Top 5 ineffective handshakes at interviews

Prospective employers are more likely to overlook visible tattoos and body piercing than an ineffective handshake, according to a survey of business owners.

Research has shown that a good, firm handshake inspires confidence and conveys power and professionalism, according to the experts at Indicia Training, one of Scotland’s largest business skills and IT training firms.

The survey revealed that 49% of business owners would be put off a colleague, client or other associate by weak, limp handshake. Howard Teale, general manager and HR director at Indicia Training, said: “A limp, sweaty handshake is often associated with shy, weak and neurotic people. Getting your handshake just right is a vital, but often overlooked as part of making a favourable first impression.”

The research also found that people who shake hands when they meet are twice as likely to remember each other than those who don’t. Teale believes that business people need to give more thought to their handshake and what it says about them:

“The ritual of shaking hands dates back as far as the 2nd Century BC when it was originally used as an expression of peace; demonstrating that the hand was not holding a weapon. Nowadays shaking hands is a key part of any first meeting – the act inspires trust and helps to build strong relationships. However most people do not give their handshake a lot of thought. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a bad handshake – whether it be a grip of steel or a sweaty palm – and it’s not pleasant!”

Paddy O’Donnell, Professor of Psychology, at the University of Glasgow, agrees: “The power of a handshake is quite astonishing. It creates an almost automatic inference about the person’s character and is a vital part of making a positive impression within the first few seconds of meeting someone. Those with firm handshakes are considered to be extroverted, energetic and achieving; while those with a limp handshake are thought to be passive and neurotic. These impressions hold true when experiencing either a man’s or woman’s handshake but in addition a woman with a firm handshake is seen as more open to new experiences.”

So, how do you make sure that you are putting your best hand forward? Teale explains: “Your handshake says a lot about you so make an effort with it. Shaking hands should not be considered as an afterthought but rather should be an important start to any meeting. Stand up straight, extend your hand with your thumb up and a wrist straight. Grasp firmly, look the other person in the eye and shake once or twice then release. It’s as simple as that.”

What not to do – handshaking styles to avoid

  • The hard squeeze: a bone crushing grasp that is agonising for the person on the receiving end. This is intended to show strength and power, but may actually be covering for feelings of insecurity.
  • The limp squid: a weak, half-hearted grasp that may suggest a pessimist or neurotic. This is unimpressive and conveys a lack of power. Men may shake women’s hands weakly in a gentle or weak manner in order to avoid ‘hurting’ them – however, this would be considered an insult. One handshake should fit all.
  • The prison handshake: keeping the other person’s hand for too long. This can be intimidating and may make your associate feel awkward. Two or three shakes should suffice. 
  • The left-hander: A common mistake often made at networking events when people are holding drinks or food. Always try to keep your right hand free as shaking with your left hand can leave the other person feeling off kilter.
  • The jackhammer: a vigorous handshake. This shows power and determination, but may also suggest stubbornness.

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