News & Insights: Handshake tips

How to prepare your handshake for a Interview or Meeting

I think we have all had a bad handshake over the years. A handshake can tell you so much about the other person. Often you start to make views in your mind about a person within 3 minutes (often 30 seconds) of meeting someone. With a handshake it is the 1st thing and the last thing when you meet someone in a business setting. Handshakes are used in Sales Meetings, Interviews and other settings as well.  This is written for the UK business market, it is different for each country.


History of the hand shake

There’s many documentations of hand shaking as a greeting, some say it started in Greece in the 4th century, others believe it started in the 9th century, some scholars even write that it was introduced by the people of Yemen. In Europe, the handshake was established as a method for knights to shake loose any concealed weapons, the reason for this was that knights carried swords on their left side which allowed for them to draw their sword should they need too.

Around 1607, Scottish author James Cleland proclaimed that instead of things like bowing down or kissing hands, he insisted that a simple meeting of the two right hands was good enough custom

During the Victorian era of the 1800, Handshaking had made it’s way into etiquette manuals that had become considered paramount to the refinement of English gentry. Stating that “A gentleman who rudely presses the hand offered him in salutation, or violently shakes it, ought never to have an

opportunity to repeat his offence.”


The best way to hand shake

Hand shaking is a practice taken seriously in the business world, it says quite a bit about you, if your handshake is too hard you may come across as assertive and confidant at best and overbearing and domineering at worst. Too soft and you come across as subservient and weak willed or as cautious and considerate of others at best. When shaking hands, it’s about context of the situation your in, shaking the hand of a client or meeting a co-worker for the first time. So what is the best way to shake hands?

  • Keep good posture, nothing unnatural or forced just hold yourself in whatever posture is most comfortable. Standing up when shaking hands is ideal if the other person is already stood.
  • Make eye contact, if eye contact is something too difficult for you, try to stare at the part of their nose that is level with their eyes, it will appear as eye contact without actually making eye contact.
  • Right hand with pressure, Extend your right hand as this is the globally recognised indicator of initiating a handshake, try to apply pressure, nothing too hard or too soft, use the amount of force you would want to receive for a handshake. Remember to let go after roughly two seconds.
  • Smile and greet, for it is a great method of remembering a persons name. Just repeat the greeting with a simple repeat of their name, this helps to remember the name of the recipient.


Who should put hand out 1st?

In the UK, our hand shaking custom is contextual, which means shaking hands depending on the situation, it’s often regarded that men should offer their hand first to women when first meeting at a formal event. If it’s a more informal setting like a dinner with new friends, the host may shake hands first. Shaking hands can also be seen as a form of praise, customers or patrons of a gallery for example, may feel inclined to shake the hand of the artist responsible for work the patron likes.

If in a job interview setting, it may be wise for the prospective employee to initiate a handshake, it shows that you’re an open, approachable person.



Personal hygiene is fundamentally important, humans still rely on scent to determine the safety or threat inherent to a person. Some cultures smell their hand after hand shaking, this is actually a compliment and not considered off putting, it’s a way of observing someone’s behaviour and what that leaves on them. Always consider how your hands look and smell, if you’re a smoker, consider a scented hand wash to apply after smoking, if you bite your nails, consider using a nail file to even out the edges. Ultimately you want your hands to be in a condition that leaves people comfortable with shaking your hand. If you’re sensitive to perfumes and the like, simple hygiene will suffice, a shower in the morning and at night, washing your hands after using a toilet or touching something like a door handle or sneezing.


Hand scent

We touched on this earlier, but it’s so important to the hand shake. The way your hands smell tell people what you do with them and how well you take care of yourself. This is known as Chemosignaling. Generally your hands should be scentless, carrying the aroma of whatever hand soap you use if scented at all. However if you want your hand shake to be memorable then you may want to consider a aftershave or perfume spray before you go into a meeting or event. When deciding on how to introduce aroma to your handshake, consider what is most commonly smelled and the associated factors of these scents, musks are generally used for afternoon events whereas aftershaves are better suited to daytime affairs. Perfumes follow a similar rule, anything that smells rich or highly fragrant is better suited to night time, floral, woody and earthy scents are better for the daytime. Avoid food smells! Although vanilla smells wonderful, if your hands smell too much of a food product or fruit, you may send the wrong message or distract the recipient from you, food is a powerful emotional cue so try to avoid having food based aromas steal attention from the hand shake.


What do different handshake’s mean?

The way your hand shake comes across can be helped by learning about what the different handshakes mean, below are some of the ways in which your hand shake can be interpreted and why this matters.

 Limp handshakes where no pressure is applied, with the hand just sitting in the others grip, suggests weakness and subservience. Not ideal qualities in a chef for example.

Vice-like hand shakes where far too much pressure is being applied, show the person to be competitive and assertive, a strong handshake suggests you see simple engagements as something worth being competitive in, you can not ‘win’ a handshake by using all your grip.

Sequenced hand shakes are ones like fist bumps or snapping your fingers  against one another’s hands. Generally this is only done when you’ve known someone for a while, it suggests the two know each other very well.

Too short and you leave the other person with the impression that you’re too busy to engage with them. It may also imply that you’re absent minded and not fully invested in your day to day activities.

Too long and you may come across as desperate, it may also become awkward after a certain amount of time, so keep your hand shake to a 2-3 second window.


As a National recruiter with one sector being sales roles, we understand the importance of a good hand shake. It is good to practice your hand shake before a interview or before a sales meeting. Learning to do a handshake in business is very important.


HtE Recruitment News & Insights

This news and insights page has been written by Josh our Marketing Coordinator. HtE Recruitment take no responsibility for this post, this is just some thoughts about how to prepare your handshake for a interview. HtE Recruitment is one of the UK Recruitment Agencies recruiting across six sectors.

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