Archive for September, 2010
|The visa interview is not an occasion to match wits with the officer. Honest, to-the-point responses are best appreciated..|
What should you go armed with? Your paperwork, high integrity and a smile.
“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 ‘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 them half way, shouldn’t we?
In this column I hope to be able to do just that — 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 could be applied just as well to any interview to win a job or a client too.
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
Do wait till the end of a question always
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 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, 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.” – Perfectly acceptable!
Do expand acronyms and add adjectives to highlight
“Which college are you from?”
REC Trichy is not good enough.
Say instead: “From the prestigious (or well-known, or leading) REC — Regional Engineering College — 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 money back, New Managers!
(The author is CEO of www.globaladjustments.com. She can be reached at email@example.com)
|At a time when personal interaction has been largely replaced by e-mail exchanges and conference calls, here are tips to improve your communication skills..|
At a time when conducting business in the virtual world is the order of the day, proficiency with audio-visual tools has become mandatory in the global business scenario. Skilled professionals are naturally sought after by the top MNCs.
Soft skills, or the lack of them, sadly, is often the difference between success and failure in today’s technology-based business.
The good news is audio-visual skills can be easily picked up and nurtured. An interactive training programme for such skills would generally cover topics such as telephone/video and conference call etiquette, how to introduce oneself during a business call and when and when not to interrupt. The basics of e-mail etiquette, aspects such as saying â€˜no’ and updating clients about changes in schedule dates are also key elements. Here are some highlights:
Telephone â€” Remember to SMILE
‘S’ Speak slowly and clearly â€” Comprehension is made more difficult in the absence of visual cues, so make a conscious effort to slow down your speed by at least 30 per cent.
‘M’ Maintain your manners â€” Make sure your words and voice are of tape-recordable quality even with irate customers. Use the words â€˜please’ and â€˜thank you’ constantly.
‘I’ Identify yourself â€” This is Suresh Kumar from the XYZ Bank, Risk Department, may I speak with Mr Frost please?
‘L’ Listen carefully and take notes so you can echo what the other person says; this always impresses. â€œSo let me verify, the number is 2432 2233, right?â€ When you say something, check for comprehension. â€œDid I make sense?â€ and wait till they repeat what you said; it helps to recap on both sides.
‘E’ End appropriately â€” Use niceties such as â€œHave a good dayâ€, â€œThanks for calling meâ€ and â€œI appreciate your businessâ€.
Add A to SMILE
‘A’ Ask again â€” â€œI’m sorry to interrupt you, but I didn’t catch the last name, could you repeat that please?â€ Don’t worry what anyone thinks, be bold, it is your job to seek clarifications, and if you occasionally need to ask a third time, then do request that they spell it once again.
‘A’ Apologise â€” â€œI’m sorry to ask againâ€ or â€œI am sorry that won’t be possible by Monday but if I have one more resource on the team, I can send you a good product by Wednesday.â€ Feel confident about telling someone what you need. An apology at the beginning followed by a statement of your need is better than simply saying â€œyesâ€ despite knowing you can’t deliver upon your promise. Don’t choose pleasing someone over the truth. It comes back to bite you later and hurts the situation even more.
‘A’ Active participation is key. So it is important that you speak up while on a phone call, conference call or video conference. If you truly participate and take notes, you will be able to ask intelligent questions, reconfirm a conversation you thought you heard, or gather additional information. Don’t fall into the interruptions trap though, wait for a pause, or if you must interrupt, say â€œSorry to interrupt, I think we left out xyz file in our discussion.â€
An interruption that adds value is welcome. Keep your voice low but audible, the tone polite, with no unnecessary hemming and hawing.
E-mail etiquette and progress report are crucial for client retention.
Make sure to include:
An appropriate subject line and a clear introductory line
Short and to-the-point body text
A clear and polite ending
Here’s a sample:
Subj: Status Report Week Aug 12 to 17, 2010
Dear Mr Frost,
Hope you are well. Here is a Project Alpha status report for the week ended August 17.
Accomplished this week (use past tense verb as first word)
Completed testing of files 1 2 3 (4 is pending from last week as it seems to have a bug)
Identified items required from Bangalore team and sent in request
Designed a template for client additional information with inputs from teams A and B
Plan for next week (use action items )
Identify and fix bug in file 4 testing
Conference call Mumbai teams to ensure no carryover of any file testing
Issues Requiring Management Attention
There is a big Indian festival on August 21 and our teams will need a personal directive from you to incentivise the staff with overtime or we may need additional resources that day.
Look forward to your advice on this. And have a good weekend.
AB â€“ Team Lead xyz Bank.
Do remember to spell-check before pressing â€˜send’.
The Human Touch
A dollop of social graces adds the final touch to the recipe for success mentioned above. For this, stay updated on world events so you can speak to the other person keeping in mind his interests. For instance, if you are communicating with a person from, say Pakistan, sympathise with him about the floods, or if he is from Spain, enthuse about Paul the Octopus’ prediction on the winners of the Football Word Cup. These are good ice-breakers. And when they speak to you, every seemingly inane conversation deserves a response and, perhaps, another question. â€œHow are you today?â€ â€œGood, thanks, and how about you Charles?â€
Remember, a friendly coach to show the way and constant practice will make a new behavioural skill a habit.
It is people that matter most in any business. That’s why, New Managers, you are the oxygen of Indian development.
(The writer is CEO of Global Adjustments, a relocation and cross-cultural training company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
A range of topics, including the forgotten Indian culture, the practice of aping the West and the socio-political participation of middle-class families were debated at a discussion on ‘The life and times of being Indian’ here on Friday.
Diplomats Pavan K.Varma and R.Kannan talked about the cultural richness of the country and stressed the need for people to recognise their roots. Mr. Varma is India’s Ambassador to Bhutan and an author. Mr. Kannan is a political officer with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and also an author.
Opening the discussion with the post-colonial situation in the country, Mr.Varma said mediocrity has seeped into our civilisation and underscored the need to understand what it was to be Indian. Calling the middle-class, socially insensitive and self-obsessed, Mr.Varma said the families have built a citadel for themselves and it was time they evolve from being mere residents to becoming citizens. Contradicting the argument, Mr.Kannan said the middle-class has put the country on the world map by participating in large numbers in the development of information technology. Lower middle-class, on the other hand, were finding even the everyday life a struggle.
On his book ‘Anna: the Life and Times,’ Mr.Kannan said there weren’t many biographies on southern leaders and their contribution to the Indian political system has been hardly known to the world. While the Indian bureaucratic edifice was very much solid, it was important to analyse how the cultural richness of the country declined, he said.
Referring to his book ‘Being Indian,’ Mr.Varma said works such as ‘Arthasastra,’ ‘Vyakaran,’ ‘Natyasastra’ and ‘Upanishads’ were testimony to the greatness of Indian minds, but they were conveniently overlooked by the people of today. “You can’t be a great power by just producing a few engineers and doctors. How many of us know even the most popular Indian writers and historians? Strengthen your Indian roots and then take global wings.”
The discussion was organised to mark the second anniversary of the Indian Immersion Centre.