Hiring the write employee

Sept. 1, 1996
How many times have you hired a new hygienist or dental assistant on the basis of the sparkling way she came across in the interview. . . only to have to dismiss her a few weeks later because she was habitually late?

Looking for a reliable method to cut down employee turnover? Handwriting analysis may be the answer.

Les Edgerton

How many times have you hired a new hygienist or dental assistant on the basis of the sparkling way she came across in the interview. . . only to have to dismiss her a few weeks later because she was habitually late?

It is expensive to go through this process even once. Time spent in soliciting candidates, interviewing, making hiring decisions and then training someone. . . only to have to go through the process all over again when the new hire proves to be less than expected. The time and energy expended in repeating this process are costly, not to mention the intangible price paid for what turnovers do to your reputation in the eyes of your patients!

Thanks to a hiring (and management) tool that is gaining acceptance worldwide, employee turnover soon may become drastically reduced. The tool? Handwriting analysis!

Long used in Europe by up to 88 percent of major firms, today over 12,000 U.S. companies, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch, Kodak and Farm Bureau, now utilize the services of handwriting experts such as Iris Hatfield of HuVista International, June Canoles of Insyte, Inc. and Barbara Harding of Harding Associates. These are just three of over 200 handwriting experts in the country who advise both small and large businesses on their hires, based on what is re-vealed in the applicant`s cursive script.

Dr. Don Glass, who practices in Los Gatos, California, speaks highly of the use of handwriting analysis in the hiring process and says he "would recommend it to everybody. You learn things about humans you could otherwise never be privy to."

Dr. Glass has used the services of June Canoles, president of Insyte, Inc., in Cupertino, California, for the past 10 years and has high praise for the service she renders.

"Not simply for hiring," he adds. "June has given invaluable insights into employees who have helped alleviate problems. There have been times when problems with employees have surfaced and I wanted to discover what was going on so that we could help change negative behavior, and handwriting analysis has been very helpful in that area. It also has been a great tool for bringing in the kind of people that prove compatible, crucial in having the office run smoothly. This really has enhanced overall staff ability to function together. Now, when we have a problem, I have a valuable tool to identify the cause or source and then the employee and I can work together in a positive way to help effect a beneficial change.

Possessed of a natural curiosity about many things, Dr. Glass first became interested in handwriting analysis 10 years ago, when he had Canoles do an analysis on him.

"I was amazed," he said, "at the accuracy. She was 85-90 percent on target!"

That convinced him, and he says that figure has remained constant in all the analyses she has performed for him since-always around 85-90 percent on target.

Dr. Glass` personal philosophy toward employees is notably warm and humane. He believes if you give your best to your employees and they do the same in return, everybody is a winner. Handwriting analysis aids significantly in identifying those kinds of potential employees who respond well to his management style.

"I use handwriting analysis not necessarily to detect negative traits," he says, "but more to ascertain those positive elements needed in the kind of team player we seek."

"I used to use other tools-tests, resumes, interviews-I`m especially big on interviews," Dr. Glass says. "Sometimes that (interview) process has been quite lengthy, but since I`ve used handwriting analysis, interviews have been improved vastly. The analysis enables you to get to know a person much more quickly and on a much more intimate level that isn`t revealed by other means."

"You just get a lot of information in a short time. You can know beforehand if the person has integrity, is responsible, is a team player or if he/she is a clock-watcher, a particularly bad trait to have in this profession! It`s just such a remarkably good tool, in that you can winnow down applicants to the ones that will really fit in with your system."

"And," he adds, "it`s `user-friendly!` If you can understand plain English, you can understand the report."

More than 100 personality traits-organizational ability, persistence, honesty, wastefulness, motivation, creativity and pessimism, as well as drug addiction-to name but a few, can be determined by how the applicant forms the strokes of his or her letters, the slant of the writing, spacing of letters and pressure and other determining signs.

It is difficult to get an exact count of how many organizations use handwriting analysis or graphology to determine their hires, as many don`t advertise this fact, preferring to keep it as a secret weapon to help them stay ahead of the competition. Usually, when you see a want ad for an employer that asks for a "hand-written cover letter" or some other form of cursive writing, it is safe to assume that employer probably is having the sample analyzed. A glance at the want-ad section of any major, metropolitan newspaper will reveal quickly just how many firms are involved in the use of such analysis.

Then, too, this is a science that is misunderstood largely by many who, if they consider it at all, tend to place the science of graphology in the same realm as horoscopes, palmistry and tea-leaf reading.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In Europe, handwriting analysis has been routinely included in the study of psychology as part of the curriculum since the end of the 19th century; indeed, 12 West German universities, alone, offer a doctorate in graphology.

"Handwriting is really nothing more than `brain-writing,` "says Andrea McNichol, a leading U.S. graphologist, who has studied at the Sorbonne and the University of Heidelberg and teaches graphology at six University of California campuses. She has served as examiner of Questioned Documents in such cases as the Howard Hughes will, the Ted Bundy murders, the Hitler Diaries and the Billionnaire Boys` Club case. "Studies of thousands of people who have lost the use of their hands, and have had to learn to write with the pen in their mouths or between their toes, show that they eventually produce their own unique `handwriting,` the same handwriting they had when they could use their hands." The hand is merely the instrument; the brain dictates how we actually write.

"Handwriting comes from the subconscious and reflects far more than our public masks reveal," HuVista president Hatfield says. She also maintains that more than 300 specific traits, such as motivation, determination, persistence, problem-solving and organizational abilities, communications skills and management or sales potential can be identified.

Graphologist Carol LaBov of Fort Wayne, Indiana, said that when confronted with skepticism from a potential client, she asks for writing samples of two employees whose personalities and qualities are well-known to management and she analyzes them for free, to prove the validity of analysis. "That always clinches it," LaBov says. "They are amazed at how accurate the report is."

While other, traditional hiring tools such as psychological tests, interviews, personality inventories and resumes have proven value, they can be misleading at times. When this writer was employed as an account executive at Kendall & Davis, Inc., one of the nation`s foremost recruiting firms, company policy at the time was not to even consider resumes. Resumes, according to company authorities, can many times be like the one submitted by a mechanical engineer that stated that, while at Ford, he "designed the original Ford Thunderbird." While not exactly a lie, it turns out that he "technically" designed the fabled car-along with about 4,000 others. His part in the creation of the classic sports car was the design of the wing-nuts on the windshield washer!

Whether this story is true or not, it is indicative of what may appear on resumes.

The same can be true of interviews. How many times has an applicant shone in the one-on-one conversation you held with him/her in your office. . . and then turned out to be surly with fellow workers after being on the job a week or habitually tardy? He/she proved to be an all-star interviewer, but a less-than-satisfactory fit with other personnel.

Handwriting analysis can discover such traits before disastrous hires are effected.

As a projection of a person`s conscious and subconscious mind, handwriting requires a complex coordination of brain, eyes, nerves and muscles, according to Hatfield. Slant, rhythm, spacing and pressure are just some of the components of writing that are measured and interpreted to determine specific character traits. A trained analyst can evaluate how closely the personality and working style of the individual can fit job demands.

Is handwriting analysis legitimate? The proof, both scientific and empirical, overwhelmingly is that it is. All three of the leading figures in psychology-Freud, Adler and Jung- believed it viable and provable. The Supreme Court, as well as the EEOC, has ruled on its legitimacy in the use of hiring and firing. The Library of Congress classifies materials on handwriting analysis under "Applied Psychology" and not under "Occult," as it does palmistry and horoscopes. Respected journals such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, D&B Reports, Industry Week, Business First, Louisville Magazine and many others have treated it seriously in articles.

Contrary to what you may think, the content of samples analyzed often is the least considered. "Oftentimes, we don`t read what applicants write, because you can`t always believe what they say," Hatfield is quoted as saying in D&B Reports. "We go by the pressure, the size of the writing, the rhythm, the spacing, the configuration. Is the writing large or small? What do they do with margins in the amount of given space? All of those things are subconscious projections."

Ann Wintrode, the head of the Education Committee of the American Association of Handwriting Analysts (AAHA), advises that the proper study of handwriting is through a "Gestalt" method, in which all the revealed traits are weighed and compared in relation to each other to get an accurate picture of the personality. "Going by isolated, individual traits can be misleading," she says, "unless it (a single trait) is considered against the whole."

McNichol says that unless a trait is present in at least 35 percent of the sample, it usually is not significant. "When it gets to be present 70 percent of the time, it usually is an accurate indicator."

Care must be given to not make hasty judgments. Just because a person crosses his/her `t`s` in what is considered a negative manner does not always mean that person has that particular trait in abundance.

Karen Amend and Mary S. Ruiz, in their book, Handwrit-ing Analysis, point out that "emotional factors dictate the form of the writing stroke. It is possible to determine personal behavior by studying the mannerisms of formation and spacing within a writing. Hand- writing matures, grows or disintegrates along with the personality or with physical changes due to age, health or tension. Personality development can be studied by examining samples penned at various times through the years. These samples provide a visual history of the development of a life emotionally, physically and mentally. . . Character traits that deviate from the norm show up in the handwriting."

How can you find a qualified expert to analyze the writing of your job applicants? The accompanying sidebar lists several organizations you can contact to locate analysts in your geographical area. Although there certainly are talented amateurs available everywhere, it is suggested you employ only those professionally certified by a reputable organization with a prescribed course of study that must be mastered. It usually requires two to five years of part-time study and an exhaustive examination to become certified, and many of the reputable national organizations have several levels of expertise they certify.

Many handwriting-analysis companies have each sample analyzed by at least two analysts to ensure accuracy.

Is it affordable? Dr. Glass says emphatically, "Oh my, yes! June`s (Canoles) present fee is $100 and that is ridiculously low, considering the value you receive." Prices vary according to the company and the depth of analysis, from as low as $35 to as much as $500 or more.

Andre Jacob, managing director of Laboratories Upsa, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, says, "Graphology is just as effective as testing and easier to administer." A study at his company of new employees, hired on the basis of their handwriting, showed that 80 percent turned out as their handwriting analysis predicted.

An article in The New York Times tells of the experience of William Smith, who managed 135 H&R Block offices in the Middle West, in reducing staff turnover from 25 percent to nearly zero since using the services of HuVista. "Now the only turnover is if someone dies, retires or moves away," he said. "If my judgment goes one way and Iris (Hatfield) goes another, I go with her."

Finally, Dr. Glass tells of a wonderful experience he had some years ago. "In trying to hire an assistant, I had one candidate who was near the bottom of my list, going by test results, interviews, etc. My own staff was not very high on this applicant, either. Contrary to what all these indicators revealed, June`s analysis was just the opposite-extremely positive. She said this candidate would do a very good job for me-she even emphasized she would be a very hard worker and be extremely loyal. At the time, I remember thinking, `What did I miss here?` However, because of the very high degree of reliability her analysis` had provided in the past, I put it to a vote of the staff. They agreed to give her a chance, even though they had not been impressed with her. Well, she turned out to be one of the three best employees I have ever had in a long practice!"

The author has written three books on the hair-salon business and dozens of literary short stories and articles. His first novel, The Death of Tarpons, is due this year from the University of North Texas Press. He and his wife co-own Bold Strokes Hair Designers.

Handwriting Analysts: Sources of Information

American Handwriting Analysis Foundation

Dr. Charlotte Thompson, President

1401A Walnut

Wenatechee. WA 98801


National Society of Graphology

250 West 57th St.

Suite 2032

New York, NY 10107


American Handwriting Analysis Foundation

P.O. Box 6201

San Jose, CA 95150


Barbara Harding Associates (private firm)

P.O. Box 312

Concord, MA 01742


Insyte, Inc. (private firm)

June Canoles, President

10351 S. Blaney Ave.

Cupertino, CA 95014


HuVista International, Inc. (private)

Iris Hatfield, President

9300 Shelbyville Road, Suite 930

Louisville, KY 40222


Council of Graphological

Societies, Inc.

Dr. Ellen Bowers

P.0. Box 20175

Columbus, OH 43220


American Association of Handwriting Analysts

1025 West Cossitt

LaGrange, IL 60525


Fascinating Tidbits about Handwriting Analysis...*

- Family members frequently share handwriting characteristics.

- The odds of two handwritings being exactly alike are one in 68 trillion!

- Our handwriting changes over a lifetime.

- Handwriting can reveal illness and disease.

- Polygraphs are disallowed in the courts of several states; handwriting analysis

of documents is allowed in all 50 states.

- The most common trait found in the handwriting of those who live to ripe old ages is stubbornness.

- A branch of graphology called graphotherapy changes individuals` behavior by having them change or eliminate negative aspects of their handwriting.

- The artist Thomas Gainsborough refused to paint a portrait unless the subject had an example of his handwriting sitting next to him.

- Even the doodles of pre-school children can be analyzed accurately.

- The next time you`re feeling angry, try writing with very light pressure -if you can do it, you won`t be angry anymore.

- A partiality for bright colors is found most often among heavy

-pressure writers and a preference for the lighter pastel shades among light

-pressure writers.

- If you sign a document with a felt-tip pen, the document can be thrown out of court. The reason is that when you use a felt-tip pen, you leave no pressure and, technically, such a signature could be challenged.

- An exceptionally high percentage of scientists, composers, authors and mathematicians write with small-sized letters most of the time.

- If a child or adult has been writing normally, but his writing suddenly becomes microscopically small, this is a red flag meaning he is deeply troubled and unhappy.

- Around 1980, the Mexican government, under President Jose Lopez Portillo, forbade the teaching of cursive writing in both public and private schools. Printing only was allowed to be taught. The young people of Mexico can no longer read or write cursive at all, nor can the sign their own names!

- Your signature represents your public self-image; your personal pronoun "I" represents your private self-image.

*These are from Andrea McNichol`s (with Jeffrey A. Nelson) book, Handwriting Analysis: Putting It To Work For You, copyright 1991,1994, published by Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8092-3566-8.

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