The perfect handshake: how-do-you-do it?

The handshake is an invaluable weapon in a job applicant’s armoury. Just Recruitment’s Lisa Cleverley tells Sarah Patten why.

When you’re attending a job interview, first impressions are crucial. Your attire, your body language and the way you greet your interviewer all send a message about who you are. 

As insignificant as it may seem, your handshake is pivotal to the impression you make. In fact, for many employers, it can be a decisive hiring factor. 

But what makes the perfect handshake? Just Recruitment’s Lisa shares her wisdom on this most important of customs.

Make eye contact

“Before you offer your hand, be sure to look your interviewer in the eye,” advises Ms Cleverley. “It demonstrates confidence and self-assuredness, it gives the impression that you’re genuinely pleased to meet them.”

As Ms Cleverley explains, though, the timing of the eye contact is crucial. “Don’t hold your interviewer’s gaze for more than two to three seconds,” she says. “This can be unnerving and make them feel uncomfortable.”

Choose aridity over humidity

A job interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. Anxiety can lead to sweaty palms… and sweaty palms are a big no-no when it comes to handshake etiquette.  

“No-one enjoys a slippery handshake,” says Ms Cleverley. “If your hand feels moist, give it a subtle wipe just before greeting your interviewer. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.”

Choose your angle

Offer your hand on the vertical, with the palm facing inwards. This sends a vital signal about the nature of your interaction.

“A downward-facing palm demonstrates dominance, even arrogance, whereas an upward-facing palm suggests submissiveness, opines Ms Cleverley. “An inward-facing palm, on the other hand, implies equality between the hand shaker and the handshake. In an interview context, this is crucial.”

Be firm

We’ve all experienced a limp handshake and – let’s face it – it’s never a pleasant experience. What’s more, it sends all the wrong signals to the unlucky recipient.

“A limp handshake gives an impression of weakness, and a lack of confidence. It casts doubt over the substance of the hand shaker’s character,” says Ms Cleverley.

Much better, then, for your handshake to be firm. But even here, Lisa advises caution: “Avoid squeezing your interviewer’s hand too hard. At best this can be uncomfortable, and at worst, downright painful. You want to leave an impression, but it’s best to draw the line at physical injury.”

Don’t overdo it

A prolonged handshake can cause embarrassment on both sides, and prove a distraction to the handshake. “Aim for two to three shakes,’ advises Lisa, “and try not to make them too vigorous.”

A brief up-and-down movement is all that’s required: anything more will seem over the top, and may cause your interviewer to doubt your sincerity.

And remember, a handshake isn’t just about first impressions. Apply these rules when you bid your interviewer farewell, and you’ll round off your interview in perfect style. 

Published: 6 December 2018

© 2018 Just Recruitment Group Ltd. 

A good place to demonstrate your new handshake is interviews, do you have one coming? see – The Just Recruitment Guide to interview dressing

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