First impressions count

Why can’t we get our handshake technique right in the professional world?

I completely appreciate that different cultures have different expectations about this form of social greeting. So this advice is penned for both men and women new to working in countries and companies where a handshake is a critical component of any business transaction.

Believe me, you may be amazing at what you do, you may be the best but if your handshake isn’t up to standard you will really be diminishing the impact of your first impression on the other person. I know a Director who personally recruits over a hundred people every year, but who refuses to hire anyone with a poor handshake.  She agrees she might be missing some great talent, but she is adamant that its such a critical component of first impressions, and people don't get jobs as a result.

So what do you need to do?

Handshakes should be firm.  They should be accompanied with direct eye contact and convey a sense of your self-confidence and genuine interest in meeting the other person and it applies to both sexes equally.

Shake from the elbow and do so with one hand only, and for 2-3 times.  More contact time indicates an over familiarity.

If the other person’s hand is sweaty or dirty, don’t immediately wipe your hand afterward as this will undoubtedly cause embarrassment to the other person.

Any bone crushing attempt to exert power and masculinity is very old fashioned.  This is a foolish attempt at a power play and you’ll win no friends in making someone else wince.  Lose the crusher or lose opportunities.

Likewise, the limp wristed fingers to fingers token contact is a no-no. If your handshake resembles a dying fish flopping about people may assume that you have a confidence issue and will question how credible you will be to senior level business people.

Be mindful of the cultural traditions of the person you’re shaking hands with.  Some need a lot of space between you both whilst some prefer to be standing quite close together.  A handshake with a variation of the European cheek kiss routine should be reserved only for those you know well. A two handed shake from yourself again should be reserved for people you know well, or for your political career.

It’s a matter of simple etiquette.  And it may just be the tiny thing that helps you land that next job over your competition.