Posture in an Oral Board

19 September 2020
Capt. Bob Smith

Posture in an Oral Board

What posture is acceptable in an oral?  I often receive questions like this one:

Is it okay to use your hands when in the oral board? I have taken public speaking classes in high school and college and have learned to use my hands to help emphasize points, etc.  I feel pretty comfortable using my hands to explain myself; my question is will it hurt me in the oral board.



Yes, it's O.K. to use your hands.  A Stanford University study showed that getting a job is 15% knowledge and 85% percent enthusiasm!  How can you be enthusiastic if you're a frozen statue in the chair?  It can't be done.  If you can light yourself on fire with enthusiasm and bring the excitement, emotional, the magic of the actual event in a story, the oral board will stand up, applaud and watch you burn.

I have candidates tell me, well, they said you can't use your hands.  Sit on your hands if you have to.  I always ask, "Who are they? Where is that written?"  I've never been able to find out who they are, or where that is written.

It's perfectly acceptable to use your hands.  If you are already using them, you will cause problems trying to stop.  You will start concentrating on stopping and that will throw off your timing, concentration and presentation.  A good rule of thumb is the keep your hands and arms in the confines of your body.

When I play back a video for review during private coaching sessions, many candidates go to a different posture.  Some even lean forward with placing their elbows on their knees.  I look for this different posture.  I will ask if that position is more comfortable?  If so, I encourage them to use it.  It makes for a better-personalized delivery in the oral.

I've had candidates in an oral move the chair right up to the table and place their elbows on the table.  After a candidate did that in an oral, one of our rater's commented, "Did you see how he took it right to us!"   He got top scores.  It was this candidate's style and personality. He was able to pull it off.  You might not.  It can be risky. If you're going to try it, first ask the raters if you can move the chair.

Also, when you're that close to the interviewers you have to use the owl affect to talk to the raters.  That means you have to turn your head way to the extreme right and left to make contact and answer the raters’ questions. This can also violate the rater's healthy boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.  Sitting in a comfortable boundary for yourself and the raters is critical.  A healthy boundary is where others' end and you begin.

As each candidate enters the room at an oral board, they have a tendency to pull the chair back a little as they sit down.  After several candidate s cycle through an interview room the chair can end up further away from the interview table than you want.  If so, ask first, and place it where you would feel most comfortable to make your delivery.

We would like to thank Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  More information on his programs can be found here.