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A good handshake is essential to career success

Nina Spitzer is a SheKnows.com columnist and a freelance writer living in sunny Cave Creek, Arizona.

Handshake 101

Are we judged by a handshake? You bet! An interview begins with a handshake for a first impression, and then ends with a handshake for a final impression. Make sure the impression you leave behind is a positive one.

Interview Handshake

Whether networking, interviewing, or socializing, a good handshake is essential. Unfortunately, we're often remembered by our handshake and sometimes not for good reasons. Does your handshake give the impression that you're nervous, timid, lack self-confidence, have a dull personality, or that you are overly aggressive, condescending or patronizing? Take a moment to evaluate which of these describes your handshake and consider the kind of impression you might be leaving in your business relationships.

  • The Dead Fish:  A weak, limp, and sometimes clammy, easy to slip out of grip
  • The Vise Grip:  A bone-breaking grip that tingles for hours afterward
  • The Claw:  Using only fingers in a claw-like grasp
  • The Water Pump:  Exaggerated up and down movement as if pumping water
  • The Germ-a-phobic:  Quick, barely touching handshake, appears to be afraid of germs

A positive handshake...

Leaves others believing you are a self-confident, intelligent person with good social skills as well as someone with leadership qualities. Whichever way you slice it, a good handshake is a recipe for success.

Handshake 101!

Take a few moments to brush up on your handshaking skills. It's simply a matter of reflecting on what you've been doing and what improvements can be made in order to leave a positive impression.

Stand and Deliver

A handshake is usually delivered from a standing, face-to-face position and should not be made from a sitting position unless the other person is also seated. Rising will show respect for both yourself and the other person. If seated, stand when a handshake is imminent, and then proceed with the proper handshake steps. Sit once the other person has moved on or joined you at sitting.

Easy steps to a positive handshake

  • Plant your feet in front of the other person and lean slightly forward
  • Lock onto the other person's eyes and share a smile while extending your hand. Important: Try to avoid looking at the hand. Hands know how to find each other without the help of your eyes. (Guys, remember never to look down at a woman's hand during a handshake since it may give the impression you're rudely looking at her breasts, making her uncomfortable…. Definitely not a way to score points in a business situation!)
  • The palm of each hand should make complete contact while the fingers create a firm (but not bone-breaking) grip.
  • Shake 3 to 4 times while eyes are engaged
  • Exchange pleasant small talk until the hands naturally move apart.

Make sure….

  • Hands are clean and dry
  • Hands are soft (use lotion if necessary)
  • Finger nails are well-manicured
  • Fingers are free of large, obtrusive rings
  • Breath is fresh and clean (bad breath can broadcast at arm's length)
  • Mouth is free of chewing gum
  • Teeth are clean of food particles  

Job interview handshakes

The handshake impression you want to leave during an interview is one of professionalism, sincerity and confidence.  Practice your opening and closing handshake. It's especially important to consider what you might say during the interaction.

Your opening handshake might sound something like, "Good morning, Mrs. X, I'm Jane Smith and am so glad to meet you. I look forward to learning more about you and your company." You might close with something like, "Mrs. X, I've enjoyed speaking with you and learning about this position. I hope what you've learned about me will help you decide if I'm right for the job."

Always remember to enhance your comments with good eye contact and a warm smile. Never underplay your opening and closing handshakes since they are an essential part of the interview impression.

Now that you've had a crash course in "Handshake 101", don't wait a moment longer. Stand up. Find the nearest person and start practicing that winning handshake. You'll find that the impression you leave with a good handshake will be positive and memorable… and really will make a difference.

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