Shaking or Quaking?

May 8, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Handshakes still count heavily among recruiters. A University of Iowa professor has done research on the topic and finds that the manner of a person’s handshake accounts for more than dress or physical appearance during job interviews. The full study won’t be released until later this year, but “the first impression begins with a handshake that sets the tone for the rest of the job interview,” says Prof. Greg Stewart of the Tippie School of Business.

A person’s firm grip (or lack thereof) either disqualifies them or gets them in the door, usually within minutes of an interview, according to Stewart’s research.

We all can relate to this. (Who hasn’t met someone with sterling credentials, only to be shocked when they extend a “dead fish”?)

Mock job interviews between nearly 100 University of Iowa students and representatives of Iowa City businesses uncovered the psychological messages sent by a person’s handshake. In addition to standard interview questions with company reps, each student met unwittingly with preselected “handshake raters” that issued scores based on a person’s grip and eye contact, among other things.

Those who earned high scores from the handshake raters “were also considered to be the more hireable by the interviewers.” Stewart says handshakes are important because they are more “individual and subtle” and “may communicate something that dress or physical appearance doesn’t.”

There is a hint of sexism in Stewart’s findings, although it may be based on anatomical truths. He says women may be at a disadvantage when it comes to handshakes, since their grip tends to not be as strong as that of men. But women make up for this perceived shortcoming by excelling at nonverbal communication and other intuitive skills.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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