From previous experience, I have learned that the first impression can make a significant impact on the tone of the rest of a job interview. It has also been documented that handshakes influence first impressions; see our Power of a Handshake article. Indeed, handshakes can influence whether the people we meet trust, like, or want to work with us. Bernieri and Petty (2011) took this a step further and examined the links between impressions and perceived traits that convey something about one’s professional work ethic.
These researchers found that a well-rehearsed handshake can convey traits such as conscientiousness and extroversion without using words. Employers who are looking for employees that are detailed-oriented and thoughtful about their work may look for employees who reveal conscientiousness in their handshake, whereas those filling a sales job or other position that requires a lot of interactions with customers or clients may have a tendency choose the individual who had the “extroverted handshake.”
This study is a friendly reminder to keep in mind that we are always communicating, whether we are speaking or not, and the handshakes should be a part of our impression management. Next time you are preparing for a job interview, it may pay off to practice your handshake with someone beforehand!
Bernieri, F. J., & Petty, K. N. (2011). The influence of handshakes on first impression accuracy. Social Influence, 6(2), 78-87.
*Article edited and reviewed by Mikki Sherwood, PhD