3 Tips to Nailing the Perfect Handshake

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
Get The Job, Guides - 2 years ago

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Shaking hands can be a stressful thing to do, even if you’ve grown up doing it.

We get it — just look at the human hand. It’s gross and weird-looking, and it makes sense that you’d have some difficulty figuring out how to shake it.

Pictured: the Human Hand, perhaps the most disgusting and malformed of all human appendages. Observe the fingers, the thumb, the horrific palm. Truly disturbing, and upsetting to gaze upon.

But shake it you must, if you hope to ever find a job in the US.

Shaking hands is the dominant form of greeting for most western cultures — it’s not going away anytime soon, and the ability to handshake well is often used in interviews as a sign of an individual’s character.

So how does one go about mastering the perfect handshake?

We’ve put together a few tips to help you figure out just that.


1. Why Does Having a Good Handshake Matter?

It’s tough to overstress how important body language is when it comes to interacting with other people.

Your posture, how far away you stand when you talk to people, how much eye contact you use, even how often you touch your own face — all of these things can have an effect on the way that people view you.

This is particularly important to keep in mind if it’s the first time you’re meeting somebody.

But this becomes compounded even further if the person you’re meeting is the person who’s interviewing you for a job.

While adorable, this infant’s handshaking technique is all wrong. And we’re all embarrassed on her behalf.

They’re going to be keeping a sharp eye on everything you do, reading as much as they can into the things you say and your general behavior.

As a result, your first impression is extremely important.

And what’s one of the very first things you’re going to do once you enter the room?

You can see where we might be going with this.

2. Techniques for Good Handshake Etiquette

So it’s definitely important to know how to shake a person’s hand correctly.

But how do you go about doing so?

What even is good handshaking technique, when you get right down to it?

This is wrong as well. What is even happening here. Two hands in a single handshake? What is this, amateur hour?

Here are the biggest things to keep in mind when shaking someone’s hand:

  • Wipe/Dry Your Hands First: Clammy hands are not only a sign of stress and nervousness, but they’re also just uncomfortable to touch. Make sure to keep your hands dry if you know you’ll be shaking hands, or if you’re caught unaware, wipe them on your hands or shirt first.
  • Right Hand Only: No offense to all the lefties out there, but the vast majority of the world sees themselves as right-handed. As a result, more people are going to struggle with a left-handed shake than a right-handed one. If you know a person is left-handed, then go for it — otherwise, stick to the right.
  • Two to Three Shakes: Wouldn’t be a handshake without the shaking part. This one you should feel out based on what seems right in the moment, but for the most part, two to three shakes is perfect.
  • Smile For the Camera: You’re not shaking a disembodied, spectral hand — you’re shaking the hand of a particular person. So make sure that as the shake occurs, you look them in the eye and smile. Just try not to be creepy about it.

3. Common Bad Handshake Techniques to Avoid

Now that you know what you SHOULD be doing, it’s also good to remember that there are just as many things you should avoid.

Remember, one-on-one interaction happens at a breakneck pace. By the time you’ve realized you did something wrong or looked weird, you’re usually miles past the point in a conversation where that knowledge might be relevant to you.

That’s why you want to be thinking about these things early on — if possible, you want to know what to avoid doing before you even walk into your interview in the first place.

I don’t know what the hell is occurring in this picture, but I’ll tell you what’s not happening — proper handshake technique. This is just disgraceful.

With that in mind, here are some of the biggest things you want to avoid doing when you go to shake a person’s hand:

  • Don’t Be Limp, But Don’t Be Aggressive Either: You want to give a firm handshake. You don’t want to be limp, but squeezing too hard is uncomfortable for the other person. If you’re the kind of person who does this sort of thing on purpose as some sort of power play, just keep in mind that the world around you is likely to see that as you being a huge jerk. When in doubt, try to match the pressure the other person is giving you — but again, don’t try to turn it into a contest.
  • Don’t Take Too Long: Even if you’re not using too much pressure, holding a handshake for too long is uncomfortable. It doesn’t make you look powerful — it makes you look like you don’t recognize basic social cues. And unless that’s genuinely the case, it’s not an impression that you really want to give off.
  • Don’t Shake Wildly: In addition to keeping to just two or three shakes, you want to make sure that your shakes don’t involve too much movement. If the other person is having to move their whole arm up and down just to keep up with you, you’re doing too much.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all for this one! Just keep one last thing in mind:

Whatever you do, make sure not to wait too long after you shake hands before you start talking to the other person.

Make sure you’re not focusing so much on your handshake that you forget to start talking right away. The handshake is a conversation starter — don’t leave it hanging in the air on it’s own.

That’s when things start feeling weird.

None of these people are even trying to handshake correctly. Not even remotely. I give up.

It happens easier than you might think. Remember that social cues come up quickly, and missing them or not can take a matter of seconds or milliseconds.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

How to Answer the Interview Question “Do You Work Well with Others?”
3 Tips to Making a Lateral Career Move
3 Tips For When You Don’t Fit In At Work

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