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Awkward Handshakes That Spell Interview Failure

Video by Consult Recruitment

We’ve all been there.

You meet a perfectly nice person for the first time, you go to shake their hand and you shudder because you realise that the handshake can be compared to shaking a wet fish or a clicky-wristed mannequin.

I mean who does that? Well, quite a lot of people actually. 

We are a nation now defined by an awkward three-way handshake (bless!), but if you are interviewing it is paramount that you understand the importance of a good handshake.
The reality when it comes to any interview process is that people are making snap judgements about you, and there is a lot that can be told from that first handshake.

We interview great people everyday and have a list of handshakes that can spell immediate failure for your job search:


This handshake makes you think that you are strong, forceful and decisive, however you might just be interpreted as aggressive, dominating and inflexible, especially if you’re shaking a man shaking a woman’s hand. A firm grip (sometimes with finger crunching clasp), often combined with a strange ‘palm down force factor’ can be pain inducing and intimidating to the receiver.

If you have a natural power shake, be conscious of your receiver and remember that you don’t come across as powerful, merely as someone who feels the need to prove something.


An awful combo of a sweaty hand and a bendy wrist, this is a handshake that is guaranteed to make people recoil in horror. You can forgive someone for being a little bit hot and sweaty when they are nervous, but it’s the accompaniment of a weak grip and wrist that makes this handshake one to fear.

We have successfully trained people out of this shake (so anything is possible) but it is the shake that true nightmares are made of. Beware this shake at all costs – you just won’t get a second interview, no matter how great you are at your job.


This handshake is one I find quite perplexing and just a little bit weird. The shaker puts out a dainty hand where all you get to grip and shake is the fingers. I think the owners of these shakes are trying to indicate how sophisticated they are, but the receiver will just see you as someone that isn’t going to roll up your sleeves and get on with work.


This shake occurs when the giver effectively creates a handshake sandwich – good when you’re meeting a friend for lunch and it’s cold, but not so good when meeting a potential employer and you seem just a little OTT when you interview for a job.

The intention is an earnest, ‘I am super interested in your role’ type of shake – but it is better to keep your extra hand to yourself in this scenario.


This handshake is one we often find, and we cannot understand why. You stick out your hand for somebody to shake and they simply grasp just your fingers (usually a bit too hard) and only shake that. This shake can leave you feeling weird and your fingers a bit sore.
The why is lost on me but your best bet is to shake someone’s hand firmly, about twice, palm to palm.

While to the applicant a handshake can seem like a tiny part of the job application, to the hiring manager this is an important part of the screening process. Possession of any of the above handshakes are going to limit your chances of securing the role, so ensure you are not the proud owner of one of them!!

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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