studies.

While this is commendable, it's essential to emphasise that balancing other activities like sports, yoga, fitness, helping with household responsibilities, and taking care of siblings are equally important. Engaging in a diverse range of activities alongside your studies not only sets you apart but also manifests your genuine leadership capabilities.

Introspection and truthfulness are the key to success

Introspection involves reflecting on one's strengths and weaknesses. Truthfulness involves honesty with oneself and others, creating trust and integrity. Combined, introspection and truthfulness empower aspiring officers to become efficient military leaders and uphold the values of the armed forces.

Many aspirants hide the fact that they have taken SSB coaching when the IO asks how they prepared for SSB. I would like to mention that personality is a dynamic process, so project the real view. Don’t copy others’ responses.

Be acquainted with your strengths and weaknesses

Everyone has unique strengths and scope for improvement. We are never perfect. Once you get recommended, you will be sent to the respective training academy for the process of improvement.

Every candidate has a few inherent strengths, and some gradually improve through life exposure. We have different types of strengths, such as interpersonal, intellectual, emotional, core, and theological. Weaknesses are areas where you need improvement. Every day we learn new things, and we tend to improve. We are never perfect, and we must learn to admit our weaknesses if we genuinely want to make improvements.

Role of hobbies and interests

A hobby is an activity that you manage to perform regularly during your free time. While interest is something that you wish to do but do not do regularly, it may also be the initial stage of a hobby.

While reviewing the dossiers of SSB aspirants, I discovered that many candidates list traveling as their hobby. In an interesting scenario, when I inquired about this hobby from a candidate during an interview, it was revealed that, actually, due to his father’s posting at different places, he had to travel to all those places, so it was not his hobby but a compulsion. So, do not mention anything as your hobby or interest that you can’t justify.

Parameters of selection in personal interview

The parameters for selection in the armed forces are based on military leadership qualities, referred to as Officer-Like Qualities (OLQs). There are 15 such qualities, with some important ones including effective intelligence, reasoning ability, social adaptability, sense of responsibility, initiative, self-confidence, courage, and the ability to influence the group.

Candidates preparing for the SSB interview must grasp the concept of servant leadership, a variant that upholds "seva parmo dharma," meaning service before self. Military leadership demands individuals who are physically, mentally, psychologically and emotionally balanced, and ready to render selfless service to the nation.

It requires those who are self-motivated, prioritize organizational needs over personal ones, and consider others' comfort before their own. This form of servant leadership is essential in the armed forces.

While some leadership traits are trainable, others are less so. If a candidate lacks certain trainable traits, such as swimming or language proficiency, the armed forces can provide training to improve these aspects. However, the Services Selection Board will never compromise on less trainable traits.

Start living well and strive to be a good leader in your day-to-day life. Be accountable and able to justify each decision in your life, whether related to your career prospects or other aspects of life. This is the key to earning a recommendation in SSB.

(Authored by Shishir Dixit, Founder & Director, Centurion Defence Academy. Views are personal)

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