I'm heading for my first job interview within an hour and I have this critical question:

Who should extend his hand first: the recruiter or me?

No cultural or religious cases, common interview.

  • 10
    What manner of social faux pas do you think would be caused by making the "wrong" decision?
    – Blrfl
    Mar 21, 2013 at 12:18
  • It heavily depends on whose reaction is better.
    – shabunc
    Mar 21, 2013 at 12:49
  • @Blrfl: My first thought was in agreement with you, but there cross-cultural situations where hand-shaking should be avoided.
    – GreenMatt
    Mar 21, 2013 at 15:20
  • @GreenMatt: That is a good point, but the phrasing of the question and the OP's comment in another question that he's from Spain lead me to believe he's someplace where there will be a handshake.
    – Blrfl
    Mar 21, 2013 at 15:27
  • 1
    @GreenMatt: In a locale where the norm is to shake hands, extending yours is a test of the interviewer. Not being able to gracefully decline a handshake would be a huge red flag.
    – Blrfl
    Mar 23, 2013 at 14:03

5 Answers 5


Keep cool, it depends on each situation.

Just look if he move his hand first and don't overstress for that detail.

Act Natural and all will be good.


You are overthinking this. If they offer, accept it. If you think to do it first, offer your hand.

Honestly, this will not make or break your job interview. Just breathe and have the confidence that you're a good candidate who can do the job.


My first reaction to this question was something like "It doesn't matter." However, I reconsidered after thinking of some situations I've encountered myself with people from other cultural and/or religious backgrounds.

In view of this, I'm going to say let the recruiter extend his or her hand first, at least at the beginning. I say this because I've encountered situations where religious or cultural rules prohibit (intentional/non-emergency) touching by opposite gendered persons outside their family; as such, they don't shake hands when meeting persons of the other gender. Other cultures prefer bowing to shaking hands. The couple of times I've encountered these sorts of situations, the people were good-natured about my ignorance of their ways, but it was a little embarrassing. Since you'd rather avoid a negative at the start, let the other person initiate the first handshake.

Assuming no cultural or religious prohibition on either side, at your first meeting you should shake hands once they have offered the handshake, following all the usual suggestions about firm, but not hand-breaking, not too long, etc. Also, if you have already established that it's okay to shake hands, I see no reason to wait for the other party to offer the handshake at the end of the interview.

  • 1
    What countries prefer bowing to shaking hands in a cross-cultural meeting? My experience is that the Japanese are some of the most enthusiastic hand-shakers on the planet, and that's the one culture I usually see pointed to as a bowing one (bear in mind domestic business is mostly bowing, but that's a totally different cup of tea).
    – jmac
    Mar 21, 2013 at 23:44

I don't think anyone would notice who 'went first'. I've never considered that it would be a significant social cue - and remember that your interviewer might well be nervous too, and is unlikely to have the memory or concentration in the moment for unimportant things.

  • 1
    @Downvoter: Please explain why.
    – Tom W
    Mar 23, 2013 at 12:52
  • Hi Tom. What might be missing here is an explanation. You claim this is an unimportant issue, yet it's clearly important to the asker. Why does who shakes hands first not matter? Keep in mind, it's okay to answer on Stack Exchange with "don't do this, try this instead", but you should provide a clear explanation as to why. Please see How to Answer for more details. Hope this helps! :)
    – jmort253
    Mar 25, 2013 at 5:58

From the official point of view, you, in that situation, are considered the to-become-a-boss, which means that your position is higher than theirs. In that case, you are the one to offer or not to offer a handshake. Therefore, theoretically, if you didn't want to shake hands, it would be your choice, not theirs.

In the real situation, usually there is a common sense that you want to shake hands, and you both move your hands automatically. And that's it ;)

Of course, you should be careful about their religion or origin, and your acceptance of their way of welcoming, you show your respect to the person, which is always good.

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