Your handshake is one of the few elements of the job interview that you have complete control over (in addition to dress and grooming)! If you are involved in a live interview, there is one thing that’s almost certain; you will be shaking hands with someone! Your handshake is a crucial part of your first impression, so take it seriously.
Your handshake says a lot about who you are without you ever speaking a word, and it can be a powerful lead-in to your interview. Interviewers will often instinctively form an initial impression of you based, in part, on your handshake. Whether or not this is fair is really irrelevant; you want to make the best first impression possible.
Whether or not you realize it, you have shaken hands hundreds, or thousands of times throughout your life! You have done this with both old and young; friends and strangers, without giving it much thought. Now is the time to think about it!
Try to remember handshakes with others that were particularly memorable. Put them into two categories (good or bad). Next, using the attributes in the “good” category establish your new and improved handshake!
Some things to consider are
- forcefulness – your grip should be firm but not “bone-crushing”; about the same force you would use in turning a doorknob
- pumping or pulling – don’t work someone’s arm as if you were pumping water; and don’t grab and pull them toward you
- palm up/down/vertical – don’t ever extend your hand with the palm down. This is a signal of dominance or control. Conversely, a “palm up” position signifies openness and compliance but could also signal that you could be taken advantage of. A vertical palm (as in the photo above) tells the interviewer that you are confident and willing to meet them halfway.
- duration – short or lingering – a typical handshake in America is about 2-3 seconds in duration. It is often longer in other countries, so adhere to local customs
- release – try to be observant of the interviewer’s grip and release your grip based on their lead
What if you have super-sweaty palms? You may have a condition called palmer hyperhidrosis. Don’t let this discourage you – there are things you can do to combat this! Check out information provided by the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
There are many other subtle considerations pertaining to the handshake, but this will get you started and on your way to a winning handshake at your next interview!