Guide to the perfect handshake

Making that positive first impression is key to any meeting. Learn how to become a pro at the handshake, and use it in your future professional endeavors.
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich

This post was written by an external contributor. Maria Mellor gives her top advice for getting that handshake just right. 

A handshake is the first and last impression you will make in an interview, so you’ve got to make it count. How firm should you be? Should you practice your handshake beforehand? Such a small thing can be the source of so much stress.

Luckily, we’ve put together the main things you should think about when shaking someone’s hand to help you perfect that crucial element of working life.

When to shake

Handshakes, while they may be abundant in the business world, luckily don’t tend to come out of the blue. You can preempt them. At networking events, meetings and interviews, a handshake is going to be how people expect to be greeted at the beginning and thanked at the end.

A study by the  Income Center for Trade Shows found that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. Being the first to offer a handshake will make you look confident, even if you’re not feeling it.


handshake strength

The amount of force you put into a handshake is the most important factor you need to consider. While you may have heard many people proclaiming that they appreciate a firm handshake, you must not go overboard and put all your strength into it. No one wants to leave an interview or meeting with a broken hand!

Put the same amount of strength into a handshake that you would to open a door or slice an apple. You need to be firm and purposeful, but not forceful or overbearing.


The way you grip a person’s hand often goes underestimated. When people think of the strength of a handshake, they often think of the force that comes from the muscles in your arm. In actual fact what tends to need adjusting is the grip of the fingers.

When you don’t grasp hard enough, it sends a message that you are inexperienced, while those who grip too hard come across as arrogant. Finding the right grip comes with practice. If you don’t have the courage to go around asking your friends for help, simply try to offer a few extra handshakes during business events.


The most important thing is to not be afraid. Your opponent will be able to tell when you are shying away, which won’t come across well. If you look like you’re unwilling to make full and proper contact in a handshake, it may look like you don’t respect your opponent, or worse – you are repulsed by them.

Aim to connect the web between your index finger and thumb with theirs, and you should get some good palm action going.

Shake it to make it

handshake shake

Those who have thought through their handshakes the most will be the ones who know exactly how many times they like to shake. The bravest will be the one-pump chumps, who give one simple thrust then release. However you may want to think of the position you’re in before deciding to go bold. Do you really want to be ‘that guy’?

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, Head of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester, researched into the perfect handshake, and advises that three shakes is ideal, with medium vigour. He also suggests that it should last no more than two or three seconds – ending up holding hands with your fellow shaker is a real turn off.

What not to do

“The Trump”

handshake trump

President Trump is infamous for a fair few things, his handshake being one of them. As you can see from the above gif, he has a tendency to clamp hard on his victim’s hand, pulling them towards him in quick thrusts.

The person whose hand is being shaken is put off balance, thus demonstrating Trump’s dominance. Unless you are president of the United States, it’s unlikely that this handshake will make you many friends.

“The Clammy Fish”

handshake clammy fish

It’s hard to tell what the worst part about the Clammy Fish is. Could it be that slimy residue left behind on the shaker’s hand? Or perhaps it’s not knowing what to do with the completely dead-feeling hand you have grasped in yours?

Ensure that you wipe those sweaty palms on your trousers before going in for the shake, and make sure you put at least some effort into so your shaker isn’t left fighting the urge to throw you back into the ocean.

Go forth, my friends, and shake hands without fear. Just remember that first crucial offering of your palm – it shows courage to be the one to offer a handshake before or after a meeting or job interview. While it may sound corny, practice is the best way to get good at it.

Download Debut  and  connect with us on  FacebookTwitter  and  LinkedIn  for more careers insights.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


Get started

Take four minutes to set up your profile and have great grad jobs come to you.