Need help?

Fill in the form, or if it is easier for you, you can always contact us by e-mail or phone number, and we will be happy to answer all your questions!

+371 29 360 813

PRIME Recruitment Blog

A Business Hand-Shake? Trust it? - Please see the UPDATE at bottom Sept 2015...


Dear All, I will not go in depth on this subject as it is self-lived and not subject to a deep study but more for assisting us all to take care and be aware in the process.

The first thing a lawyer would tell you is that a hand shake applies, but is hard to prove. And that the contract is what's needed. Agree. In the good circumstances that you agreed, all seemed merry. But if this was just deception? I don't think it was, but for the discussion let's just see some more below. And just as we are in the cold season up here in the northern hemisphere, let's be better prepared before we find ourselves proceeding at speed on a frozen lake...on thin ice...

The embarrassment happens when you think you know each other. However, testing the reality of that later when you sorely need it may not be as rosey. Both as a Mariner and Recruiter, I have come to rely on an honest handshake - and when people don't live up to that and even can afford to¬, and you are the weaker and honest one, then disappointment starts living neighboor with the Devil ! When adding to that, that we know each other's background, what we stand for as professionals, personally and the hardship we both face, trust goes into free fall! And not only for that individual situation but for all coming after. Once bitten, twice as shy...

Handshakes. Many are very enthusiastic and really go for the bear-hug-version of handshaking. -But then that adds, doesn't it? In fact one of my Scandinavian customers used that to check the sincerity of an individual in a recruitment process I ran, and he simply would not hire unless it felt good. I didn't know him all that well then and had coached my candidate prior just-in-case, and I came lucky! You could observe the reaction and draw your own conclusions. And people will! -Naturally, when putting someone through this, watch for the combination of the overall picture: Impressions of the interview itself, appearance, eye contact, any particular body movements and so forth! Because we do have a body language and we dress to fit and meet expectations, our own or someone else's:) .

My purpose writing this is simply to draw attention to this phenomenon as we need give it some thought. To me it is a promise and we are bound by accepting the other person's hand. But not all think this way... All are not Gentlemen! -Remember Pontius Pilate washing his hands free of any guilt.... which led to the crucifiction of our Lord, Jesus! But that was just side-tracking, however we have all heard about it, haven't we? Helps to illustrate!

I personally don't like bad handshakes as it to me reflects the person's character or lack of it. Here in the Baltics it is also very common that women, especially very many Russian ladies do not shake hands at all. That's their culture. An Eastern culture. In Western cultures ladies do. It's considered friendly and frankly if you wish a job with a Western organisation... it may be worth considering! I changed a whole recruitment process around when I coached the lady's poor handshake and she won the position. You see the Client told me months later he had used his special trick to 'test' person. I had guessed as much, I knew the candidate to be very qualified, so I was not going to let that opportunity slip. It became decisive!

In some cultures it is the practise to kiss a lady's hand, but then in a non-business-environment. However, how that is done differs. Thinking I was a man of the world I, many years ago at a formal, but social function, kissed a French lady's hand as in Sweden that is considered very positive. Not so. It was an insult! Very boring. May its the Italians that have more passion? Or?

A few years ago, one of my then customers in the break at the seminar informed me he had work for me. I was delighted. He however told me he would be away (out of the country), I could start right away to win time, so I then made sure I understood what he needed, confirmed the details, the set-up, shook hands and then the break was over, and i had to go back to leading the seminar.

Back in the office that night I started the job, drew up a contract but realized I needed more details off him, so I called and as he was not reachable until some 10 days time later, I slogged on, still bound by our agreement and trusting this man to stick by his words. I knew him to be a bit erractic as in having no real support staff and frequently on the road, but that's why he had me, to help him, right? Which previously also had been the way we had operated on other things needed to be paid. I wanted him to agree to the how's and to fill out a form on the profile to understand for us both the bare minimum and discuss through the invoice so he was aligned. I had meanwhile found an ace of a candidate (with a competence such as foreigners want them to be, at least here in the East, are very tricky to deliver and this was to a factory and that challenge is huge), but felt increasingly wary of my client, however knew he had always kept his part of the deal, so I brushed my worries aside as they would otherwise block my work.

Thus some three weeks from the original verbal agreement confirmed by the handshake between two Nordics, we reached one another. I told him where I was, what I had tried calling him about, not invoicing as I didn't know details on that and to show I really had worked and frankly show my sincerity. Knowing he was totally new to recruitment, apart from small ads in the news papers or friends of friends, I had tried to take him through the paces of it, very difficult at a distance especially someone not using his email function or uncomfortable with writing in the English language. Tricky.

It was off! His staff had found a person by himself, it appeared my client had not told his staff (they had searched prior in vain but he had told me I was going to do the job only - which I had asked), so there I stood - with costs, a person, time put in and a candidate I knew could do the job! And that of a VERY good one! In fact now I know probably he was a threat to the local person as my candidate beats them all...and is not lazy. Either:). Much later, this year in fact, I found out the local was a periodical drinker - no wonder did not want completion by a man who literally could run the production and probably, so much better!

-It was a painful blow, and of course a large disappointment to me as I had put in effort beyond more than most can understand: I had made sure the candidate even knew the language which the managers spoke, the right equipment and could work odd hours including weekends and be on call. Nobody wants that here, but my candidate DID. Unique! Leaving this lengthy example for an illustration, I think it stands up / out - well.

As a result, caught with my sorrow and frustration I started a series of phone calls and talking to people who would find themselves, or had so, in similar situations. Partly to find out, certainly to see what could be salvaged! I found little. Hoping to come up with the definite answer I found Swedish people had one idea, Danes a second and combinations of those. Locals were very much prone to follow the written word. And some even consider a written contract just an excuse for renegotiations! To a friend I called today, it appears a handshake being a formal under-taking and is supported in Swedish Law as a verbal promise, thus binding. Therefore upon consideration, my commercial law studies were not totally wasted - but intra cultural knowledge should have been considered!:)). We learn as we age! -Speaking to an international Dane, he said it was binding but then also not - as up to the individual in question-. -So why do we then shake hands? Maybe you have a comment to this?

Meanwhile I have since come across yet another person who sealed the deal with wine at a dinner! A Scandinavian and he held all he said, with delay but held!And encouraged me to come with an email to that effect followed by a formal agreement. Yet another said: ''just send me the bank account, Henrik''! -''And an invoice if you may''! Others in turn never got round to signing at the beginning but at the end as the IRS demands such. Also, where I am from, money paid in advance means we have a contract!:).

If it's an officer-colleague, we have something called 'honour between gentlemen', but times are changing and as I write this new part in November 2015- I am in doubt and to make sure I have shook hands on it twice and been assured I have his backing. But a person may be overruled by another - so then it comes down to honour - I know I have it, but will my Client stand by his promise, regardless? -Thus, opinions are divided and differ! Culture has a lot to do with it, or just frankly giving a damn! -Needless to say these 'agreement's till now have run like clockwork and my work is my passion and it is not about contracts as much as the right delivery to my client and sorting things out as we go... sometimes it's just about being human, and a delay just about being part of that...
-What do You think? Or What would you do?

UPDATE, Sept 2015: I have since learned of my previous client that he has bankrupted no less than three (3) times and each time thinking it could be solved. I am actually very sad to hear because his intentions were all good - but it may help to explain or indicate what the handshake meant, AND why what happened did. There was more, but that's another story - so hand shakes and gut feelings mean something after all - find out what! In time.


Feel free to LIKE, COMMENT or share! I am still curious about this one!

PRIME Recruitment has operated in Latvia and the Baltics from 1997, trailing back to 1995 and 1994 when the owner first arrived in Riga. Specializing in Matched Recruitment, we do our homework first, before offering so we know each other and have less of surprises later. PRIME Recruitment also represents THOMAS International out of Stockholm (SLG) and London, in which we analyse individuals as part of organisations to optimalize performance at work. This includes personnel audit, sales training and placement.

WELCOME to connect and let's see what we can do for you!

new jobs

Working with PRIME Recruitment means you apply to a company in business from 1999, tracking back to 1995. Our clients work according to the Law and also respect the individual when it comes to what is agreed which should mean that you get your salary on time and as agreed if you have done your part.

view all jobs



We provide recruitment, that suits your specific needs an creates a competetive edge for your company!


training & courses

Get tailor-made training and courses within the areas of Sales, Team Building and the Thomas System!


The List - Networking

Make business happen at The L!ST, the most seriously fun business networking event in Latvia!



The Thomas System is the answer when you want to assess current staff and potential new employees!