First Impressions: Does a handshake matter?

We’ve all heard the old adage that there is nothing as important as a first impression. Whether you’re on a date, meeting your new employer, or greeting a neighbor, the first impression is generally the one that lasts the longest.

In the corporate world, the first impression – more often than not – begins with a handshake. As a result, a common question among job seekers is how much does a handshake matter? Does it matter at all? A little bit? Should I practice my technique on a mannequin? Am I overthinking this thing? With these questions in mind, we thought it would be interesting to explore the time honored tradition of the handshake and see if we could find any studies that accurately describe the perfect way to make a good palm-on-palm impression.

The History of the Handshake

The handshake has been around for centuries. Although it is often claimed that the handshake developed during the Middle Ages, Archeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking was practiced in Greece as far back as the 5th century BC (turns out you have more in common with Aristotle and Plato than you thought).

Although there are conflicting theories regarding the origin of the handshake, it is generally accepted that it developed as a way to provide evidence that both parties were meeting unarmed.

Does the Interview Handshake Matter?

The short answer to the above question is: yes. Handshakes do matter.

In fact, they probably matter more than you think. When researching this blog post, we were actually somewhat surprised to see how a simple gesture could so immensely impact someone’s career opportunities.

For instance, a recent article by the Telegraph cited a study that indicated that more than half of managers said that they can tell whether or not they want to employ a candidate for a job based on the strength of his or her handshake. What is more, Professor Geoffrey Beattie, head of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester has gone on record saying that “the human handshake is one of the most crucial elements of impression formation.”

Finally, while analyzing interactions in job interviews, management experts at the University of Iowa declared handshakes to be “more important than agreeableness, conscientiousness, or emotional stability.” The University of Iowa findings have been replicated to varying degrees in most the follow-up studies that we were able to find online.

So yes a handshake does matter. Which raises another question: what makes a great handshake?

The Perfect Handshake for Your Job Hunt

It’s important to remember that what constitutes a good handshake in one culture might not constitute a good handshake in another. While the United States and Canada tends to prefer a firm handshake over a limp-wristed half-hearted pump, in the Arabic-speaking parts of the Middle East a light handshake is preferred.

The same is true in China, Japan, and South Korea where a strong handshake can be considered rude. For individuals not hunting for work abroad, scientists have actually developed a formula for the perfect North American handshake. According to these academics, the correct way to meet a business colleague or potential employer is by extending your right hand, taking your partners hand in a complete grip, squeezing firmly, and making three shaking motions with a medium level of vigor.

The whole process should last no longer than two to three seconds, your hands should be cool and dry, and you must make eye contact throughout. If you can manage it, a good natural smile with an appropriate verbal statement can also help make a respectable first impression.

Still worried about your handshake?

Still feel like your handshake is turning away potential employers? It might be a good idea to get a little feedback before your next big interview. Ask your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or friends what they think of your handshake. Their feedback might finally allow you to get a good grasp – terrible pun intended – on your future.

Still looking to land that interview for your next IT position? Connect with us so we can find you the perfect match.

For more information on navigating your next IT career move, check out our Guide to Finding the Perfect Tech Job.