What's In A Handshake?

I have been in over a 100 interviews, whether being the interviewee or interviewer, and too often have I seen the handshake taken for granted. We all prepare for a first impression in an interview either on the phone, through email, or over social media, so why is no one preparing for a handshake? The way we present ourselves in an interview is the foundation of why we should be hired, and we should be showcasing our best selves from start to finish. I’d like to focus on the types of handshakes to use when meeting someone specifically for an interview. This way there will be one less hurdle standing in your way of success.

Get Your Confidence Up!

Before a handshake, get your confidence up! You can look over your resume or your references as you wait before an interview to remind yourself of the educated and qualified professional you are. If you have time, call a good friend to send you some positive energy. As an interviewer, I have never called someone in for an interview I was not already excited to meet. The interviewer already thinks they like you, so show your confidence in your handshake to make them really like you!

“Don’t be a member of  the Bad Handshake Club”

A Bad Handshake:

“The Don”:

This is one of my personal favorite bad handshakes I often receive. It seems as though someone is just placing their hand in mine, as if they are “The Don” and want me to kiss their ring. Look, I never have and never will kiss someone’s hand in an interview and I can guarantee, whether you are the interviewer or interviewee, neither will you. If this does happen, please email me personally so I can shake your hand to congratulate you.


Photo by Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc / Getty Images
Photo by Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc / Getty Images

“New Best Friend”:

This is when someone pulls you in for a hug or throws a snap in at the end of handshake. I like you, but let's hold off on the hug for now. We are not on the level of secret handshakes yet.







“The Team Player”:

There’s nothing worse than going in for a high five and being left hanging, but going in for a high five with your potential new employer and being left hanging would definitely rival that. I like a good high five as much as the next person, however, in most cases it is not the way to introduce yourself before an interview.





Those types of handshakes make you want to shake it off, literally! Receiving a “bad” handshake leaves the interviewer confused and we want to remove any confusion or lack of confidence. We have to start with the basics and a handshake is a special, basic human interaction that allows people to feel comfortable exchanging ideas with one another.

“Be the best, of the best, of the best”

A great handshake is:

  1. Firm but not aggressive. There is a time and place to show your strength, but don’t let your handshake be an informal “ticket to the gun show.” Too firm a grip in a handshake does not express confidence but rather a dominant body language that can be off putting to a future business partner. To figure out your perfect firm handshake, take note of how to turn a doorknob. You've got to get a good enough grip to open the door but you also aren’t ripping off the knob. Think of it as opening the door to a conversation!

  2. Does not linger. Though ‘Linger’ was a chart topper by the Cranberries in 1993, you in fact do not “have to let it linger” in a handshake. To avoid the linger, think of it like some would dropping food on the ground - any longer than three seconds and it becomes unappetizing. Practice with a friend and time your handshake. You should be able to say hello, your name, and nice to meet you before the handshake gets clammy. Nerves are natural so if your palms are clammy, a non-lingering handshake will draw attention away from that.

  3. Made with eye contact.  Looking someone in the eye shows interest. Add a smile to the equation you’ll not only be approachable but will come off as interested. Interviewers want to know you are interested and excited to meet them, and eye contact is the perfect way to show them just that. It says they have your attention and you are engaged in speaking with them. Do not look at the floor or ceiling, and this goes without saying, but the stink eye is out of the question.  

  4. Standing. If you are seated where the meeting is taking place stand up for the handshake. Never have your interviewer meet you in your seat. Stand up with good posture, shoulders down and a straight back, and meet on your feet!

The handshake is the starting line of the conversation in an interview and after you’ve run a through a few questions it will ultimately be the finish line as well.. Do not forget to shake hands at the end of the meeting. You are starting to build trust with someone and even though small, that human contact is helping build this trust. Trust takes time, and it will take a few more handshakes over the course of a relationship with someone to develop inside joke greetings, secret handshakes, and high fives.

The formula is that easy - confidence plus friendliness equals a trustworthy handshake.

Now that you are equipped with the dos and don’ts of handshaking, you can easily put your best HAND forward every time.

The Two Minute Vent

Sometimes carrying the load of the day is too much. You need assistance. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

Think of yourself as a tea kettle, water inside are your emotions. The flames are the stresses on your life. These stresses alone are manageable. However when we turn up that heat, what happens to that water?  It starts to boil!  As we add more flame to the fire the pressure of the steam must go somewhere?

If you don’t choose to release just a little steam the result can be devastating. In our perfect world we would just remove the kettle from the fire. You know a fun trip to the Bahamas.  However, life follows us no matter where we go.   We can’t simply remove ourselves.  Stephen Covey, professor, author and creator of Franklin Covey, states you don’t have two lives, you only have one.  You must learn to live the one.  This method will allow you to whistle before you blow which can be devastating for our co-workers and family.

It’s time to vent.

The Two Minute Vent Method

  1. Vent to the right person.  (Heat rises so don’t vent to directs/subordinates.  We suggest you chose to vent to colleague or supervisor.) 
  2. Ask  to vent. Make sure that person is the right frame of mind and be sure to say, "I'm not looking for a solution just to let off some steam.
  3. Two minute rant. Only take two minutes and no more to release irrational thoughts and feeling. Get out all of the bubbling emotions and take the full two minutes.
  4. Seek a positive solution. A vent with out a solution is just gossiping. “Can you help me seek a solution.”

As leaders we deal with a lot of stress both from our personal and work lives and this method will help you handle that stress to create a more productive work environment.