Center for Career Development

Career Trends

Get a Grip on Success When You Meet an Employer

by Claudia Allen

What takes 10 seconds and tells an interviewer that you're open to new experiences? What says "I am someone who is conscientious, agreeable, emotionally stable, open, and outgoing?"

It's a firm, warm, confident handshake, according to a report published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. And if you look the other person squarely in the eye at the same time, give yourself another five points.

The report, Exploring the Handshake in Employment Interviews, followed 98 graduate students who went through mock interviews and rated them on their handshakes and interview skills. The report concludes that that people who follow common recommendations-have a firm, confident handshake and look the other person in the eye-receive higher ratings of employment suitability than do those who offer a limp, cold handshake with little or no eye contact.

What does a good handshake look like? The exact description, according to the study, is this: Your hand is extended straight out from the waist with the palm facing to the left and the thumb raised at a 45-degree angle. On contact with another person's hand, close your hand around the other hand, but then hesitate, giving the other person a chance to initiate the strength of the grip and the upward and downward shaking. Release your grip only when the other person begins to relax his or her grip (or you risk showing a sign that you want to terminate the handshake).

Researchers assessed eight handshake characteristics on a 5-point rating scale. Those characteristics included:

  • completeness of grip (1 = incomplete and 5 = full),
  • temperature (1 = cold, 5 = warm), dryness (1 = damp, 5 = dry),
  • strength (1 = weak; 5 = strong),
  • duration (1 = brief, 5 = long),
  • vigor (1 = low, 5 = high),
  • texture (1 = soft, rough = 5), and
  • eye contact (1 = none, 5 = direct).

The study found men are more adept at handshaking while women excel in nonverbal communication, such as facial expression and good posture, two positives that overcome a less firm handshake. Women who offer firm handshakes received higher scores than men with equally firm handshakes.

A good handshake, researchers concluded, seems to be linked to such personality traits as extraversion, openness, assertiveness, and positive behaviors. Further, the study reports "more open women are perceived more favorably than less open women, while more open men are perceived slightly less favorably than less open men," and "women who are more liberal, intellectual, and open to new experiences have a firmer handshake and make a more favorable impression than women who are less open and have a less firm handshake."

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