Ever gone in for a handshake only to contend with a hand as limp as a dead fish? You’re left wondering: “What am I meant to do with this?”
This may seem a bit trivial to some, but your handshake can reveal many things about you. When you arrive for a job interview, that first point of contact—the handshake—has the power to make or break you.
The handshake is a deep social custom
Like the custom bow among Asians, the handshake is a very important social gesture among Westerners, especially males.
A handshake sets the scene for how you want to be placed among your friends and work colleagues.
A weak handshake tells others that you are weak of character and not willing to stand as an equal. A handshake that is too strong also shows weakness. It tells reveals a person who is not secure, and is therefore trying to overcompensate with an aggressive greeting.
A firm but relaxed handshake, with sufficient personal space and friendly eye contact, will connect you in that brief second, yet the bond made will hold firm for much longer.
How NOT to do it
The worst examples of handshakes are all here—take notes:
There is nothing more uncomfortable in meeting someone for the first time than an awkward handshake, so let’s get it right!
Steps to execute the best handshake for a job interview
- Show you’re keen and confident—be the first to extend your hand. This gesture tells others that you are bold enough to put yourself out there—a great first move.
- Square your body off with the other person, and face them directly.
- Your palm should be facing sideways, hand held steady, outstretched at waist height.
- Smile and make eye contact—it’s important to shake hands with your whole body and soul.
- Aim to make hand contact that is palm-to-palm. Your pressure should be firm and comfortable.
- Once good contact is made, move your arm approximately 5 times up and down. This movement shows your enthusiasm and delight in the greeting.
- Ideally, the handshake should be held for a few moments longer than what may feel natural to you. It’s worth it though. That extra split second shows that you are sincere and can be depended upon.
- Begin talking while shaking hands to break the ice and keep things rolling along naturally. Something simple will do, such as: “It’s great to meet you. Where did you say you were from?”
- When it’s time to break the handshake, maintain eye contact and look openly toward the next person you may need to shake hands with. Looking down at this point may undo all your strong groundwork, as you will appear submissive, or come across as if you lack interest.
Should I, a woman, risk going in for the handshake?
Like I said before, how do you want to be viewed by others? Don’t worry, nobody will be put off by a handshake if you do it naturally and with good heart.
Writer Carol Kindsey Gorman says that women who shake hands come across as being “extroverted and emotionally expressive.” These two attributes are viewed very positively in the professional realm.
In a casual setting, not all women feel comfortable shaking hands, especially if you’re shy or from a different culture. However, in a professional setting, shaking hands is favorable and expected—you can say it comes with the territory.
When is it appropriate to use the Double Handshake, a.k.a. the ‘Politician Handshake?’
Dianne Gotsman advises that unless you are shaking the hand of a family member or your idol, this handshake can come off as being insincere.
Don’t think you’ll earn extra points at a job interview with this handshake—you will only give the impression of being desperate. A good rule of thumb is to save this one for special moments.
In Switzerland, I noticed everybody shaking hands—children, men, and women partake in this social grace equally.
A community engaged in civil and appropriate human touch, no matter how simple, creates a platform where people feel connected, share ideas, and value each other.
When in doubt, go in for the handshake, and do it well!