Interviewing

FAQ: Why Is Your Handshake Important in an Interview? (Plus Tips)

September 1, 2021

When you first meet a professional employer, you often greet them with a handshake. Although the way you answer questions and conduct yourself is the most important aspect of the interview, your handshake can actually leave a significant impression on a hiring manager. By understanding why hiring managers care about your handshake, you can prepare and refine it ahead of time. In this article, we explain why your handshake is important in an interview and share tips on how to make a great professional impression with your handshake.

Why is your handshake important in an interview?

Here are some reasons your handshake is important in an interview:

Making a first impression

Shaking hands is typically one of the first in-person interactions you experience with an interviewer. People often make initial subconscious judgments based on the first few moments of meeting others. Your handshake is part of the first impression that you leave on the interviewer before the interview, so the way you shake hands can influence how they view the rest of the interview.

Having a good handshake can make you highly memorable to a hiring manager when they review your interview later. By making a positive impression with a friendly, professional handshake, you can also make it easier for them to associate your answers with your initial introduction.

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Establishing a connection

When you shake hands with someone, you create a personal connection with them. During a professional handshake, you also make eye contact with the other person and smile at them. This type of body language connection is the start of your professional relationship and establishes the tone for your interview. If you get the job, it also begins the connection for your working relationship.

When you greet someone with a warm and welcoming handshake, they may feel more comfortable with you during the interview and more receptive to your answer. By having a strong handshake, you have a better opportunity to develop an interpersonal connection with your interviewers.

Communicating nonverbally

A handshake is a form of nonverbal communication, which is something that many interviewers pay attention to during interviews. It can nonverbally express aspects of how you feel in a situation, such as how excited you are about the position. Hiring managers may assess your non-verbal communication and body language to determine how confident you are in your answers and how you interact with others. If you're interviewing for a front-facing role where you interact with customers, the hiring manager may want to know that you can successfully communicate nonverbally with others.

Related: 20 Steps for How To Improve the Body Language You Use in the Workplace

Expressing your personality

Although there are some basic best practices for shaking hands in a professional setting, everyone has their own subtle handshake style. The way you shake hands in an interview can give the interviewer insight into your personality in the workplace. For example, some people with strong leadership characteristics may have firm handshakes, while others with outgoing personalities may smile brightly while they shake hands. It's important to keep your handshake within reasonable expectations of a professional situation while still being genuine to your natural traits and aptitudes.

Related: How to Stand Out in an Interview in 11 Unique Ways

Showing respect

Starting and ending an interview with a handshake is a sign of respect in a professional situation. When an interviewer makes hiring decisions, they may consider your ability to be respectful during an interview. Approaching the interviewer and accepting their handshake indicates you respect them in the workplace and look forward to getting to know them. If you're interviewing with a panel of people, shake hands with everyone in the room and give them all equal time and attention. By perfecting your handshake beforehand, you show that you put thought into preparing for the interview.

Demonstrating experience

Having a good handshake can show that you have experience as a professional, indicating your ability to succeed in your role if the hiring manager selects you. When working in a professional environment, you can expect many handshakes when interacting with clients, negotiating with business partners or networking with other people in your field.

A hiring manager may review the quality of your handshake as part of how well you can represent the company to others. By working on your handshake before the interview, you can portray yourself as having more experience interacting with others in a professional environment.

What can your handshake say about you?

Your handshake can subtly express many of your personal characteristics and traits. Here are some qualities that a handshake can indicate during an interview:

Confidence

The way you approach a handshake often shows how confident you are in an interview. Many aspects of a handshake display confidence, including the strength of your grip, your level of eye contact and how vigorously you move your arm. You want your movements to be assertive and assured while also remaining aware of the other person.

Related: 13 Ways To Project Confidence With Your Body Language

Friendliness

Your handshake also shows how personable and friendly you are when interacting with others. While the actual handshake may not directly show your sociability, your body language connected to the handshake does. When approaching the other person, smile and keep your other hand visible to show openness. To display friendliness during a handshake, greet them verbally and keep your grip stable, but not too tight.

Leadership

Many people see a strong handshake as a sign of leadership potential. Because a firm, confident handshake can build trust with people and leave a good impression, it can also lead to feelings of assurance in your leadership skills. This is especially important if you're interested in promotions, executive positions or advancing in an organization.

Related: 12 Tips To Improve Your Professional Handshake

Tips for improving your handshake

Here are a few tips you can use to improve your handshake before an interview:

  • Practice multitasking: Get comfortable with all the different elements of a handshake, including making eye contact, smiling, a verbal greeting and reaching out to actually shake hands.

  • Observe body language: Pay attention to body language cues from others so you know when they're indicating that it's time to shake hands.

  • Default to your right hand: Because most people are right-handed, prepare to shake hands with your interviewer's right hand. If you're left-handed, practice shaking hands with your right hand.

  • Ask for tips on hand-shaking: Shake hands with friends and family, then ask them what changes you can make to leave a better impression.

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