11 Feb 2016 18:09 IST

Appearing for a visa interview

Here are a few tips that will help you crack that visa or job interview

Would you like to get the visa or be rejected? We’re sure it’s the former, so read on for a successful visa interview. You can apply the same rules for job interviews as well.

American visa officials can easily play God in our lives, as we snake our way around consulate buildings doing what is needed to get that precious seal on our passports. When we succeed, we come away beaming.

But all too often, we spoil our own chances by messing up something we do easily every day — answer a simple question.

The problem

“When we ask a question, why does the visa applicant give us long, canned responses?”; “When I ask an Indian team member for a specific piece of information, why does he give me a long lecture?”; “What is the point of the explanation she just gave? I just needed a ‘Yes’ or no ‘Reply’!” — These questions have been consistently echoed by expatriates over years of cross-cultural interactions during the course of our work.

On one memorable day, 15 visa officers from the US Consulate, Chennai, took a morning off to learn about ‘This India Business’ at Global Adjustments.

If American officials can take the time out to understand and adapt, we should meet them halfway, shouldn’t we?

The tips

In this column, I hope to be able to prepare visa applicants to use the two minutes they have at the window of the diplomatic officer, to their advantage.

If you do not happen to need a visa, the pointers can be applied just as well to any interview to win a job or a client too. Here are a few tips.

Prepare your documents.

Prepare your appearance.

Prepare your listening skills.

Prepare to talk to the point.

In short: Prepare to succeed.

How can you succeed? By knowing what you need to.

How can you know? By spending time in learning and preparing.

What must you prepare? A style of communication and responses to likely questions.

What should you go armed with? Your paperwork, high integrity and a smile.

Now let’s get to the meat of the matter — answering questions. Here’s how you should go about it.

Wait till the end of a question: Do always wait till the end of a question before you begin your answer. A brief pause is acceptable if you force yourself to wait to hear out the question to the end, but not if you override the question with a reply, thinking you know what is being asked.

For example, the visa officer may begin with: “What city in the US…”

And you jump in with, “Oh, I am going to South Carolina.”

“I know that, it says so on your ticket,” the officer responds, “I was going to ask which city in the US your brother lives in, it says here you have family in the US.”

“I am sorry, he is in San Francisco,” you say, having to eat humble pie.

Don’t ask a question to buy time: “When do you think you will go back to the US?” the visa officer could ask.

“Do I need to know about the next trip now?” is not the right response. Instead say, “I am not in charge, but my manager mentioned we may need to make quarterly visits.”

Don’t babble: Even if it is coherently! “How many of you on this project team will work for Gillette?” could be one question asked.

If you answer, “Gillette has been our client for a decade and we have won their best vendor award,” it won’t be appreciated. Say you don’t know the exact number because you’ve had too much to do with your trip to think of the big picture.

Don’t force-fit company information: Just because you came prepared with it and to sound knowledgeable, because it may not be relevant to the question asked. Answer to the point first, then slip in the data you wanted to supply anyway.

Taking the instance of the same question mentioned in the above point, you could reply this way: “That is a good question, now let me think… It will surely be more than 16 of us on this project as far as I can remember. It might be more, as they have preferred client status with us, we have held the Gillette Best Vendor award over the past 10 years.”

If you don’t know, say, “I don’t know”.

“Who else does Gillette use as vendors from India?”

“Actually, I don’t know that answer although I should find out, sorry” — perfectly acceptable response!

Expand acronyms: And add adjectives to highlight.

“Which college are you from?”

NIT Trichy is not good enough. Say instead: “From the prestigious (or well-known, or leading) NIT— National Institute of Technology — in Trichy (south of Chennai or a South Indian town — thus framing the context for the listener).

If your responses are to-the-point and you ask intelligent questions when the opportunity presents itself; if you stay polite and pleasant at all times, then you will land that visa, that job, that client.

Or it is money back, New Managers!