Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2004

Limp-fish handshakes could be deal breaker during job interview

By Joy Davia
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

A few bad social handshakes can pass. But a good grip is crucial for any professional encounter.

Having a good handshake, along with the proper eye contact and posture, can help distinguish job applicants from the competition. Experts say stick to an average grip — not too limp nor bone-crushing.

Advertiser library photo • Jan. 26, 2000

"Oooooh, yeah, that's one of the basic things," said Ellie Cope, senior vice president at Career Development Services in Rochester, N.Y.

"No limp-fish handshakes. I do get that and I'm appalled. All I want to do is show the person the right way to shake hands."

Bad body language — which includes a not-so-great grip — might imply that you are unenthusiastic or lack confidence.

What will a potential client think when they grasp your hand to find that there's nothing on the other end? Will an interviewer, faced with two equal candidates, pick the person with the better body language? Probably.

"Overall body language could definitely be a deal breaker," said Rafael Vidal, division director of Robert Half Management Resources. "You need to distinguish yourself against your competition. Having a good handshake and eye contact and proper posture will at the end of the day help you."

Job applicants labor over what they will say in an interview. So do employees who are about to sweet-talk a potential client. They hardly worry about the nonverbal clues they are sending, Vidal said.

Dummies.com has these tips for the perfect shake:

  • Grip the other person's hand so the webs of your thumbs meet.
  • Shake just a couple of times. Motion from the elbow, not the shoulder.
  • End the handshake cleanly, before the introduction is over. Maybe hold the handshake for three or four seconds.

If you are hunting for a job, videotape yourself doing a mock interview. Make sure your handshake is fluid, you're not slouching in your seat and you are making eye contact, Vidal said.

You could stick to an average grip — not too limp, not bone-crushing, suggested John Challenger of the national outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Or let the interviewer lead, and adjust your grip accordingly.

"If they give you a seven, give them a seven," he said. "If they give you a two, give them a two.

"Remember, it's the interviewer who should set the pace."

Or you could subject several friends to your handshake and ask for a critique.

Fortunately, not everyone puts a lot of stock in a person's handshake. "If the body language overall is strong, I don't even think about it," Vidal said.

Challenger added: "With first impressions, people get ruled out in the first five minutes. They don't seem right, for a host of perception issues, and the handshake might be one of them."