More Firms Study Handwriting as a Tool to Select Employees

Article excerpt

HOUSTON _ Personality tests for job applicants have become quite common. But handwriting analysis?

David Messina was surprised when Olsten Staffing Services asked him to submit a one-page handwriting sample when he interviewed for a recruiting job.

"They might as well have asked me what my astrological sign is," he said.

Before his job interview, Messina said, he never gave much thought to his handwriting.

"I have horrible handwriting," Messina said. "I figured I'd be classified as a serial killer."

Messina never heard back from Olsten about the job but heard through the grapevine that his handwriting analysis showed he'd be better suited to bricklaying than personnel recruiting.

More and more companies are using handwriting analysis as a tool to select employees. They see it as a quick and accurate method to evaluate job candidates.

But academics who have studied handwriting as an employee selection tool say there's no relationship between someone's handwriting and how they'll do on the job. The reports list traits that describe just about anyone, they said, likening handwriting study to astrological charts.

Olsten has used handwriting analysis for several years, mostly for managerial jobs, said Martin Gelerman, senior vice president of Olsten Corp. in Westbury, N.Y.

"We've found it to be very accurate," Gelerman said. "If we give someone handwriting analysis and put the results in a drawer and work with the person for three or four years and pull it out _ my God, it's right."

Managerial job applicants write on a blank page of paper and Olsten sends it to an analysis firm that specializes in personnel selection. Olsten receives a 22-page report evaluating the potential employee, which takes into account the skills needed to do the job.

The report comes back with a rundown of the applicant's traits, such as enthusiasm, ability to be a self-starter, organizational skills, open-mindedness, communication skills, confidence, empathy, conflict avoidance and fear of failure.

"We don't usually not hire because of the handwriting analysis," Gelerman said. It's not used as an eliminative factor but as an aid.

Olsten recently completed a study to determine whether its analysis was working. After evaluating the handwriting of branch managers who were hired in 1992, the company found traits that were common indicators of success and failure.

"It gives you a very quick assessment," said Alice Weiser, a certified graphoanalyst in Houston. …