Start your first impressions with a good first impression.
Have you ever noticed this?
People shake hands all the time. Unless your handshake is particularly bad, people will rarely react negatively to it and they'll ignore the occasional jitter or semi-clasp. On the other hand (pun intended), if your handshake is particularly good, you will stand out and people will remember you.
But here's the kicker:
When it comes to job interviews, the opposite is actually true.
A 2008 University of Iowa study showed what you may have already suspected:
a firm, solid handshake is an important part of a successful job interview, while a dead fish can end the interview before it even begins
Put differently, while a basic handshake is expected and won't stand out, a bad handshake can ruin everything.
Ultimately, since a handshake is such a common thing, expectations are relatively low. That also means you can easily achieve good results.
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The Best Handshake Ever?
A friend of mine has the best handshake in the world.
The first time I met him and we shook hands, I was literally wowed.
Here's what made his handshake so great (over-detailed analysis coming up…):
Nobody likes shaking hands with sandpaper. Although you don't necessarily need to carry around a bottle of hand moisturizer, at least make sure that your hands aren't rough to the touch. Introduce coconut oil into your diet somehow.
Without being sandpaper, your hands should be dry and not sweaty or clammy. Let them air out.
Your hands should be warm, not cold.
Do you like shaking hands with someone's scabs or callouses? Enough said.
5. No bandages or casts
You don't want people to think they might hurt you by shaking your hand.
The only thing worse than worrying about hurting someone's hand is worrying about catching a virus from it like warts, a cold, etc. Even feeling just one Band-Aid is discomforting.
7. Few rings to none
The fewer rings there are, the less chance of pinching and hurting someone's hand.
8. Confident reach
Don't wait for someone's hand to come to yours, reach for theirs and meet it.
9. Good timing
Lock hands without any jitters or fumbling, sliding one hand into the other. Don't aim to grasp fingers, aim for the palm.
10. Perfect position
Aim for the webbing of your hand (skin between thumb and forefinger) to catch the webbing of their hand. Thanks to David Tra for pointing that out.
11. Solid grasp
Everyone hates the dreaded “dead fish” where someone leaves a limp hand in yours. Do the opposite; clutch the palm without squeezing so hard that it becomes painful for the other.
Grin or smile while shaking hands.
13. Be sincere
Don't just grin or smile, do it like you mean it. A fake smile ruins the whole effect.
14. Look them in the eye
The best way to prove you're being sincere.
15. Shake source
“Shake from the elbow, and not from the shoulder,” says international etiquette expert, Denise Zaldivar.
16. Shake method
“Aim for 2 pumps when shaking,” Denise also recommends.
17. Shake vigor
Don't shake too vigorously, but don't let them shake your whole arm either.
18. Know when to let go
A good shake usually involves a palm squeeze and release, but be careful if the other person is too quick or too slow, which could lead to an awkward moment. Instead, with a confident reach, be first to engage and disengage.
19. Synchs with your personal brand
For most people, this just means following all the previous points to being a handshaking professional, but for some people this means having a unique handshake or one that's more in tune with their profession. If a clown always shook hands in a serious way, you'd wonder about his sense of humor.
So few people do this that if anyone ever impresses you with their handshake, you won't forget them just like with my friend above. If your handshake is memorable, it is successfully building your personal brand.
Not in a bad way… this whole article came about because my friend's handshake was so terrific I had to tell you about it.
22. Encourages loyalty
A great handshake is one that makes people want to shake your hand again. For that, they'll need to have you around them again.
Question of the article
What was the best or worst handshake you've ever felt? Or, do you have a job interview handshake memory to share? Tell us in the comments.
What others are saying
- The Perfect Interview Handshake
- Start your Job Interview with a Proper Handshake
- 7 Tips on Proper Handshake Etiquette
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I originally published a version of this article on the terrific Personal Branding Blog.