Wet Lettuce v The Bone Crusher: Handshakes

It makes no difference if you are a man or a woman. Offer a limp wet lettuce as a handshake and the interview could well be on its way downhill. Likewise, pumping their arm up and down like you are Willy Wonka won’t do much for your chances either.

In fact, one MP has even suggested that those who administer “bone-crushing” handshakes to prove the strength of their personality should be charged with assault.

So, how do you create a confident, not weak and not arrogant, first impression from the outset?

  • Make sure that you are holding your coat/bags in your left hand so that you are not fumbling about
  • Make sure your hand is clean and dry but DO NOT rub it on your trousers or skirt in front of the interviewer!
  • Let the interviewer start and finish the handshake and mirror their grip
  • Do not crush the interviewer’s hand as this can come across as over-dominant not assertive
  • Do not just stick out a wet floppy hand as this will make the interviewer’s skin crawl and make you appear weak
  • Do not hold their hand in both of yours, or go for a “mwah” kiss on the cheek (different rules in Europe)
  • Do not touch them on the arm, or anywhere else, while you are shaking their hand
  • Do not pump their arm enthusiastically. The handshake should go up and down around three times only!
  • Make sure that you stand up to shake hands. It’s only polite!
  • Make eye contact and smile with the other person as you shake their hand. (But not a crazy smile!)
  • Practise your handshake before the interview with friends and get their opinion

Often only western cultures shake hands so be wary of cultural differences. In the Far East a bow is the usual form of greeting, and in the Muslim world offering the left hand is considered a great insult. Shaking hands with a Muslim woman if you are a non-related male is a taboo. So, don’t take offence if you are not offered a handshake – it could just be a cultural thing!

First impressions are made in the first ten seconds of a meeting so get the handshake right!


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