Stewart, Dustin, Barrick, & Darnold (2008) looked at the relationship between a person’s handshake and the outcomes of an interview. They also looked at what information is conveyed with a handshake. They were mainly concerned with what a person’s handshake said about their level of extraversion but also included measures for the five factor model (FFM) for exploratory purposes. One thing I really liked about the study was statistically controlling for the effects of the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype, which essentially says that since this person is good looking, they will be good at what they do (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo, 1991). The researchers were also interested in how women would be evaluated via handshake as compared to men.
Ninety-eight undergraduates participated in mock interviews and were instructed to approach this interview as if it were for an actual job. Interviews were conducted by HR volunteers from a local organization. Participants took the PCI personality test and were also evaluated on physical attractiveness and professional dress. The handshakes of the participants were rated by five trained raters on areas like firmness, duration, eye contact, etc.
I do encourage you to read the methods section of this article as it is top notch. I feel like I could go out and replicate this study without asking myself, “how in the world did they do this”? Now, on to the results!
Extraversion was significantly positively related to interviewer ratings and also to handshake quality. None of the other FFM traits were related to either the handshake rating or interviewer evaluation. Women received slightly lower ratings for their handshakes; but this did not affect how they were rated on their interviews, as they actually did a little better than the men. So, what did we learn?
The take home message here is that your handshake is important when interviewing. A good handshake conveys extraversion and tends to put a positive spin on your interview. The age-old handshake prescription of firm grip and good eye contact is a good one. Also, women are not penalized for a weaker handshake. As the authors point out, it would be interesting to see if the results generalize to jobs where extraversion isn’t really important.