Iowa Alumni Magazine | October 2008 | People

Greg Stewart

By IAM Staff

Why was he in the news?

UI business professor Greg Stewart can sum up his latest research—the subject of intense interest from international media—in one pithy piece of advice: get a grip.

Stewart, a professor of management and organization in the Tippie College of Business, has quantitative evidence that confirms what many people have long suspected: a solid handshake is a key to success.

What's the big deal?

Aware that most interviewers make up their minds about a job candidate within the first few minutes, Stewart decided to test one of the first non-verbal clues presented in such a situation. He enlisted the help of 98 UI business students, who took part in a series of mock job interviews with representatives from Iowa City-area businesses. During the process, the students shook hands with people who'd been trained to rate handshakes in an unbiased way.

Candidates who scored most highly with these raters also were considered most employable by the interviewers.

"We probably don't consciously remember a person's handshake and whether it was good or bad," notes Stewart, "but we remember that impression of the person's overall personality."

In other words, a handshake is the ultimate clue to individuality, something that can't be disguised with a snappy suit or carefully rehearsed answers to stock interview questions. How do you make that good first impression? With a complete, firm grip, eye contact, and a vigorous shake.

Interestingly, while women could be considered at a disadvantage because they tend to have weaker grips, Stewart's study suggests otherwise.

"A really good handshake made a bigger impact on the outcome of the interview for the women than it did for the men," says Stewart, whose findings are being reported in publications ranging from Allure to Business Week.

What's his expert advice?

Stewart admits that his findings can be a little daunting—in fact, some of his friends are now wary about shaking his hand—but he advises his students not to stress out. "A good handshake is helpful," he says, "but it's only part of a whole bundle of social skills."