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Shake It Up Baby!

Interview Tips

Face-to-Face Relationship Skills Series: The Handshake

Are you a limp fish? Your handshake speaks volumes about your confidence and ability to physically connect with others. You can bet that upon entering an office for a face-to-face job interview, you’ll be shaking hands with at least one person – probably before you have a chance to say much at all about who you are and why you’re qualified for the position. Your handshake is a big determinant of the first impression you’ll make on a hiring manager.

Your handshake is your first and last impression

But your handshake isn’t just your first impression; it’s also your last. It’s not uncommon to shake hands at the conclusion of a meeting as a way of affirming appreciation and saying thank you for the other person’s time.

Being that it’s both the first and last thing you’ll probably do in a face-to-face interview, it goes without saying that it’s critically important that your handshake is just right to leave a lasting, positive impression.

How to master the perfect handshake

What is the perfect handshake, anyway? Well, it’s much like Goldilocks prefers her bed: not too firm, but not too soft. Just right.

One thing to remember is that the other person may be wearing a ring on one or more of their fingers, and having metal crushed into your fingers is never a pleasant experience. Additionally, most people aren’t delicate orchids who will wilt and wither at the slightest pressure.

One way to think about it is as if you’re grabbing a door handle that you need to open, but not pull. No, I’m not suggesting that you twist the other person’s arm (please don’t!), but at about the same level of firmness.

Don’t make these handshake mistakes

This also goes without saying, but let’s go ahead and say it anyway: Absolutely no casual, alternate handshake styles you may have invented with your friends. In other words, under no circumstances should you ever fist-bump an interviewer – not even if he seems as though he’s on the same wavelength as you. There is no excuse for not keeping things professional in an interview, regardless of whether you’ve ever encountered the other person in casual situations prior to this meeting.

Along those same lines, if you’re the type of person whose hands get sweaty and clammy when you’re anxious, try to take a handkerchief along and quickly (but subtly) wipe your hands before entering the office to minimize the clammy-hands effect.

The elements of a handshake

When you do shake hands with a hiring manager, make sure it’s a full handshake. Don’t just use your fingers to weakly clasp the other person’s hand. Your palm should make contact with the other person’s palm, with your fingers wrapped firmly, but not too firmly, around the hand.

Make eye contact with the other person while you’re shaking hands; don’t look at her hand. Don’t forget to smile and exchange pleasantries while you shake hands, such as expressing your pleasure in having the opportunity to interview for the position or commenting on the office building, location, or how welcoming the front desk staff were when you arrived. If the interviewer takes the lead, follow it.

The number one rule of thumb when it comes to shaking hands is this: Would your grandmother feel loved and General Patton, who, by the way, wore multiple rings on each hand, perceive you as a leader? Make sure your handshake does you justice and leaves the impression you want to leave on your potential future employer.

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