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The importance of a good handshake

By Sarah Owens on 19.02.13 in Finding a job

This feels like old news, to be talking about the importance of a good handshake in your job search, but yet it seems that so many people I meet on a daily basis still don't shake hands with any confidence.

Every job hunter knows that smart dress, eye contact and polished shoes are a good way to make that all-important first impression. So why is it that people are neglecting to remember that a good handshake is just as critical, if not more so, for portraying the qualities that people look for in a future employee. 

Many studies over the years have continuously shown that there is a substantial relation between the features that characterise a firm handshake (strength, vigour, duration, eye contact and completeness of grip) and a good first impression.

So what does your handshake say about you? A strong firm handshake suggests confidence, reliability and gravitas and therefore, not surprisingly, a weak handshake will often give the impression of someone shy, quiet and lacking self-assurance.

If this isn't you, or isn't the impression you want to give, make sure your handshake is a confident one.  Here are my five top tips for perfecting your job-winning handshake.

  1. Be positive, sincere and genuine - make sure you look the person in the eye and smile when you shake their hand. A sincere smile will convey warmth and trust.
  2. Be confident - don't wait for someone to put their hand out to yours, be confident enough to reach out first and make the introduction.
  3. Stand up to shake hands. Don't diminish your presence by staying seated for the handshake, stand up and greet someone at eye level.
  4. Firm grasp - everyone hates the dreaded "dead fish" where someone leaves a limp hand in yours. Hold their hand in a firm, but not crushing, grip. Don't hold on for too long, studies show that the optimum handshake should last for about 3 seconds.
  5. Shake hands when saying goodbye and say a few words like "great meeting you", "thank you for your time", this will round up the meeting nicely and again demonstrate your confidence right the way through the interview.

So, having a good handshake will not only demonstrate the qualities that people look for in an employee, but it will also encourage loyalty and will make people want to shake your hand again, and for that, they'll need to have you around.