This Thursday I appeared for my interview of the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) at the commission’s office in Mumbai. The following is a recollection of the same to the best of my memory.
I reached the offices of the commission’s office at 7:45 am, far earlier than the 8:30 am that I was instructed in the call letter. I wore a beige formal shirt with dark blue trousers and lace-up black formal shoes. After going out and taking a light tea-biscuit breakfast, I returned and joined the other candidates. We were asked to register ourselves and then taken to a conference room for document verification process. I had mentioned my qualification category (GEN/OBC/SC/ST) on the bio-data form supplied alongwith the call letter and was admonished by the verification officer that I must never do so as that form was given to the interview board. His reasoning was that you don’t want them to have any preconceived notions about you. Post that, we were once again asked to register, online this time, and then asked to wait for the interviews to begin. (The verification staff were very cordial and helpful I must add. In fact, I had forgotten to print a document and they got it printed there. Big thank you to them for that. 🙂 ) We kept every single belonging in our bags (apart from the clothes we wore 😀 ) and waited until we were called up. As it turned out, mine was the first name on the list.
I knocked twice on the door and then opened it slightly to ask permission for entering. Upon entering and reaching my seat, I greeted all the members. The chairman sir asked me to sit down. There were five members in the panel, two ladies (to the left of the chairperson) and three gentlemen. The fifth member went out early in the interview and didn’t return before I left, don’t know why.
Let’s designate the members as follows :
Chairman : C
Madam 1 : M1
Madam 2 : M2
Last member, sir actually : S
The chairman sir started the questioning.
C : What’s your full name?
C: Where are you from?
Me : I’m basically from UP but residing in Bhuj, Gujarat for the past 10 years.
C : Bhuj is famous for the earthquake.
Me : Yes sir.
C : When did it happen?
C : How are earthquakes measured? What is the scale used?
Me : Sir I don’t know the exact procedure but they are measured using the Richter scale.
C : Is there any relation between earthquake and tsunami?
Me : Yes sir, earthquakes take place because of the shifting of the tectonic plates in the earth’s crust. Sometimes earthquakes can trigger tsunamis. Gave the example of the 2004 tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.
C : So can tsunamis occur only when earthquakes take place on land or sea or both?
Me : Both the cases sir. Gave example of the recent tsunamis in Japan and then of the 2004 tsunamis again.
C : What are the methods to produce clean energy?
Answered. Mentioned all except nuclear energy (forgot!). And the members were, for some reason, very interested in nuclear energy.
C : What about nuclear energy? Is that clean?
Me : Yes sir. Apart from the disposal of the waste, nuclear energy is a clean method too. Explained how that causes problems.
C : How is the water used in the nuclear power plants (NPP) managed?
Me : Explained the heat exchange process in NPP. Then said that the water used is cooled through cooling tower and then recycled back for use in the plant.
C : All of it is recycled?
Me : No sir, some of it is lost to the atmosphere in vapour form during condensation.
C : In the budget that was introduced a few days back, a cess of ₹ 300/tonne was added to coal. Why was it added? And, second question, what are the ways in which it will affect industry?
Me : Sir, it was added to fund the Clean India/Swachh Bharat initiative. Government wants to discourage the thermal, er, thermal power generation.
C (with a wry smile on his face) : Discourage?
Me (realising my folly) : No sir. I meant that the government wants to promote and encourage the clean energy production methods over thermal energy. So that’s why.
C : Why was it added to coal, not something else?
Me : Sir, I guess the government had to add it somewhere to procure funds.
C : Ok.
Me : And the second question sir? I forgot that.
C : How will it affect industry?
Me : It will lead to higher production costs for the thermal industry which will then be passed on to the consumers in some form or the other.
C : How will it affect cement industry?
Me : Sir, cement industry needs fly ash which is a by-product of the thermal power plant. With increased price of coal, cost of fly ash will go up too which means cement production will also get costlier.
C : What is malnutrition? What measures is the govt taking to tackle it?
Me : Sir, the,er..(thought for a few seconds looking into space)… the, er, lack of the nutrients an, err… minerals in the body in required quantities is called malnutrition. Govt. has schemes like the midday meal scheme and some other schemes for pregnant women too for tackling malnutrition. (I knew the definition but couldn’t recall the name of the schemes. As a result, I wasn’t very articulate in answering.)
C : So is it in children only or adults too?
Me : It can be in children as well as adults too.
C : What are Anganwadis? Have you heard about them?
Me : Yes sir. Anganwadis are set-ups in the rural and urban areas. Here, female health workers, called ASHAs, help women with their food and nutrition requirements in the rural areas. (Wasn’t the exact answer, but I tried to answer as best as I could then. I guess I was too wound up and nervous and that led to the brain-scrambling and uneasiness. I hated myself for that. Seriously!!! It was like my mind and my tongue weren’t in sync.)
C : Malnutrition is not only in rural areas?
Me : No sir, it is in urban areas too. I forgot to mention that.
He passed the figurative baton to the madam sitting to his left for questioning.
Madam M1 :
M1 (looking at my bio-data form) : You’ve mentioned here that you took part in NCC in school. (Smiling) The year is also 2001. So, what did you do in NCC?
Me : Ma’am I studied in R. K. Mission School and we had NCC only in classes 7 & 8. And I am from what you can call a conservative family so I wasn’t allowed to go for camping or cycling. But I did take part in the parade drills on 15th August and 26th January.
The chairman looked at my bio-data and asked,” No A/B/C certificate?”
Me : No sir, I didn’t pursue it in college.
M1: Why are you shifting to this when you’re an electrical engineer?
Me : Ma’am there are two reasons. Explained them both. Madam nodded in satisfaction. (As you would have read sometime or the other, it is important to be honest in the interview. Always give the points and reasons that you believe in and that are true. The board members are very experienced and they will catch you if you try to lie or put up a fake persona.)
M2 : Which is the largest power producing state in India?
I blurted out, ” Gujarat.” (This is wrong. Maharashtra is the correct answer. Shame shame!!!)
M2 : Gujarat?
Me (confused inside bur confidently) : Yes ma’am.
M2 : What is thermal pollution? Give some examples.
Me : Ma’am the burning of coal produces fumes and gases which, despite being cleaned by ESP and ID-FD fans, contains particles that cause air pollution. Plus when the steam used in turbine is condensed in cooling towers, some of it escapes in vapour form into the atmosphere which also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
M2 : Have you heard of Kailash Satyarthi?
Me : Yes ma’am.
M2 : Who is he? What is he famous for?
Me : Answered. Was going to mention his Nobel Prize when madam asked…
M2 : Has he been awarded any prize?
Me : Answered.
M2 : Who did he share it with?
Me : With Malala Yousafzai.
By this point all the members were nodding their approval (Felt happy and at ease because of that). After my answer, madam motioned for the last member for questions. He was asking questions in both Hindi and English and I answered in the language that a particular question was asked.
Member 4, S :
S : What are the methods to produce energy?
Me : Sir, the large-scale methods? All of them?
Me : Listed all the methods. Then,” I maybe forgetting one or two, sir.”
S : You said that NPPs recycle their water used. For your information, nuclear power plants dump used water in sea. Generally you’d have seen that in the coastal areas.
**I’ve never seen a NPP but my own face must have been funny to see at that moment. Shocked and confused.**
S (continuing) : So that contributes to thermal pollution too.
Me : Yes sir.
S : So what are the problems arising out of that?
Me : Sir, if the water is dumped in the sea, it’d adversely affect the coastal ecosystem.
S : What is ecosystem?
Me (Again I struggled with the exact words) : Sir, all the animals, the hydrosphere, the er…, the land part (forgot lithosphere word at that time), the atmosphere, er.. the animals and plants, the land,air and water of a particular area all combined make the ecosystem.
S (looking at my bio-data) : You’ve done your graduation in Electrical Engineering.
Me : Yes, sir.
S : What is current?
Me (I was thinking,”OK these are easy questions.” My mind was zeroing in on the charge flow per unit time definition when my mouth just went ahead on its own.) : Sir current can be defined as the flow of electrons.
S : What is electron?
Me (stumped for an instant thinking why he’s asking such simple questions and answering matter-of-factly) : It is a part of atom.
S : Where is it found?
Me : It is found in the orbit of the atom, sir.
S : Which part of the atom is an electron found in? What is that called?
Me : Sir, the nucleus of an atom has protons and neutrons and the electrons are rotating (showing rotating motion with my fingers) around that in the orbits.
S : What is the smallest part of matter?
Me : Sir, there are a few sub-atomic particles but I can’t recall their names. However, normally the smallest part of matter is the atom. Atom is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons.
S :What is the difference between atom and molecule?
Me : Sir, atom is the smallest part of matter (as I spoke this I realized that that was expected to be the simple and straight answer to the previous question) while a molecule is made up of a number of atoms.
He was on a rapid-fire questioning spree from the beginning. As soon as I completed, or was about to complete the answer to one question, he’d ask the next. Not that I was worried! 😀
S : What are conductors, insulators and semiconductors?
Me : Gave the definition of conductors and was about to finish the definition of insulators when he asked his next question.
S : Why don’t insulators conduct?
Me : Explained how conductors can conduct because of their valence electrons and went on,”Since insulators have four, err..sorry sir, four valence electrons are in semiconductors. Since insulators have more than 4 electrons in their valence orbit…….”
Before I could complete, the chairman and the member started nodding to each other and as I paused for a second, the chairman said to me,” OK, (my name). Good luck. You can go now.”
Smiling, I got up, thanked the members and came out of the room where the next candidate was already sitting in the chair I was in some 15-20 minutes back. (Yeah, that’s right. The interview took place for around 15-20 minutes. I don’t know what to make of that!!!) I shook hands with him & wished him luck. I was happy and confused both because I wasn’t asked questions from my hobbies or anything deeply from my graduation field or from my work experience. Not even from the preference of posts that I supplied. I must add that the board was very cordial and all the members tried their best to make me feel comfortable. They also questioned my answers with an arch of the eyebrow or a tilt of the head when I went wrong. All the members were cordial, encouraging and smiling. I didn’t interrupt but added to the description of chairman’s question once, I guess in the one related to the NPP. A minor offence I hope! I feel I’m forgetting a few questions but by and large, this is what I was asked. I’ll update the post as and when I recall some details. Hopeful of a positive result & keeping fingers crossed!!!
Thank you for reading. I hope this experience of mine helps others too. I look forward to your comments and feedback. God bless. 🙂