Your handshake is a powerful business tool. Think about it. How many other opportunities do you get to be physical with an interviewer or any other business colleague? In our culture physical contact in the workplace is strictly limited and for good reason. Touching is the exception not the rule. A handshake is your one chance to make a physical connection and bridge the distance between yourself and the other person. Knowing how to execute a handshake with ease and confidence is absolutely essential to your interview success.   

I’ve been told and I believe that jobs have been won or lost even before the interview began, simply on the basis of the handshake exchanged between the applicant and the interviewer. Your handshake can give you an advantage over other applicants. and that makes your handshake a big deal!

A great handshake communicates warmth, confidence, focus and energy. It makes the interviewer want to get to know you. A poor handshake communicates lack of confidence and discomfort.  It’s your job to know what makes the difference between a great handshake and a poor one.

Your handshake consists of five distinct elements. Understand the five elements and practice their execution until your handshake feels relaxed and natural. You should be able to shake hands without any thought about what you’re doing.

Those five elements of a handshake are:

§  Body position

§  Eye contact

§  Hand position

§  The clasp

§  The pump

When you shake hands with the interviewer, stand facing them. Your feet should be pointed in their direction, not angled away from them. This sends the message that they have your full attention.

Pay attention to how much distance the interviewer establishes between the two of you when they extend their arm to shake hands. This gives you valuable information about how much personal space the interviewer needs to be comfortable. Use this information to avoid unintentionally intruding in their personal space.

Good eye contact is part of a good handshake. If you’re not looking in the interviewer’s eyes, you’re not doing it right. Good eye contact communicates good will, energy, focus and personal connection. Poor eye contact communicates discomfort, lack of self confidence and can even suggest dishonesty.

When you extend your hand and clasp the interviewer’s hand in yours, big things happen. This is the heart of the handshake; the time when each of you actually ‘feel’ the warmth and energy of the other person. And wouldn’t you know, there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to do it. 

To do it correctly, extend your hand with your palm held vertically at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Your thumb will be pointing up toward the ceiling.

Your hands should meet with full palm to palm contact. The web of your thumb should meet the web of the interviewer’s thumb. As your hands meet firmly curl your fingers around the interviewer’s hand. This completes the clasp

The final element of any handshake is the pump. This is just what it sounds like. It’s the act of pumping your arm up and down while clasping hands. Regional and cultural differences affect the number of times people pump but one to three pumps is the norm. Pump more than three times and you’re overdoing a good thing. It can feel very uncomfortable to shake hands with someone who doesn’t know when to let go. You don’t want to be that person!

Guideline #1 - Begin every interview with a handshake. The initial handshake sets the tone for everything that comes after.

Guideline #2 – End every interview with a handshake.  This is your opportunity to cement the relationship and good impression you’ve made.

Guideline #3 – Stay focused and alert when you’re shaking hands. Use this opportunity to gather information about the interviewer at the same time you’re reinforcing positive messages about yourself.

Guideline #4 – During an interview, avoid using any non-traditional form of the handshake. Non-traditional handshakes are popular but they’re too informal to be appropriate for a job interview.