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Interview Etiquette - The Handshake

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Interview Etiquette - The Handshake

It’s 2022, you have a job interview – do you shake hands, elbow bump or just nod awkwardly?


We want to make a good impression, we want to be open, forthcoming, assertive, in control. Those first few moments meeting face-to-face with someone who could decide the course of our careers, maybe even our lives, need to be impactful and memorable.

But it is 2022. There has been a pandemic. Social distancing and hand sanitiser are “a thing”.

To handshake or not to handshake, that is the question?

If you rewind to early 2020, our interview tip sheet was shared diligently by all our consultants with candidates who were busy making sure they were fully prepared for their interviews. We covered everything from conducting background research and practicing questions through to what to wear and where to park. Then we had a brief period of time where we ditched the trusted tip sheet and became tech experts – checking microphones were working, lighting is adequate and cameras weren’t pointing up noses or capturing shots of kids/dogs/dirty washing.

Now we need to cover every eventuality. Almost all initial interview stages are still conducted virtually. After all it is time and cost efficient and was already on the rise pre-Covid. The past few weeks has seen a slow return to face-to-face interviews especially in the final stages of the interview process. You now need to know how to make sure the Amazon delivery driver doesn’t set the dog off mid round one interview, AND make sure you know where to go and what to wear for final interviews (office dress code is casual, but do I still wear a suit for an interview and other such conundrums that probably deserve their own blog).

If we didn’t have enough to worry about, now we are faced with those awkward first few seconds when we meet someone new and we don’t know what do with our hands. Carrington West Principal Consultant, Ilya Donets, works with public sector clients. He says “local councils who are hiring for roles that have office or site based requirements are interviewing face-to-face, but they are still very cautious in most cases. We share with our candidates the full details of a council’s Covid measures that are all still in place, such as social distancing and face mask requirements. This level of attention to detail would clearly indicate that my candidates shouldn’t go in for a firm handshake.”

Many large corporates have taken a similar approach. Rich Walker, Consultant in the utilities and power sector reports that larger companies hiring for senior or white collar roles are sending through strict guidelines for face-to-face meetings, so he would advise candidates to adhere to all social distancing guidelines and only shake a hand if the interviewer instigates the move, and you feel comfortable to do so.

A quick straw poll across the Carrington West teams seems to see most consultants agree. Where interviews are going ahead in person, candidates need to take a moment to read the situation and the body language of the people they meet. Team Leader, Adam Butler adds “Last year clients that did want in person interviews were clear that social distancing was in place and to pass the information to candidates prior to meeting, so the inference was clear, don’t shake hands. But so far this year we seemed to have seen a shift. Companies that still have stringent policies in place are tending to conduct all interviews online. So again by inference, if you have been invited to meet someone they will generally be happy to shake hands.”

An awkward pause or a limp handshake would all have made a poor first impression “in the old days”, maybe even thrown an interview off track. Rail Team Leader Oliver Gooch says, “I would always advocate taking the lead by simply asking if in there is any doubt. It’s a quick question, it is assertive and proactive but it also shows consideration.”

A positive outcome of this I think we have all learnt to be a bit kinder to each other over the past couple of years. One thing is clear, we have all become considerably more thick skinned.

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