The importance of a handshake in a job interview

handshakeA handshake can sometimes make or break an interview. That’s right. It’s that important.

In fact, research has proved the significance of a proper handshake and how it can make a good – or bad – impression and influence hiring decisions.

According to a study done by the University of Iowa Tipple College of Business, a good handshake is more important than your appearance or the way you dress in sending a message to a hiring manager. Neuroscience research has also confirmed the power of a handshake and the fact that strangers form a better impression of those who effectively offer their hand in greeting.

The Iowa research focused on 98 business students who participated in mock interviews with area businesses. They also met with trained handshake raters, who shook their hands at various times during the study period.

What the researchers found was that those job seekers who were scored highly by the handshake raters were also considered more likely to be hired by those conducting the mock interviews.

It’s partly based on first impressions. Interviewers are said to make up their minds about a person in the first two or three minutes of an interview, and that’s exactly when the handshake takes place.

But it’s also the fact that, “Job seekers are trained how to act in a job interview, how to talk, how to dress, how to answer questions, so we all look and act alike to varying degrees because we’ve all been told the same things,” said Greg Stewart, Tipple School of Business professor and one of the researchers. “But the handshake is something that’s perhaps more individual and subtle, so it may communicate something that dress or physical appearance doesn’t.”

Handshake dos and don’ts

So what makes an appealing handshake? Here are some tips:

  • Even if you’re left-handed be prepared to shake with your right hand, and make sure it’s free when you’re meeting the hiring manager before the interview.
  • If your hand is sweaty, wipe it off. If it’s cold, warm it up before you arrive at the interview room.
  • Make eye contact and smile at the person you are meeting, before you shake their hand.
  • Let the hiring manager initiate the handshake.
  • Squeeze their hand firmly and shake from your elbow, not just your wrist. (About the worst impression you could make is with a limp, or dead fish, handshake, so avoid this at all costs.)
  • A handshake should only last for a few seconds, so after two or three pumps, loosen your hand.
  • Just like you rehearse the answers to potential interview questions, practice your handshake with friends and family members, so it will seem natural.

Keep in mind that a handshake is a universal greeting that can express connection and unity and that you care, which may help to make a lasting impression.

And make sure that your handshake is as polished and perfected as the rest of your interview skills. It may make the difference of whether you get the job or not.

 


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One Comment

  1. Generally there are only two times in a job interview when we touch the other person: at the beginning during the introduction, and at the very end. And our bodies talk, more loudly and with more impact than our voice. If we give a weak handshake when introducing ourselves, and later say we will work hard for an employer, the employer will always believe what our handshake said. At the very end of the interview, when the employer is saying goodbye and (if they have not offered us the job) is saying “We’ll call you,” again give a firm handshake, and instead of just saying goodbye, while holding the employer’s hand say this, “Thank you for interviewing me. I can do this job. I really want to work here. What do you want me to do next?” At worst the employer will remember you later; at best this statement may induce the employer to stop, think, and offer you the job – it happens.

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