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Should You Shake Hands in Pageant Interview?

Michaela Jacobs, National American Miss Teen 2015-2016 - Photo courtesy of National American Miss.
Michaela Jacobs, National American Miss Teen 2015-2016 – Photo courtesy of National American Miss.

One of the questions I am often asked by our VIP Girls during our mock interviews is whether or not they should shake the judges’ hands. Now, I have been doing this 14 years and I’ve seen things change from yes, to definitely, to only if the judge initiates the handshake, and also depending upon the system.

Ultimately, it depended on the set up of the room and the interview format as well as the system due to time restrictions. (Read: How to Greet Pageant Judges in Interview)

I decided to reach out to some of our Pageant Planet advertisers for assistance to create this guide, by system, to help you out.

Should You Shake Hands in Pageant Interview?

Ms. World

Interview Format: Panel

Interview Length: 5 minutes

Verdict: “It wastes time,” said Laura Hunter, current Ms. World and future director. “Five minutes isn’t long to begin with. If the contestant also waits for the judge to introduce themselves back it can be half of the interview. I saw that happen last year despite contestants being told not to do so.”

“However, I do think contestants should shake hands with judges in a round Robin interview. I think it’s always best to be your natural self in interview as much as possible, and since you’re going to introduce yourself to each judge anyway, you might as well shake their hand. It’s the natural and polite thing to do.”

Mrs. and Ms. Earth Organization

Format: Panel

Length: 5 Minutes

Verdict: Rachel Fikes, Executive Director said, “Absolutely. Just like in an actual job interview, a firm handshake coupled with eye contact is a sign of respect and professionalism. An introduction seems incomplete without it!”

American Elegance Pageant

2014 delegates from the Lady (41 years and better) division prior to our interview competition. Business attire (whether dress, suit or pants suit) is the look that American Elegance delegates are to wear for interview competition. Photo/American Elegance Pageant

Format: Panel of 3 to 5 judges. Worth 45% of the final score.

Length: 4 minutes

Verdict: “I cannot neither recommend that contestants shake hands with the judges nor say a contestant shouldn’t do so,” said Dawn Frison Cook, National Executive Producer. “Unless the contestant knows and executes the proper technique to shake hands [such as a] firm grip with strong eye contact with a brief statement, [for example] ‘Thank you for your time,’ ‘Thank you for your consideration,’ ‘Have a great day,’ etcetera then it’s best not to do so.”

“As a judge, I haven’t seen points taken off by other judges for a contestant not shaking hands, but I have heard unfavorable comments from judges who [were] on the receiving end of a poor handshake that may have affected that contestant’s final score.”

Face of the Globe

Format: Panel. Questions are based off of a folder of appearances and media coverage contestants have had leading up to the international final. Additionally, contestants are asked what attributes they believe would make them the best choice for the title.

Length: 2 minutes

Verdict: “We would certainly recommend introducing yourself to the panel when you enter the room and establish eye contact and a genuine smile,” said Lucie Hide, International Director of Face of the Globe. “It is also a good idea, where possible, to know who the judges are and a bit about their background, too. A handshake in some circumstances can come across too formal and staged, when the judges are looking for genuine character and getting to know the real you.”

Miss American Coed (MAC)

Miss American Coed contestants in Interview. Photo/MAC
Miss American Coed contestants in Interview. Photo/MAC

Format: Round robin

Length: 1 minute per judge

Verdict: In the interest of time and the potential to spread germs, MAC advises not to shake hands.

National American Miss (NAM)

pageant interview,pageant judges,
NAM Interview Suits

Format: Shane Tinsley, National Judges Coordinator described the interview format as, “Each contestant enters into the interview room holding her resume that she prepared prior to the pageant. She will walk up to the first interviewer, sitting at a small round table, and hand over her resume. She takes her seat across from the interviewer and proceeds with her interview. When her time with that interviewer ends she will collect her resume and proceed to the next table and repeat the process with each interviewer.”

Length: 35 seconds to 1 minute per interviewer. Length depends on age division.

Verdict: “We discourage our contestants from shaking the interviewer’s hands because we want each contestant to spend as much time talking with each interviewer,” Tinsley said. “Each contestant should be communicating her goals, dreams and personality.”

Tinsley also mentioned the judges’ perspective in regards to hand shaking.

“In our interview setting, judges have expressed that shaking every contestant’s hand is redundant and serves no real purpose. They would much rather use those extra seconds to communicate with the contestant.”

Mrs. Maryland United States

Format: Panel

Length: 5 minutes

Verdict: Yes. “Conventional rules of etiquette dictate that the contestant should extend the handshake first,” said Teri Brown-Walker, Executive State Director.

America’s Majestic Miss National Scholarship Pageants

Format: Round robin. “It allows the contestant to get to talk with the judge one-on-one and have a conversation rather that several judges asking them questions at the same time,” said Cindy Bradford, Executive National Director of America’s Majestic Miss. “We feel this allows the judges to get to know the contestants on a more personal basis.”

Length: 2 minutes per judge

Verdict: “We do not recommend that the contestant offers her hand to shake hands with the judges unless the judge offers their hand first,” Bradford said. “People have different feelings about shaking hands, so play it safe. Only shake hands with the judge if they extend their hand to you first.”

Miss Teen of America

Format: State pageants: Panel interview with 2 to 3 judges. National pageant: Combination featuring 2 to 3 tables of 2 to 3 judges at each table.

Length: State pageants: 3 minutes. National pageant: 4 minutes per table.

Verdict: “At Miss Teen of America, we want candidates to be confident in everything they do – including shaking hands,” said Sunny Hill, President of Miss Teen of America. “We discuss shaking hands with judges during interview rehearsal and ultimately leave it up to the candidate to decide.”

Going Forward

Ultimately it depends on you, your age division, and your interview format. (Read: The 10 Toughest Pageant Interview Questions and How to Answer Them)

Round Robin: Only do it if you feel comfortable and, of course, if the judge initiates the handshake. I’ve noticed in my experience many male judges will take this approach, especially if they come from a business background, but female judges tend not to.

I have had round robin interviews where we intentionally were told to introduce ourselves and our contestant numbers to make sure the judges were viewing the correct bio form.

Panel: Make sure it is not awkward to walk over to the judges to shake their hands. If you have to pass by their table and they are paying attention rather than taking notes, then of course turn and shake their hands and thank them.

However, if you have to walk practically to the other side of the room from where you are supposed to stand during the interview, or if your interview is to begin with you giving an introduction, it may be awkward to walk over, shake hands, walk back, give your formal introduction, and then proceed with the interview.

I have had a panel interview with an introduction that began with my back turned to the judges until I was told to turn around and begin. For me to walk over and introduce myself individually after having my back turned would have felt disconnected.

Ultimately, you want to make sure the judges have as much time to get to know you as possible. Don’t waste time on formalities if they are not going to do you any favors in the long run. But, if you absolutely feel like you must shake their hands, do so with conviction and make sure that that handshake is worth the time it took.

Good luck, ladies!

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