Professional Development

6 Practical Steps to Building a Professional Handshake

Written by Peter Jones

Never underestimate the importance of a good handshake. Fortune 500 CEOs have even admitted that, given two identically qualified candidates, they’re more likely to give the job to the one with the better handshake.

How do you make yours work for you?

1. Get your hands ready.

Make sure your right hand is free in situations where you’re likely to need to shake hands. This is a weird detail, but important—especially if you’ve been holding a cold drink in your hand, which might make your handshake cold and clammy! And yes, you should use your right hand. That’s the tradition, and it avoids lots of awkward fumbling. Also, it should go without saying, make sure your hands are clean.

2. Aim for the web.

You don’t want to only grab the person’s fingers, but you also don’t want to try and swallow their wrist with your hand either. Aim to touch the web between your thumb and forefinger to the web between their thumb and forefinger. Don’t go too hard, but you should practice enough on yourself to get a sense of how it feels when you hit the right spot.

3. Minimize the pressure.

Yes, you do need pressure. Firm pressure. But not too firm. And don’t pinch. Don’t crush any bones. But definitely don’t err on the side of not squeezing enough—there’s nothing worse than a limp handshake.

4. Make eye contact.

Look your handshake partner straight in the eye, which inspires trust. It’s a nice touch to repeat the name of the person you’re being introduced to while you’re shaking—“Nice to meet you, Bob!”

5. Project confidence.

Whatever you do, don’t panic. You want to be the cool and collected party here. Act confident and no one will know you’re secretly aiming for their web. A good trick to show your poise is to offer your hand first.

6. Know when to let go.

People who linger too long in a handshake can be considered creepy or clingy. Get in there, grip with the ideal amount of firmness, shake once, then let go and get on with the exchange. Once you get the balance right, you’ll be forever grateful that you did.

About the author

Peter Jones