Should COVID-19 kill off handshakes before interviews entirely?

In light of social distancing and the spread of COVID-19 already preventing us from shaking hands, a Scottish recruiter has said we should take this opportunity to finally ditch the handshake before an interview, as it can form unfair perceptions.

Betsy Williamson, the founder and managing director of Scottish financial recruiters, Core-Asset Consulting holds this opinion. As she believes interviewers can form too much from initial impressions.

Ms Williamson said:

When you stop and think about it, there are a lot more reasons to ditch it than there are for keeping it.

It’s as ubiquitous an opener as the word “hello”. You start and end every encounter with it – and yet as is now very evident – it is a clear way that we spread germs between people.

With my recruiter hat on, I also know that interviewers can form too much from initial impressions. They can view the shaking of hands as a way to receive non-verbal information about the applicant’s personality traits.

It’s been proven many times that they’ll then seek to verify this, often subconsciously. It’s irrational, I know of candidates who’ve been extra nervous, for fear of giving away shyness, a lack of confidence or being overly submissive.

The handshake dates back to the 5th Century where people believe it was seen as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending the empty right-hand, strangers could demonstrate they were not in the possession of weapons and it is believed that the up and down motion was to free any concealed items hidden within sleeves.

Also, this is not the first time the UK has implemented a form of social distancing, as King Henry VI banned kissing in his court in an attempt to stop the Black Plague spreading.

Ms Williamson does not think elbow bumping on air high fives will replace the handshake and catch on. However, she does believe it may come to a point where we “just hold up a hand, facing the other party, to say hello or good morning as the standard greeting.”





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.