Nail the Handshake, Land the Job

Unrecognizable businessmen shaking hands.Author: Lily Martis
Source: Monster

The secret to getting a job is in your hands—literally.

Whether you’re going to an interview or attending a networking event, your handshake is one of the most important first impressions you’ll make. A good handshake has the power to both diminish the impact of a negative impression and make a positive interaction even better, according to a Beckman Institute study.

Believe it or not, you can screw this up. From Kanye West to presidential hopefuls, no one is immune to the awkward handshake.

In an effort to leave nothing to chance, we want to help you get the handshake right the first time, and every time. So Monster spoke with two experts who have shaken more than their fair share of hands over the course of their careers: Patti Wood, a body language expert who spent three years researching handshakes, and Monster career advice expert Vicki Salemi, who spent 15 years in corporate recruiting.

Their advice? Different contexts require different handshakes—different grips, different timing. They walked us through a few of the essentials.

Step 1: Be the first to reach out

When you first meet someone and exchange hellos, Wood and Salemi agreed that you should be the one to make the first move.

“It shows confidence,” Wood says. “Recruiters are worried you might not have interpersonal skills. They’re looking to see if you feel confident enough to bring out your hand before they have.”

Wood says you can initiate the handshake from between four and six feet out.

Step 2: Lock eyes

Eye contact is an absolute must, Salemi says.

The idea here is not to get lost in your interviewer’s eyes. It’s to let the person on the other side of the desk know that you want to engage in a handshake. So, as you’re locking eyes, begin to extend your hand.

Step 3: Get the grip right

“Put your hand out, tilt the fingers down and scoop up into the handshake—instead of just sticking your fingers out and letting the other person grab it,” Wood says. “The hand’s web goes up into the web of the other person’s hand, so you get full palm-to-palm contact.”

Step 4: Hold on firmly

Give the person’s hand a firm grasp to set the tone that you’re confident, that you’re owning it.

“Eliminate flimsy, wimpy handshakes from your repertoire,” says Salemi, who spent more than 15 years at a corporate recruiter. “Keep it brief and purposeful.”

But be careful: There is such thing as being too firm. Salemi says someone once squeezed her hand so hard that it actually hurt. Job search 101: Please don’t injure your interviewers.

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