Handshakes Matter

"Hiring on a Handshake," an excerpt from More Benefits for Green Companies, BusinessWeek Research Briefs, 8/17/08:

A firm handshake might be the difference between getting the job and not getting it, according to a recent study from the University of Iowa’s Tipple College of Business that is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. With an interest in finding out what happens in a job interview and why an interviewer decides early on whether to hire a person, Greg L. Stewart, professor of management at Tippie, had 98 students come in for mock interviews with real employers.

Without telling the students, he had the interviewers evaluate their handshakes. He had them rate the quality of the handshake independent of the job interview and then analyzed the relationship between the two. Those with firm handshakes were more likely to get the job.

What Stewart confirmed was that handshakes matter. "I don’t think people necessarily remember the handshake," says Stewart. "I think it’s a good signal of other things." He adds that extroverted people were more likely to have firm handshakes.

In addition, women, on average, have less firm handshakes than men, but they do as well or better in interviews. Therefore, says Stewart, women who have a firm handshake get more out of it than men in the job interview.

The lesson for all job hunters is to work on your handshake and other social skills, says Stewart. His research is now focusing on what drives initial impressions in interviews.

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  1. Back in the early 70’s I read about this. In years afterwards in my senior and graduate level classes in forestry/wildlife management I would take a minute and have adjacent class members shake hands and tell each other whether their handshake was too strong or too weak.

    My grandfather taught me as he talked negatively about people with whom shaking hands was like being “handed a fish.”

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