Assessing candidates the write way

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Introduction

one may probably go weeks without scribbling anything more than maybe a number on a Post-it note. But till, the scrawl continues to remain relevant; handwriting analysis is an increasingly popular way to screen job applicants.

In this edition of cajobportal Insights, we share insights on usage of ‘Handwriting Analysis’ for recruitment.

Elton John sings that it’s all written in the stars. Others beg to differ believing that fate, and luck, is all in handwriting. At least, that is what graphologists, experts in the study of handwriting, believe when they analyze the shapes and patterns of handwriting to identify the writers’ characteristics.

Application

Handwriting Analysis is a scientific based personality diagnostic system which has many applications.

The US based ‘National Pen Company’ has come out with a research that states that an individual’s handwriting can be used to

  1. Assess ~5,000 different personality traits based on the way he/she spaces the letters, signs the name or even how he/she connects the letter ‘o’ and ‘s’ to other letters in a word.
  2. Identify potential health problems including schizophrenia, high blood pressure as well as energy levels
  3. The size of someone’s handwriting can determine the type of personality they have. People with small handwriting tend to be shy, studious and meticulous, whereas outgoing people who love attention will have larger handwriting

All this probably sounds quite tempting to time-pressed recruiters, particularly if they’ve been burned in the past with an exaggerated CV, or simply a candidate who doesn’t fit in with the team. Graphology works very well as an assessment of whether a person will fit in with a company, or stick out like a sore thumb.

History

Camillo Baldi, a 17th century Italian scholar, wrote what is thought to be the first book deciphering personality through handwriting.

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His treatise of how, from a “missive” letter, we can know the nature and quality of the writer. Published in 1622, this is a cover sheet to the printed document.

It was a French Catholic priest, Jean-Hipployte Michon (1806-1881), who is generally regarded as being graphology’s father. His follower Jean Crepieux-Jamin codified the disciple with his ABC of Graphology, which is still in print.

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The theory of psychologist Carl Jung forms the basis of graphology

More recently, in the 19th century, both the French and Germans devised a system that correlated personality traits with particular movements of a pen, pressure on the paper and spacing between the words and letters – and the term graphology was born.

Global Trends

Handwriting analysis is used as a tool for judging a person, especially during Ph.D thesis submission and recruitment in advanced nations such as UK and Germany.

French employers in particular favor the method, with some 75% using graphology as part of their recruitment process

Graphology is now also gaining a foothold in markets such as the UK and US.

In the UK, experts believe that ~30% of companies use handwriting analysis as part of the recruitment process, although few will openly admit to it.

SG Warburg & Co is one of the top 20 securities firms in the world. All job applications submitted to the firm, when under the leadership of Siegmund Warburg, were submitted to a handwriting analyst, or graphologist, for close scrutiny.

In the US, graphology is also widely respected and is used by bodies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Scientific Rationale

Graphology is an objective tool – the graphologist does not know or meet with the candidate. So his/her appearance and conduct has no influence on the Personality and Ability Profile produced from a precise and detailed examination of their handwriting.

A person’s every fine motor movement, such as wielding a writing instrument such as a pen, involves the contraction and release of fingers, hand and arm movements, with each vibration of movement unconsciously directed by the brain.

Our mental state, will power, intellect and emotional responses, as well as our transient physical health and mood swings, affect our thinking and this can all be reflected in our handwriting. Writing is a unique imprint of our personality.

As for the actual process of analysis, it is a complex technique involving study of a range of parameters, including size of letters, angles, slopes, shapes, links, spaces, order, pen pressure and variance from educational norm.

Case in point

Monsieur Jean X may never suspect it, but the reason he didn’t become commercial director of a big Paris medical company was a handwriting analysis that now lies filed in the dusty folders of Valerie Littardi, a graphology firm in Paris.

There, printed on a single sheet of low-grade paper, between laconic documents that crushed the hopes of other job-seekers, is hidden a final and definitive verdict, subject to no appeal:

“Monsieur X. Advantages: sense of hierarchy, savoir-faire, prudence. Drawbacks: lack of judgment, lack of initiative, selective friendliness, infantile mentality. Reservations: may not be suitable for the position.”

This bold psychological profile was made overnight by Littardi’s staff for about $50, plus tax.

Nobody actually met Monsieur X. The analysis was based solely on his handwriting.

French employers never hire someone, even with otherwise excellent credentials, if the graphologists we have reservations

In France, graphology has acquired an influence unimaginable elsewhere in the developed world, and Monsieur X’s experience is more the rule than the exception.

Applicability

Lengthy interview procedures, along with psychometric testing, are today’s most commonly used assessment methods but cannot always provide a full picture: an interview will show a candidate on their best behavior, playing out a role designed to be compatible with the interviewer and discussing a CV tailored to look brilliant. Psychometric tests are quite effective as well, but they can be manipulated. The reason is that people can change their answers depending on what they think the company wants to hear. Say, the chants about ethics that moment one interviews himself/herself at a Tata Group company.

With little more than a handwritten page from a candidate a graphologist can assess basic traits such as honesty, reliability and the ability to get the work done efficiently and on time. But equally importantly, and uniquely, they can also access more subtle traits, such as addictive personality problems, empathy and mood swings

Handwriting is impossible to fake, as opposed to CVs, which tend to be increasingly ’embroidered’. You cannot ‘act out’ a whole A4 page of handwriting.

Two people who are totally different can easily produce the same result in a personality test. But no two people will ever have the same handwriting

Probably, psychometric tests can be used in conjunction with graphology, you can double check that one validates the other. Plus as compared with psychometric tests, and interviews, handwriting analysis is a great deal cheaper.

Illustration

Handwriting is an instantaneous photograph of your mind.

Have a look at some insights based on size, shaping between words, slanting of letters, shaping of letter, looping, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, lower case cursive ‘s’, page margins, pressure etc.

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Summing Up

Despite its popularity and the public’s excitement over graphology, we may also point out there exists a lot of controversy surrounding the practice. Psychology, for example, has never considered graphology a science because there is no scientific evidence supporting the practice.

But the fact remains that handwriting analysis can draw attention to aspects of personality that have been missed, and which might prove detrimental were the person to be recruited. It can certainly be used as an extra tool, a complement, without battling an eyelid.

Guess, the dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s would certainly be of some interest to those who want to prove that HR does not stand for Hiring Randomly 🙂