When is the last time you told your 2 year old daughter to shake hands like a man? Never? Perhaps now is a good time to start. In a recent meeting with a senior recruiter responsible for screening and interviewing new graduates for a major consulting firm, I learned that the clammy handshake was to blame for more than a few applicants being declined.
A weak, wet handshake can lose our kids their chance at a job even before they sit down for the interview. A firm handshake is commonly perceived to indicate that your child is sure and confident in themselves. While the weak handshake is more likely to insure that that the interviewer labels him or her as nervous, shy, insecure or afraid of interacting with people. That is a lot to overcome in the remaining 38 minutes of a typical new graduate interview.
Yes, there are a hundred legitimate reasons for having a weak handshake including some pretty serious medical issues. In those cases it is important that the young man or woman being interviewed say something up front to cut off any misperception. However, if our kids are capable of giving a firm handshake, we can help them to understand that it can make a difference and learn how and when to do it right.
The rules for a "good" handshake are simple. Grip the whole hand firmly but don't try to overpower the other person, one hand is better than two, shake only 2 or 3 times and then let go. My wife and I have been shaking hands with our son since he was 1 and started at the same age with my daughter. To be fair, they actually initiated it after seeing us shake hands with friends. They both enjoyed feeling like adults and learned quickly how to say, "Nice to meet you". It is not easy for their little hands to grip completely, especially when shaking hands with an adult but they can certainly experience how we as parents hold their hands. Our kids have an amazing capacity to store experiences. Every time they are shown the right way to do something (a handshake in this instance) they will get closer to making it a habit of their own.
An added benefit to this lesson is the physical contact or skinship we parents make with our children. The word "skinship" was invented in Japan and refers to positive and caring physical contact between parent and child. Touch is an incredibly powerful sense (as can be seen above in how it affects interviewer's perceptions) and just the occasional handshake with our kids can help them (and us!) to feel more relaxed and secure which is a big part of gaining confidence too. And of course, besides the clammy handshake, a lack of confidence is another reason for interviewers to screen out young job applicants.
Remember, along with shaking hands our kids need to remember to wash them afterwards. It is flu season after all.