26 Nov 2015 19:05 IST

The million dollar answer

Pointers that could help you get that Visa, the job, and even a client too

In this article, I hope to prepare visa applicants to use the two minutes they have at the US diplomatic officer’s window to their advantage.

If you do not happen to need a visa, these pointers could be applied just as well to any interview including one to win a job or even a client too.

“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 needed a Yes or no Reply.” These questions have been consistently echoed by expatriates over years of cross-cultural interaction with us.

The other day, 15 visa officers from the US Consulate, Chennai, took a morning off to learn about, what they have dubbed as, “This India Business” at Global Adjustments.

If the American official, who could easily be playing God in our lives as we snake our way around consulate buildings to apply for visas, can take the time to understand and adapt, then we should meet him or her half way, shouldn’t we?

> 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, a high-level of integrity and a broad smile.

Now let’s get to the meat of the matter: answering questions

Getting down to business

Do wait till the end of a question, always, before answering. Let the person asking the question finish saying what he or she has to say.

A brief pause will be 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: “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,” says the officer, “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 again 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’s coherently:

“How many of you on this project team will work for Gillette?,” could be one question.

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

Don’t force-fit company information you came prepared with to sound knowledgeable as it may not be relevant to the question asked.

Answer to the point first, and then slip in the data you wanted to supply anyway.

“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.”

Do 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.” – This is perfectly acceptable!

Do expand acronyms and add adjectives to highlight:

“Which college are you from?”

Saying 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, 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 a money back guarantee, new managers.

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