Conventional wisdom states that first impressions matter, but does something as apparently inconsequential as a handshake truly have a significant effect when you attend a job interview? Studies are suggesting that this initial greeting does play a part in you getting your dream job in Malta.

The handshake’s impact in job interviews has been analysed by researchers at the University of Alabama and a separate group at the University of Iowa. Both groups carried out similar studies, which saw them assess the handshakes of a group of undergraduate students, who then participated in mock job interviews carried out by human resources professionals. The interviewers, who were not made aware of the researchers’ interest in handshakes, had to assess the students’ suitability for employment.

As it turned out, each study found that in general, the better the handshake, the better the assessment students received in their mock interview. Handshakes were assessed on eight characteristics, and it appears a “firm” handshake was particularly valued.

In general, men gave firmer handshakes than women, but women did not, on average, receive lower assessments in their mock interviews. In fact, both studies suggest that the ability to give a firm handshake was more important to women than to men. The University of Alabama researchers wrote;

“A firm handshake can be considered as an effective form of self-promotion.”

So it may well be that folk wisdom – as well as etiquette recommendations – on handshakes is grounded in fact.

That said, it has to be pointed out that the link between firm handshakes and positive interview assessments may not necessarily be the result of the former effecting the latter. The other way round may actually apply: the same characteristics that help people perform well in job interviews may also make them more likely to give a good, firm handshake.

The University of Alabama researchers, in fact, observed that women who were seen as being more open were more likely to give a firm handshake, and similarly more likely to score highly in their interviews. So in the end, it might seems that the interviewers are impressed by the interviewees openness, rather than by their handshakes.

Nevertheless, the need to give a good first impression remains paramount, and the initial greeting – including the handshake – will invariably play a part. Both studies find themselves in agreement on this point, with the University of Alabama researchers concluding that “it might be a good idea to heed the recommendations of experts on handshaking etiquette and try to make that first handshake a firm one.”

Greg L. Stewart, the lead author of the Iowa study, concurred.

“We probably don't consciously remember a person's handshake or whether it was good or bad," he said. “But the handshake is one of the first nonverbal clues we get about the person's overall personality, and that impression is what we remember.”

You might be interested in: