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5 Handshake Mistakes (From Eww to Yikes)

During your job search process, you'll need several trusty items in your toolkit. You'll need a killer resume, a polished, professional cover letter, and some strong references. You'll need a great elevator pitch, a nice interview suit, and of course, you'll need patience, perseverance, and a follow-up strategy.

But you'll also need another key player: a firm, confident, trust-inspiring handshake. A great handshake can open doors all around you.  Your handshake conveys integrity and honesty, and it shows a willingness to open up and let a stranger know who you are, what you want, and how you really feel. Just like steady eye contact, a handshake opens a window of your soul and invites your companion to take a look inside. If you have nothing to hide, this will show. If you respect the person and expect nothing less from them in return, this will also show.

So when you have an opportunity to shake, take it, and make the most of it. And as you do so, avoid these unfortunate handshake blunders.

1. The nonexistent shake.

Don't act as if handshaking culture doesn't apply to you. Unless you truly are from another country and you're unfamiliar with western customs, it does. You are not exempt due to your age, your gender, your height, or even the possibility that you may have a cold you don't want to share. If this last statement holds true, you can excuse yourself, but recognize that doing so will come at a cost. (It's better to put on some hand sanitizer if you know you'll be meeting new people).

2. The slow-to-respond shake.

Don't let your companion hold out his or her hand and then just stand there while you gaze around in oblivion. This is awkward for everyone in the room. Especially if you look down a minute later, see the hand, and react with flustered surprise. This says "I don't deserve this simple form of respect." Don't send that message. You deserve respect, and when you meet someone new in a business setting, you should expect a handshake.

3. The wet clammy shake with pants-rub.

We all get nervous sometimes, and in professional business settings among experienced handshakers, a little moisture is not a big deal. But sometimes when we reach out and grasp, we can come away with a mixture of sweaty residue on the palm surface that may or may not be ours. When this happens, resist the reflexive urge to dry your hand off. Take care of this a few minutes later, after the moment has passed.

4. The fingertip shake.

Generations ago, women were granted an implicit license to extend the fingertips only in a kind of dainty, Victorian gesture rarely seen among men. These days, this is an awkward move that can be successfully executed only by ladies over the age of 65. If you don't fall into this narrow category, just grasp the whole hand. Squeeze firmly and confidently. Pump once (or twice depending on the depth of your connection with the person), and let go.

5. The misfire.

We've all experienced the awkward moment when we reach out to high five someone as they come toward us with a fist-bump. Similar forms of handshake miscommunication can be cringe-inducing if they happen in the wrong time and place. To simplify things and reduce the chances of this goof, just initiate a standard right-hand shake with the palm perpendicular to the floor, the thumb toward the ceiling, and the fingers extended downward at a 45 degree angle.

Once you've mastered the formal workplace greeting—and built your application with help from MyPerfectResume—and you'll be on your way to your dream job.

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