It’s disrespectful and dis-empowering to insist that clients “just get over it” and shake hands when it goes against their strongly held religious beliefs.
We can explain how important it is in interviews and other first impression situations. But what if they are still unwilling to do it?
For me, disaster happened when a client (male) refused to shake hands with the General Manager (female) of a major employer partner at a job fair. He didn’t get the job, the GM was really angry and it took several months to repair the partnership.
At the time, I didn’t know how to handle it or how to help clients prepare in a way consistent with their values. An article from a book of advice for sabbath observant Jewish professionals outlines options for handling situations when religious beliefs prevent shaking hands.
“Being honest is probably the best way to address it. Explain that you are sorry but that you don’t shake hands for religious reasons. You hope that it isn’t take as a sign of disrespect and you appreciate this opportunity.”
The entire article is really interesting and it does give other, less useful, suggestions for handling the situation. It’s valuable to glean practical solutions that could help Muslim clients from advice from another religious perspective. Click here if you’re curious about the entire book, Can I Wear My Kippah on Job Interviews?