Handwriting can spell out hiring decisions

March 09, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

The way you dot your "i" and cross your "t" might determine whether you get a job someday.

A growing number of businesses are relying at least partly on graphology, the study of personality through handwriting, as a screening tool in corporate hiring and restructuring.

"Graphology can determine total personality. It can also determine if someone is good for a particular job," said Bobbie Carleton, a Severna Park graphologist.

Across the country, 6,000 companies use the technique, as do 80 percent of companies in Europe, said Sheila R. Lowe, author of "Graphology and Industry." But in Maryland you'll be hard pressed to find companies that say they use the technique.

"A lot of businesses don't want to divulge the fact they use it," said Elaine Schindler, president of the Society of Handwriting Analysts in Silver Spring.

That's because graphology is more popularly known as a gimmick practiced in boardwalk booths, Ms. Schindler said. Only in the past decade, since the Library of Congress moved the subject from the "occult" shelves to "behavioral sciences," has nTC the field gained credibility, she said.

But skeptics remain. The American Psychological Association says it neither endorses nor opposes the technique. Local recruiters say they don't use it.

Cheri P. Brown, a manager for the Snelling Personnel Services recruiting firm, said the Baltimore branch clientele do request drug testing and background checks but so far have not asked for graphology as a tool to evaluate job candidates.

If customers demanded the use of graphology, she said, "we would survey to determine if there is a need and then respond."

HuVista International in Louisville, Ky., and Handwriting Research Corp. in Phoenix, Ariz., two of the country's largest handwriting-analysis businesses, said they have several Maryland clients.

"Businesses are using it increasingly because it is an excellent determining tool. We don't suggest using this as the only tool," said Iris Hatfield, president of HuVista. "We do not tell them to hire or not hire. We just give them a report."

For the past year and half, Mrs. Carleton, one of a handful of graphologists in the Baltimore area, has been working out of her home analyzing writing samples. She received her license from Dallas' Institute of Graphological Science after studying for six months through its correspondence program.

She charges $75 for each analysis and asks for two pages of writing on unlined paper in ink. It doesn't matter what is written.

"Once you start doing this, you don't read it. You see how it appears to the eye -- is it pleasing?" said Mrs. Carleton.

Using rulers and a lighted magnifying glass, the 47-year-old former bookkeeper studies spaces between the letters and the words and examines the loops in letters. In all, more than 300 personality traits can be detected in handwriting, she said.

Mrs. Carleton sometimes spends up to eight hours looking at a writing sample. She types two to three pages of analysis for the client.

She has worked only for individuals: A wife wanted her husband's writing analyzed as a Christmas gift. A woman wanted to find out more about herself. A couple wanted a nanny candidate evaluated.

Mrs. Carleton thinks graphology works because people cannot hide from their own writing.

"When we write, our subconscious mind is dictating the movement of the pen, while our conscious mind is doing the communicating," she said. "Given adequate samples of handwriting, there is very little that a writer can disguise from an expertly trained graphologist."

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