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June 26th is National Handshake Day

Categories: Workplace Etiquette

handshakeThis Thursday, June 26, is National Handshake Day. So, time to ensure that yours is the best it can be.

Handshakes have been around practically since the birth of civilization, and were originally a way to prove that you had no weapons in your hand when meeting someone new.

The handshake is still based on trust, and showing people that you want to connect with them.

Research backs that up ... A 2012 MIT study “The Power of a Handshake: Neural Correlates of Evaluative Judgments in Observed Social Interactions” concludes that “strangers do form a better impression of those who proffer their hand in greeting.”

If you're looking for a job, having an impressive handshake also can win over your interviewer. One survey of HR professionals indicates that potential employers are MORE likely to overlook visible body piercings or tattoos than an ineffective handshake!

A 2008 study by the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business quantified the importance of a good handshake in job interviews. It found that students who scored high with five trained handshake raters were also considered to be the most hireable by job interviewers from Iowa City-area businesses. The professor who coordinated the study said, “We found that the first impression begins with a handshake that sets the tone for the rest of the interview.” He elaborated, “The handshake is one of the first nonverbal clues we get about the person’s overall personality, and that impression is what we remember.”

According to another study, done by the Incomm Center for Trade Show Research, 76 percent of trade show visitors responded to handshakes by “being more open and friendly.” The same study also showed that when you shake hands with those you meet, people are two times more likely to remember you than if you didn’t shake hands.

So, is your handshake powerful?

Here is my 3-step process for a powerful handshake:

  1. As you approach someone, when you are about three feet away, extend your right arm at a slight angle across the chest, with your thumb pointing upward.
  2. Lock hands, thumb joint to thumb joint. Then, firmly clasp the other person’s hand (without any bone crushing)
  3. Pump the other person’s hand two to three times and let go.

Some women may be wondering ... should they extend their hand first to a male professional they are greeting? YES!

Women in the workplace need to be assertive and show confidence. Extending your hand first when meeting a male colleague or client is one way to do this.

Just for fun, here are 10 Nightmarish Handshakes to Avoid:

  1. The “macho cowboy” -- the way many businessmen like to shake hands, with men and women alike, with an almost bone-crunching clasp – what are they trying to prove, anyway? There’s no need to demonstrate your physical strength when shaking another person’s hand.
  2. The wimp -- usually delivered by men afraid to “hurt the little lady” when shaking women’s hands. Modern female professionals expect their male counterparts to convey the same respect they’d show their male colleagues.
  3. The “dead fish” -- delivered by men and women alike, and conveys no power. While no need to revert to the #1 macho death grip, a firm clasp is more powerful than one that barely grabs the hand.
  4. The “four finger” -- when the person’s hand never meets your palm, and instead clasps all four fingers, crushing them together
  5. The cold & clammy -- when it feels like you’re shaking hands with a snake. Warm up your hand first BEFORE grabbing someone else’s.
  6. The sweaty palm -- what else needs to be said except “yuck!” Talcum powder to the rescue!
  7. The “I’ve got you covered” grip -- when the other person covers your handshake with his or her left hand as if the shake itself is secretive.
  8. The “I won’t let go” -- when a shake seems to go on for eternity, because the other person won’t drop his or her hand. After two or three times pumps, it’s time to let go.
  9. The “southpaw” -- when the person uses a left hand to shake, because he or she has a drink or food in the right hand. My advice -- at cocktail parties or any social event, always carry your drink and plate with your left hand ... keeping your right one free for meet and greets.
  10. The “ringed torture” -- when the person’s rings hurt your hand. Try to limit the rings you wear on the right hand to only one or two, and be mindful of any rings you wear that have large stones.

Whether you’re at a meeting, sales call, or job interview, an effective handshake needs to be part of your repertoire. All too often, professionals who are otherwise well-dressed, groomed, and experienced will fail to shake hands properly. So, start practicing that handshake before National Handshake Day -- and master this critical business networking gesture.

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