If you’re in business, you shake a lot of hands. Have you ever analysed how you shake hands? What does your hand-shaking style say about you?

Most people equate a quality handshake with a decisive, confident personality. It’s important to get it right because the way you physically connect with another person says a great deal about your character … and you only have a few seconds to leave a lasting impression.

So what is a great business handshake?

  1. Be firm, but not too firm.
  2. Make sure the web of your hand fits into the web of the other person’s hand.
  3. Pulse up and down two to three times and then release. Don’t linger.
  4. Smile and establish direct eye contact with the other person.
  5. Keep your body facing the person you’re meeting.
  6. Stand straight to demonstrate confidence.
  7. Greet the other person and say their name when shaking (example, ‘Good to meet you Kate’).
  8. Shake hands when saying hello and goodbye.
  9. Don’t attempt to shake hands with someone whose hands are already full—this will make them feel awkward.
  10. Shake with your right hand.
  11. Make sure your hand is dry.
  12. If you’re given a drink while waiting, hold it in your left hand so your shaking hand doesn’t get damp.

Sweaty palms

Many people suffer from sweaty palms when they’re nervous. This doesn’t leave the best first impression. Tips for dealing with this:

  • Keep a hanky in the right pocket of your pants, skirt, dress or folder.
  • As you see or hear people coming, pop your hand in your pocket around the hanky and wipe your hand dry.
  • If you don’t have a pocket, keep the hanky in your hand and tuck it away after you’ve wiped your hand.
  • You can also wash your hands, dry them thoroughly and apply an antiperspirant on your palms.
  • Don’t put hand lotion on just before you’re meeting someone.

Benefits of a confident handshake

  • Builds instant rapport.
  • Shows confidence.
  • Speaks volumes about who you are.
  • Demonstrates professionalism.

The top 10 bad business handshakes

Whatever you do, avoid a bad handshake. ‘The top 10 bad business handshakes’ video, produced by the Australian Government, is as relevant today as it was when it was first produced. Have a look. It’s fun and covers off these bad handshakes:

  1. Dead fish
  2. Vice
  3. Tickler
  4. Decliner
  5. Lingerer
  6. Phantom
  7. Wrestler
  8. Lobster claw
  9. Fist bump
  10. Sweaty palmer.

Another one we’d like to add is the ‘Vice’ or the ‘Bone crusher’, which some men use. This is when the person shaking the hand literally crushes the other person’s hand. OUCH. They may be doing it to show off their strength but it’s uncomfortable and awkward for the recipient.

Heading to interview?

Handshakes are especially important at interview—at the beginning and the end. If there’s more than one person interviewing you, make sure you shake everyone’s hand.

Also make sure you’re not overloaded with ‘gear’, like folders, handbags and briefcases, when you head into an interview. Not only does this make you look a bit unorganised, it can make it challenging to shake someone’s hand with little effort. Choose one item (preferably a folder) and leave the rest behind.

Other expert articles on interviews

  1. Making a memorable impression at interview
  2. How to dress for a job interview
  3. What not to do during interview
  4. How to minimise interview nerves
  5. The panel interview: How to ace it
  6. Weaknesses: Be strong with your answers