Job Search Tip of the Week #15 (2017)


How to Shake Your Way Into a Good First Impression

What’s in a Handshake: What Your Handshake Says About You

The 9 Types of BAD Handshakes

Your interview starts the moment you walk through the door. And if it’s true that first impressions are formed within seven seconds after meeting someone, then you better put your best hand forward.

What’s in a Handshake

In a study examining the effects of handshakes on hiring decisions, Dr. Greg Stewart and colleagues found that candidates with firm handshakes tended to be rated most hirable by interviewers.

“We probably don’t consciously remember a person’s handshake or whether it was good or bad,” Stewart said, “But the handshake is one of the first nonverbal cues we get about the person’s overall personality, and that impression is what we remember.”

What Your Handshake Says About You

Stewart et. al’s results are in accordance with that of an earlier study led by Dr. William F. Chaplin, which found that people with firmer handshakes generally made a better first impression than those with limper ones, and were perceived as having stronger interpersonal skills (i.e., more confident, outgoing, and emotionally expressive).

Chaplin et. al also observed that men tended to have firmer handshakes than women, which Chaplin theorized may be because women are more timid about firmly shaking hands since traditionally, handshaking is a more masculine activity, and women who challenge female stereotypes often elicit negative evaluations. However:

  • Women who shook firmly were evaluated as positively as their male counterparts. In fact, Stewart et. al found that women who shook firmly appeared to be more memorable than men with an equally strong handshake, and that, added Stewart, a firm handshake “made a bigger impact on the outcome of the interview for the women than it did for the men.”
  • Women with firm handshakes were perceived as more open to experiences than women with less firm handshakes. Interestingly, the opposite was true of men: those with gentler handshakes were deemed more open than those with stronger handshakes.

The Art of the Handshake

It’s important to remember that the handshake involves much more than your hand.

You should always stand up straight when handshaking, and extend your hand after introducing yourself and then again when exiting the interview.

The perfect handshake (as determined by this mathematical formula!) is composed of the following characteristics:

  • Temperature: Cool palms
  • Dryness: Dry, sweat-free palms (If you’re at a networking cocktail event, hold your drink in your left hand.)
  • Texture: Soft hands (Rings should be worn on the left hand.)
  • Eye contact: Maintained and direct, while smiling naturally
  • Grip: Full, with web-meets-web (the “web” of your hand being the curved space starting from the top of your thumb to the tip of your index finger) placement (It should go without saying, but don’t extend your hand if the other person’s hands are full in order to avoid awkward fumbling.)
  • Strength: Strong yet gentle (Overzealous is perceived as pushy or aggressive, while as too little pressure conveys laziness and disinterest.)
  • Duration: 2-3 seconds
  • Vigor: Deliberate up-down motions of medium-height, three or four times

Remember: The handshake is only one of many behaviors that contribute to a first impression. However, since research indicates that hiring managers make decisions within seconds and that the rest of the interview serves to reinforce their first impression, you need to make your handshake a good one. So practice and start your interview off on the right handshake!

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Image Credit: Pinterest, pinned by Yvette van Laerhoven