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  • Writer's pictureCol. DJS Chahal

Turning Adversity into Advantage: Handling Tough Questions in SSB Interviews



Why were you not recommended in previous ssb attempts....sir please suggest how to handle such questions, so as to be honest and at the same time you are able to answer it diplomatically.


Let us discuss an appropriate way to deal with the usual question asked during the SSB to the repeaters, that why do you think you were not recommended last time or a question which is many times asked even to the fresh candidates, as to how did you prepare yourself for your SSB.

As always, let's first try and understand the reason behind this question being asked by the IO.

The reason is that he wants to know as to how much are you self aware, i.e. could you identify the areas of your personality that are inhibiting you to perform better, he wants to further inquire as to what is your capability of conducting a reasonable self analysis and critical introspection of your performance/ personality, he would also like to see if you have been able to pin point your shortcomings and having understood your areas of improvement, what steps did you take to improve upon those aspects. Finally, having improved upon your grey areas, where do you see your present level of preparedness.

In answer to this question, most candidates start commenting upon the "perceived" errors that they had committed in various tasks/ tests during their previous SSB attempts, e.g. "sir, my psychology tests did not go well, or I could not perform very well in my personal interview", etc.

Now, this is the most inappropriate way of handling this question, as you are not really qualified to comment upon your performance in a task/ test (you don't even know what they are evaluating through those tasks). Remember, SSB is an assessment of your personality attributes, where every response given by you in any of the techniques of testing (GTO, Psych or Interview), is being evaluated against the desired personality profile of a "potential officer material".

Thus, it boils down to "your understanding" of the projected personality of a "potential officer material". In order to comprehend the same, you need to understand that the career in the "Armed Forces is not a job, but, it's a way of life" and, it requires a little more than just "tricks" to clear the SSB.

Therefore, answer to this question has to be 'candidate specific', e.g. a shy and mild candidate needs to understand that he has to acquire assertiveness; a candidate who lacks tact, must understand that he needs to become more mature in his/her outlook; a candidate who is ill informed needs to widen his/her knowledge base to become effective; an overbearing candidate, must understand that he needs to be sensitive towards others, etc.

Hence, your reply must conform to the personality attribute(s) that you felt required rebooting and the actions that you did to instil it in yourself. You could then highlight that your performance during the ongoing SSB has been fairly satisfactory as per your own judgement.

Finally, with a statutory warning to not copy my answer, I would like to give a sample answer that you may modify accordingly, depending upon which areas of your personality require a calibration:

"Sir, I carried out an in-depth introspection of my previous attempts at the SSB and I realised that my general awareness and public speaking skills were not up to the mark, because of which, I could not effectively participate in various activities. In fact, my responses in various fields of assessment, I felt, lacked the desired substance.

Last three months I have focused on it in a major way, and I feel fairly confident about myself now. In fact, during this attempt I realised the value of knowledge, it has given me the ability to perform much better in all the activities and I am reasonably confident of my success".

In case of fresh candidates also, the IO may like to probe you on how you prepared, etc. So be prepared to give a genuine answer to him, straight from your heart, and which will only happen if your efforts to improve were in true earnest.

Once again, do not start talking about practicing TAT or WAT, etc, but talk about what all you did to improve your overall personality in terms of acquiring general awareness, improving public speaking skills, social graces, dynamism, etc.

Lastly, I would like to say that you must put in the desired efforts to eradicate the anomalies identified by you (take the help of a professional mentor if you are unable to identify your grey areas) and go fully prepared for your next SSB, as it is JUST NOT possible to fool the system.

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