Knowing the bureaucrat at leisure

Sharp and alert: Playing a sport can teach you to be a good team player.   | Photo Credit: Matt Dunham

Hobbies are important for three reasons. Firstly, they serve as energy capsules. In course of their preparations, candidates undergo enormous stress due to the reclusive lifestyle they’re forced to lead. Hobbies help rejuvenate the mind and spirit of aspirants. Secondly, at the interview, hobbies help the interviewer to understand the personalities of candidates. Socially useful, intellectually stimulating and environmentally-sensitive hobbies can make all the difference. Thirdly, candidates can manoeuvre the interview into their own comfort zones by discussing their interests. We had conducted around seventy five mock interviews and understood the enormous sway of hobbies over the dynamics of an interview.

International relations

A student of international studies stood second in the civil services exams in the early 1990s. Elocution was his hobby. At the interview, he was asked to debate the induction of India as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The subject was not only up his academic street, he had cultivated a hobby that proved beneficial.

For 25 minutes, the candidate held sway. He scored more than 225 marks.


Last year, our student appeared in the interview with travelling as hobby. The panel had an engaging interaction with him on all aspects of travelling that included places of travel, knowledge gained during travel, differences between north India and south India, names of historical travellers in ancient India, Chinese travellers, travelogue as sources of Indian history. As the domain involved his passion, he did extremely well and scored over 190 marks.

Here are some hobbies you could consider making your own. The typical questions relating to these hobbies that panellists pose are also discussed in detail for your benefit.


A candidate was among the top 10 rank holders because of her splendid performance at the interview. She had an abiding interest in forests and wildlife, and the discussion inevitably moved to this topic. It was a riveting interview covering all dimensions of wildlife in India, including the prospects for the survival of elephants and tigers, Diclofenac and its role in nearly wiping out vultures, the problems relating to lion habitats in the Gir forest, and the effects of the green revolution on field diversity. The interview gave scope not only to demonstrate her grasp on facts, but also to showcase her opinions on the array of issues discussed.


Appearing at a mock-interview we conducted in Coimbatore, an aspirant with elocution as his hobby was asked to speak about ‘pain’. He thought for a minute, and began by quoting the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, who observed that humanity yearns to live in the kingdom of pleasure and wishes to avoid the kingdom of pain. He went on to argue that pain need not be a source of sorrow alone but could also be an avenue to self-realisation and development. The beauty of a butterfly can only be admired after its painful journey through metamorphosis. We are born only because our mothers are ready to bear the pain of delivery.


A refreshingly different hobby that stands out from the mundane could give you a leg-up over others. Consider the candidate who indicated playing and watching hockey as his hobby. In the context of our national obsession with cricket, not only did it stand out, it was exciting for the panel! They grilled him on the reasons for the decline of India’s national sport. He situated his answer in the context of the partition of India, with vast swathes of the catchment area going to newly-created Pakistan. He also argued that the emigration of Anglo-Indians, a key reservoir of hockey talent, led to an eventual decline of the game in India. He enumerated the numerous changes in the rules and regulations of the game, coaching techniques, and the playing surface, which called for speed and stamina ahead of skill. All these factors, he said, favoured the rise of the ‘Continental’ style of hockey. Dr.P.Kanagaraj PhD is an Associate Professor of Political Science in Government Arts College, Coimbatore. He provides free coaching for civil services exam and conducts mock interviews. He can be reached at

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 9:36:02 PM |

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