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INTERVIEWS / MAR. 01, 2015
version 5, draft 5

How Your Handshake can Make or Break an Interview


According to 2014 research by jobsite Monster, hiring managers rank their first impressions of a candidate as the second most important factor when considering whether to employ a candidate, and it takes just over six minutes for a candidate to make an impression.

When asked to give examples of the types of behaviours that create the worst first impressions, in top position was a “limp handshake” (alongside smelling badly, ignorance about the company or the role, arriving late and being high on drugs - just to give you an indication of how unimpressive the wrong handshake is). So what‘s your handshake like? If you regularly clasp paws, below are six handshakes to avoid, and one to use at all times.

See Also: What do Handshakes Tell About Your Personality?

The Limp Handshake

The scourge of interviewers up and down the land, this handshake has the shaker simply placing his or her hand into the recipient’s rather than gripping it. Earlier studies have shown that limp, weak handshakes are associated with negative first impressions, including “anxiety, fatigue and guilt”.

The Clammy Handshake

Avoid at all times. It conveys weakness, a lack of confidence and leaves the recipient desperate to find the nearest wash basin. If you suffer from this – and plenty of people do – wash your hands often or use hand gel, with a bit of talcum powder if necessary to get rid excess sweat.

The Queen’s Handshake (offering only the tips of your fingertips, not your palm)

Avoid at all times, unless you’re the Queen or have the gravitas to pull it off. This handshake conveys a feeling of (misplaced) superiority.

The Gripping Grasp

Most of us don’t like the limp handshake, but we don’t like it when people go to the other extreme either: the over-firm, gripping grasp. Avoid this handshake, also known as the ‘Terminator’ and the ‘Crusher’, at all times; placing your grip firmly on top of the other person’s hand conveys aggression and dominance. But who’s the boss here?  And remember this if you have a tendency to offer a gripping grasp: a handshake is a form of greeting, not a means of squeezing the life out of someone.

The Lingering Handshake

Duration is just as important as the strength of grip you offer. So remember this, if you leave your hand in the other person’s grip a little longer than you should. Grip, shake three times and release. That’s all that’s needed.

The Double-handed Handshake

Avoid this ‘intimate’ handshake unless you are very familiar with the person whose hand you are shaking.  Covering the other person’s hand with your left hand, or the double-handed handshake, is a favourite of politicians, clergy and avuncular relatives, and should only be used with whom you know well.

The Ideal Handshake

According to Earlier studies and a host of body language experts, the perfect handshake has the following characteristics:

  • Warm
  • Friendly
  • Dry

and, as suggested by Bloomberg, it should be executed by:

 “connecting the web between your index finger and thumb firmly with the other person’s and pump two or three times. “

When deciding between two comparable, equally strong candidates, hiring managers will usually pick the one who appears the more confident. Handshakes continue to be common currency in most settings, so your handshake will invariably be judged. Is yours a confident one? I hope so.

See Also: How to Avoid Dissappointing Recruiters  

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