I did not learn how to shake hands properly until I was 23, and I was, literally, taught. That’s four years of high school, four years of college, and nearly a year in the work world. In fact, I screwed up probably thousands of first impressions before finally someone was generous enough to say, “Hey Sam, you are an idiot.” Well, not an idiot, but you get the point.
There are different types of handshakes. And They all mean something different. In case you didn’t know this, or forgot, let me remind you. YOUR BAD HANDSHAKE WILL COST YOU – the interview, the contact, your job, a sale, or insert your worst case scenario here. Sorry for the quick judgment, but to anyone important: you ARE your handshake. Don’t be a dead fish. Don’t be a bone crusher either.
Okay so, information. I am not teaching you how to actually shake a hand. E-How is a great reference for the beginner. Going from most commonly known to the least known, here is the REAL nitty gritty:
1. Handshakes last at the longest for “1 miss-iss-ippi” That’s 1 second.
2. Always, always, ALWAYS with your right hand. If you give a left-handed handshake, that to some people is as bad as throwing your shoe at a president. Want to know why? Because in some cultures, you wipe your ass with your left hand. Yup, its true: Look here.. So – drink (water) is in your left hand at your side (not across your body), your dry right hand is always free.
-As a follow up to this, your nametag always goes on your right side so it is in perfect view of the other person when they shake your hand. (Thanks Marcy!)
3. Do not cover the other person’s hand or use two hands in your shake. That can be sometimes seen as intrusive, or too personal.
4. Avoid being in the dominant position when you shake hands. The dominant person in the handshake comes over the top and takes the upper position (think palm down) in the shake. This is an AWFUL message to send to someone when networking. It could be sending the message “I am going to come in and take your job…” You very well might, but they get to have the upper hand right now.
5. The business handshake (palm perpendicular to the floor) is given only after the first introduction. Your initial handshake as a job-seeker or in presenting yourself to any authority should be with an open palm. Present your open palm face up at a 45 degree angle and accept their hand. This gives the perception that you are open and interested in what the person has to say. Remember from my last article on creative networking, you want to listen 90% of the time. This handshake says that is what you are there to do.
Conclusions: This is my second article. I was quite exhilarated by your comments on my networking article and was easily motivated to continue. I hope you all continue to find my writing informative. I welcome any of your comments, and I will respond to all inquiries and job offers at sam at samdiener dot com. Keep checking back for new writing. Good luck!
A special thanks to Ms. Kellie Bowers for her editing expertise.