7 Tips To Perfect Your Interview Handshake

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

When it comes to getting a job, making a good first impression is crucial. Part of this first impression is a solid handshake.

Your handshake can reveal a lot about you, especially during a job interview. Using proper technique when introducing yourself and shaking hands sets the tone for the entire meeting. You want to display confidence, friendliness, and professionalism.

The essential tips

Below are 7 tips on how to give a proper handshake during an interview:

*Please note that these recommendations apply equally to both men and women.

  • It is custom to use your right hand for a handshake. The interviewer will likely extend his or her hand first. Give him or her a second to initiate it. If they do not, then you should absolutely still extend your hand.
  • Make sure you stand, face the person, square your shoulders, and make eye contact while you shake.
  • Your handshake should be firm, as this displays confidence. However, it should not inflict pain. In contrast, a limp handshake might give off the impression of weakness or insecurity.
  • Overall, the handshake should last about 2-4 seconds. Maintain eye contact and a pleasant expression or smile while shaking.
  • “Pumping” in the handshake should move in an up and down motion, no more than 2-3 times.
  • During the handshake, keep your left hand visible and relaxed.
  • Provide a pleasant greeting during the handshake, and repeat the individual’s name as you are meeting them.

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Longer Version


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Why do handshakes matter?

Your handshake can reveal a lot about you, especially during a job interview. Using proper technique when introducing yourself and shaking hands sets the tone for the entire meeting. You want to display confidence, friendliness, and professionalism.

An awkward or uncomfortable encounter upon meeting your interviewers is not going to set you up for success. Do not let an improper handshake enable someone to create an incorrect or negative judgment about you and jump to a false conclusion about the type of worker you might be.

You only get one shot at a first impression. When this first impression is during a job interview, the pressure is on you to make it a good one and get it right.

Handshake etiquette

According to Business Insider, “a proper handshake isn’t a play for dominance. It’s a sign of sincerity.” You want to display a balance of making a sincere and genuine effort, without going overboard and trying too hard.

Below are 7 tips on how to give a proper handshake during an interview:

*Please note that these recommendations apply equally to both men and women. Read more on this later.

  • It is custom to use your right hand for a handshake. Traditionally, the “high-ranking” person will initiate it. Therefore, the interviewer will likely extend his or her hand first. Give him or her an extra split second to initiate it. If they do not, then you should absolutely still extend your hand.
    • Regardless of who initiates it, it is important that the handshake happens before proceeding with the interview.
  • Make sure you stand, face the person, square your shoulders, and make eye contact while you shake. This displays respect, appreciation, and excitement to meet them.
  • Your handshake should be firm, as this displays confidence. However, it should not be firm to the point of inflicting pain by crushing the hand of the person you’re meeting. In contrast, a limp handshake might give off the impression of weakness or insecurity. Therefore, I recommend you practice with family and/or friends in advance so you can find a great balance and happy medium.
    • If your interviewer gives a limp handshake, a polite and proper way to respond is by giving a gentle squeeze while gripping their hand. This way, without you overpowering them, the person will know to grip more firmly.
  • Overall, the handshake should last about 2-4 seconds. Maintain eye contact and a pleasant expression or smile while shaking. If it lasts longer than roughly 4 seconds and starts to feel uncomfortable, then politely withdraw your hand while maintaining a friendly expression.
  • “Pumping” in the handshake should move in an up and down motion, no more than 2-3 times.
  • During the handshake, keep your left hand visible and relaxed. While you are shaking hands, it can appear defensive if your left hand is in your pocket or clenched.
    • Note: In an interview setting, it is not appropriate to use your left hand to touch the person’s arm or cup their hand. Keep it relaxed and by your side.
  • Provide a pleasant greeting during the handshake, and repeat the individual’s name as you are meeting them. This shows that you are making an effort to remember their name and not simply going through the motions. For example, as you are shaking hands you can say, “It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Smith.”

As mentioned above, these tips are intended for both men and women equally. Ladies, it is important to begin an interview in a confident and assertive manner. If any of these tips are out of your comfort zone, I encourage you to practice as much as possible so you can walk into your interview self-assuredly and knock it out of the park.

To sum it all up

A solid handshake is key to starting your interview off on the right foot. By following the tips above, you will display the confidence, friendliness, and professionalism you need to rock your interview.

Actionable Steps


1

Practice makes perfect

Practice with friends or family before your interview so your handshake feels natural.

2

Don’t overthink it

Be genuine and don’t stress. There’s no need to overthink your handshake. All you need to do is bring your A-game, and just be you.

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About the Author


Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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