How Your Handshake Can Shape Your Career

By Glenn Stearns
< Back
Share this article:

How Your Handshake Can Shape Your Career

An open letter from Glenn Stearns, CEO of Kind Lending

We’ve all been there. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like expecting a solid handshake and being handed a wet fish.

Noodle Knuckles, the bait and squish, the digit dangle…

Call it what you like, but a limp handshake is never the way to go when making a first impression.

It should be common knowledge, but just to make sure we’re all on the same page…

Glenn’s Four Factors For a Hardy Handshake:

  1. Get close
    Nobody likes tilting forward or reaching for your hand. Obviously don’t crowd the plate, but get close enough that you two can shake comfortably.
  2. Make eye contact
    It’s tempting to keep your eyes on their hand (and it’s ok to glance if you’re worried you’ll miss the mark entirely) but once you’ve made hand-contact be sure to make eye-contact. This is crucial stuff, and essential for making a strong first impression.
  3. Hold tight
    Don’t be afraid to put some elbow grease into it, but know when to dial it back. If you’re wondering how hard to squeeze, try it on yourself. Squeeze until it starts to hurt, then decrease the pressure just a little. Be firm and friendly.
  4. Know when to let go
    Don’t drag it out. You’re trying to get a job, not a prom date. Two or three pumps then let go. Be warned however, that showing off your mighty grip invites competition.

Short But Sweet

Researchers at the University of Dundee, UK, studied nonverbal cues after handshakes of varying lengths. They found that following a handshake that was longer than usual (over three seconds) made participants uncomfortable. The participants laughed less and showed signs of anxiety such as fidgeting.

I think we’ve all been to enough HR conferences to know that this sort of response is a no-go.

Reading Someone’s Handshake

Believe it or not, your handshake says more about you than most people notice. The good folks at the University of Alabama conducted a study over a hundred men and women on just this subject, and it turned up some fascinating results.

In the study, participants shook hands with trained evaluators before taking a personality test.

The qualities of their handshakes were recorded and rated in terms of strength, vigor, timing.

The whole deal. The study found that people with firmer handshakes were more extraverted and open to new experiences. Alternatively, neuroticism, closed mindedness, and shyness were linked to limp handshakes.

That begs the question: What is my handshake saying about me?

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be a shy-operator, but having a firm grip is always seen as a virtue in the business world. If you want to gain the confidence of your bosses and colleagues, it’s time to start paying attention to your handshake.

So go home and practice your smile-and-nod in the mirror until you feel like a movie star.

Until next time, keep on shakin’.

Signing off,