The Power of the Handshake

Business handshake

A few years ago, the University of Iowa conducted a study on the power of a handshake. What professor Greg Stewart discovered was that a firm, solid handshake is a critical part of a successful interview. He realized that more often than not, students with firm handshakes were seen as having more extroverted personalities and scored better with interviewers due to a greater ease with skills such as small talk and eye contact. “We found that the first impression begins with a handshake that sets the tone for the rest of the interview,” says Stewart. “We probably don’t consciously remember a person’s handshake or whether it was good or bad. But the handshake is one of the first nonverbal clues we get about a person’s overall personality, and that impression is what we remember.”

So if a good handshake means you are more desirable, and thus more hirable, isn’t this something you should really perfect? So what exactly qualifies a proper shake?


It should be:

1. Firm, but not so firm that it borders painful

2. Include good eye contact throughout the duration

3. Should be accompanied by a natural smile

4. Should be met midway between you and the other person

5. Should include a warm greeting before or during the handshake

5. Can include 1-2 “pumps” from the elbow

6. Should last about 2-3 seconds. Not too short and not too long

7. Make sure that your fingers are under the receiving palm

8. Keep fingers together with thumb up and open

9. Should NOT be clammy; cool and dry is the ideal. If you are prone to sweaty hands, try spraying them with antiperspirant, especially before an interview.

A proper handshake is symbolic currency, a universal norm, a nonverbal sign of sincerity. It is an introduction into who you are as a person and insight into how you’ll be as an employee. You are being judged, after all that is what the interview process is – educated judgment based on very little info. You have to stand out from the pack and there is a clear correlation between a good handshake and a favorable impression. A dead fish handshake can suggest insecurity, a lazy handshake makes you appear disinterested, and a quick handshake can indicate arrogance.  Get your proper shake down. Remember, a good handshake is forgettable, but a bad handshake is detrimentally memorable.