Getting a grip: a beginner's guide to shaking hands

May 13, 2019

Big day, your first job interview. You go in and your prospective employer offers a hand. Aargh – what now? Do you grab it purposefully and pump enthusiastically, to show willing? Do you grasp gingerly, to let them know they are the boss? Or do you do something else – indicate you are a Mason, perhaps, at this early stage? What about a different secret handshake – the Dele Alli and Harry Kane routine? Or the full-on Trump, never letting go?

Schools are letting down young people by not teaching them the basics of interviews, including how to shake hands, according to Nilesh Dosa, a youth mentor at the accountancy firm Ernst & Young. “We’re churning out academically able students who just aren’t equipped for work,” he said.

Jo Bryant agrees. She is an etiquette consultant who has written loads of books about the subject and worked at Debrett’s, the arbiters of British etiquette. “You can have all the qualifications in the world, but if you go in with poor body language, poor eye contact and a poor handshake you won’t get the job,” she says. “The way you conduct yourself is as much of it as how qualified you are. Your interviewer has to like you and want to be around you.”

So, what is the correct way to shake a hand? “Eye contact, be firm, palm to palm, actually clasp the other person’s hand. No bone-crushing, though: you don’t want to be remembered as a bone-crusher.”

Don’t be too limp, either: this sends a message of underconfidence. “It’s not very nice shaking a limp hand; it feels like an empty gesture,” Bryant says. “It’s about striking a good balance: coming across as confident, but not arrogant. Arrogance is never attractive, particularly in a younger person.”

And what about sweaty hands? Not good, but hard to avoid, she says. “You can always give them a surreptitious wipe – before you go in, not in front of them.” Avoid dominating gestures, too. “You don’t want to be putting your other hand on top of theirs, or clasping their forearm.” She’s talking to you, Donald: you’re fired.

Just try to be natural, Bryant says. “You don’t want to be wooden by trying to remember too much.” She recommends practice. “It sounds weird. but you never actually shake your own hand and never ask anyone about it. Practise with a friend, get some feedback: is it OK, am I doing it how you would expect it to be done?” Just as you might with, well, anything else.

Source: The Guardian