Don’t Ignore the Handshake: The Firm Handshake DOES Make the Difference
Two of the founders of The Kimono are West Point grads. We know that’s hard to stomach given our, sometimes, crude path to the truth. But it’s true. And one of the things that the upper-class cadets and U.S. Army officers convinced us was that if we made our beds poorly, we’d kill our platoon in the next war. The message conveyed here was that the little things matter and attention to detail counts. And, if you want more evidence of that, let’s see what some researchers found out about the power of the oft-forgotten handshake during the employment interview.
At the heart of the researchers’ arguments is that a handshake physically conveys core tents of who we are and helps reveal that during employment interviews. In other words, a handshake reveals our personality. A strong handshake would tend to give off signals of sociability and dominance. A dead-fish handshake does the opposite; it signals introversion and shyness and, just maybe, poor potential leadership. The authors of this study suggest that the handshake is anything but trivial and can affect employment interviews above and beyond appropriate dress and physical appearance.
The researchers corralled 98 undergraduate students who were all taking a career development course. These students engaged in real-life 45 minute interviews with HR professionals and hiring managers who donated their time to the cause. These HR professionals became the raters of the students’ handshake and all got trained on how to evaluate the handshake, which mostly centered around firmness. To capture personality, all student participants took the dreaded MBTI personality inventory. Besides assessing the handshake, the raters also evaluated dress and appearance.
The Firm Handshake Takes the Win
Here’s the lowdown. The raters gave higher ratings to those students that gave a good, firm handshake. Also, they found that the personality trait of extroversion correlated with strong, firm handshakers. There’s also some interesting side-stories at play here. Extroverts performed better in the interviews. But some of that was an indirect, not just direct, effect. In other words, extroversion was signaled indirectly and behaviorally through the strong handshake, which led to higher ratings. These scholars hypothesized that female students would produce weaker handshakes and that they’d suffer, accordingly, from poor ratings. That wasn’t exactly the case. Women did, indeed, have less firm handshakes, but it wasn’t held against them. And putting some GIRL POWER into their grip seemed to benefit them more. In particular, men and women with a lazy shake (one standard deviation below the mean) suffered equally. But women with a firm handshake (one standard deviation above the mean) received substantially higher ratings than the burly men who did the same. Moral of the story—if you’re a woman, grip down hard!
We know that many of the readers and follower of the Kimono are quite good with their hands. Perhaps, in topics we can’t talk too much about at the Kimono. The lesson, though, is clear. Put your hands to good use and deliver a firm, strong handshake every time.