The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Your Handshake Says It All
A few years ago, I applied for a Loss Prevention job at a Macys Department Store in the mall. I had not worked security in years, but I had wanted to get a second job to make some extra money, and I had about 5 to 6 years of experience in security, so I figured I could ace the interview without any issue, as I have gotten through many interviews successfully before it. I also worked in a grocery store for a while doing Loss Prevention so I did not believe there would be any issues and they would accept me for the part-time position because I had prior experience. I received a call from a woman telling me she wanted me to come in for an interview because they believed I was a potential hire. I happily agreed and accepted the interview. I went out, bought some new clothes, got a new haircut, and was well prepared. I knew what Macys was and I knew how to work the whole camera system. I was ready to get this job.
I arrived about twenty minutes early on the day of my interview, went into the back of the store, and awaited for the hiring manager to come speak with me. A woman came out and greeted herself. I put out my hand to shake her hand and it was the weakest handshake ever. There was no backbone in her handshake. I have shook a child’s hand who had a firmer handshake than this woman. I am not saying that someone should take another person’s hand and rip it off, but a nice strong handshake says a lot about a person. This already turned me off of the interview because any person in a position of power should learn how to shake another person’s hand and do it well.
The handshake goes back to Ancient Greece in the 4th century BC before written contracts existed. A handshake meant it was someone’s word and honor that they were entering into a contract through a verbal agreement, whether in the form of labor, trade, or even marriage to another man’s daughter. While handshaking is used in agreements, in many cultures, it is done as a sign of a greeting, respect, or to show power, health, and strength.
Verbal agreements and handshake agreements still exist and are used today, but written and signed paper contracts are used more often, as they are more credible and used as valid proof and concrete evidence, especially in the court of law. Handshakes and verbal agreements are hearsay and cannot be used as evidence, unless at least a third party was present to witness the action take place, but even a third party witness may not always be credible.
In Japan, South Korea, China, and almost all Asian countries, a weaker handshake is preferred. The dominant one who extends his hand should be the stronger handshake.
In the United States and in European countries, a strong firm handshake usually represents that the person is in good health, is making a solid agreement with the person they are shaking hands with, or is just greeting the other person, but a weak handshake is usually not expected. Regardless, whether you are a man or a woman, the power of your handshake says a lot about you and will leave a lasting impression of you on the person you shook hands with.
I live in the United States, so I expected this woman, who technically was in a superior position, in charge of the hiring process, to shake my hand with a nice firm grip, which would have let me know that she was a woman in power and to be respected. Through the interview, I could not stop thinking about her weak handshake. I answered all her questions – why I wanted to get back into security, what I knew about Macys, if I had ever worked for a department store before, etc. – but my heart was really no longer in the desire for this job. I got up, thanked her for the interview, and again, she shook my hand very weakly, before I left the store. Maybe that was just the way she shook hands with people, but the impression I got from her was that she was not into her job or looking to hire me specifically that day. I could almost feel that I was not going to get the position. I had hoped to get it, as it would be a second job that paid me a decent amount, but at that point, that handshake was so weak and pathetic, I no longer cared about getting the job.
I ended up not getting the job and felt glad I did not get it. It certainly went back to that sorry excuse for a handshake. If there had been anymore grip in that handshake, I may have been more upset and had a further desire to try again to pursue a career at Macys. It happened to work out in my favor because a week later, I landed a phone interview which resulted in my getting another job – not in Loss Prevention or security – that paid me a better salary. Things tend to happen for a reason and work out in mysterious ways. Maybe that handshake was meant to be so I could get a better job than my original choice.