The topic of Graphology recently came up in my office and how it can be used against you in the job search. Phoenix-based Handwriting Research Corporation claims they can help companies pre-screen employees and determine whether or not they will be a good job fit. They also allege they can detect whether the applicant displays traits of dishonesty, alcoholism, or even addictive behaviors. And they assert that companies can legally get this information without the knowledge of the applicant! Here’s how:
The interviewer hands you a form requesting that you describe (in cursive writing) your ideal job environment. Seems innocent enough, except there is a Consent and Release Form attached that clearly states the following:
“Research has established that personality is the single most important factor in determining one’s compatibility to and happiness in a particular job or career. Studies have also determined that an analysis of handwriting is a viable, non-discriminatory procedure in understanding an individual’s personality for such purposes. The results can be invaluable in identifying: hidden talents or potential interests and motivations, and can be utilized in career development, self-improvement and in team-building activities. The analysis results will be used in conjunction with other data, tests, observations and job-related information to facilitate human resource decisions. If you choose not to participate, you will not be denied employment opportunities on the basis of your refusal. By signing above, I hereby release this company, and Handwriting Research Corporation from any liability based on their findings or recommendations.”
No where in the above statement do they reveal “we’re also checking out what kind of risk you’ll be to us.”
You NEED to know that some States have introduced bills to outlaw this form of screening. Regardless, it’s a sneaky way for organizations to implement “arbitrary pseudo-science background checks” without your full knowledge.
I suppose it would be a more ethical approach if the employer stated, “look, we’re investing a lot in hiring you, and we’d like to know as much as possible. Therefore, you need to understand that we believe handwriting is a good indicator of drug use, personality disorders, sexual deviance, and possible violent behavior, in addition to your hidden talents and potential.” If that’s the case, everyone is honest and upfront with one another. However, HRC makes no mention of it on their handwriting analysis page, and the employer doesn’t tell you what they’re up to either.
While I can understand a company’s need to protect its assets, I don’t believe it’s in your best interest to work for anyone who will dupe you into taking such a test. Further, the Washington University Law Quarterly published a comprehensive report on the LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF GRAPHOLOGY and how its’ practice has performed very poorly in validity tests. In other words, it’s a bunch of hooey.
Finally, why would anyone want to partner with a company that would employ such deceitful tactics? If they lie to you in the recruiting stage, chances are they will do it again after you’re hired.
what you failed to mention is that the bills that were introduced to outlaw handwriting analysis in pre-employment applications were more than 15 years ago and they failed because there was no reason for them to pass. The problem lies, not in handwriting analysis, but in the practitioners. There is no licensing in this field, so anyone can call themselves a handwriting analyst. When practiced judiciously and within the law, it can be a helpful tool. Perhaps you should do some more research before commenting.
Sheila Lowe, handwriting analyst
Thanks for the clarification that the bills failed. I did more research (per your suggestion), and found additional information on Supreme Court Rulings. I’m sure you’re already aware, they did not support your side. That link can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yrbjht if anyone wants to read it.
My beef isn’t whether Graphology is accurate or not, it’s when citizen’s privacy is compromised without their knowledge.
I see it as going to a job interview, and after using the company restroom on the way out, the employer collects and tests your urine to find out if you are pregnant, use anti-depressants or take high blood pressure meds. That’s the violation of privacy! And that’s why job applications must clearly state they will test you for drugs and you sign that you agree to that. The folks at HRC state on their website they have a way to detect possible drug use through handwriting analysis “without their knowledge.”
I’m not here to beat up on Graphologists or the study of handwriting. I’m here to give my clients (jobseekers) knowledge of what they’re up against when they search for a job.
My husband has the right idea: He prints everything in all block letters and has done so for more than 25 years.
From now on I’m telling my clients to type thank you letters rather than handwrite them so they won’t be subjected to additional scrutiny.
a) What consistutes “informed consent” is an issue that handwriting analysts need to address. Thus far, none of the organizations of handwriting analysis in the US prohibit third party analysis without the knowledge, consent, or authorization of the writer.
IOW, what HRC is doing is perfectly ethical by the standards of US graphological associations.
b) About a decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a “minor” change in the definitions they understood the various terms in the Fair Credit Reporting Act meant. Had the change gone through, graphology reports would be treated as if they were credit reports.
There is no reason why they shouldn’t be treated the same. Graphology has been used for establishing credit worthiness for at least a century. There are unpublished studies that indicate that FICA scores can be determined from handwriting.
c) Betweeen 1990 and 1995 the issue of handwriting analysis for employment was brought up in four state legistlatures. Rhode Island, Oregon, Idaho. [I’ve forgotten the fourth one.] It failed in all four states.
It resurfaced briefly in 2000 as part of a Democratic Party platform plank. It also popped up in a position paper by the AFL-CIO in the late ninties.
c) The published research on handwriting analysis is mixed, in terms of both the validity, and reliability.
One major issue is that most studies start with flawed premises and go from there.
Buy something in the US that costs US$100. Pay for it with $100 Canadian.
If you expect the US$100 to be the same as $100 Canadian, you made the same mistake as most published research in the field.
e) Daubert is irrelevant in this instance. That decision defines what constitutes “junk science” for expert testimony in court cases. In theory, Handwriting analysis does meet the qualifications set by Daubert.
f) An organization should not only tell potential applicants that their handwriting will be analyzed, but also give them a copy of that report. [Several “professional” handwriting analysts require a firm to sign off on a statment that the subjects of the report will not view the report, before they will accept them as a client]
g) Printing reveals as much, if not more than, cursive writing does. IOW, it can expose more reasons not a to hire a person, faster, and more easilly than cursive can.
h) Two issues you didn’t address are “Disparate Impact” and potential EEOC/ADA violations.
* Every item that defines a protected class under Federal and State EEOC legislatation can be determined from handwriting.
* The ADA essentially prohibits tests that can not be given, or modified to be given to everybody that falls into the classes that it protects. Handwriting analysis fails that requirement. People that are blind from birth never attain the fluency in handwriting that graphology requires. Individuals that use their mouth, or toes to write. seldom achieve the required fluency that graphology requires.
Thanks for catching me up to speed on the history and legal aspects of Graphology.
You mentioned that US Graphological Associations feel these are perfectly ethical standards, which in my opinion is no more than the fox guarding the hen house.
I’m sure there are Astrologists and Numerologists who can also offer expertise on the validity of their craft as well. Don’t get me wrong, I believe all of these practices, including Graphology have much to offer when it comes to insight on a person. That’s not my argument.
I just don’t like the tactics used to coerce people into “agreeing” to its scrutiny without full disclosure to the participant of everything that’s being analyzed.
For example, I’ve been subjected to numerous random drug tests when I was employed by the airline industry. This is mandated by the FAA. Before random drug testing was enforced in the late 80s, we were given 30-day advance notice that random testing would begin. At that time employees were given the opportunity to come forward and seek help with any drug problems. After that, if they got a random test that was positive, they would be subject to termination.
The drug test always states what they are looking for in the urine: opiates, cannabis, excessive alcohol, etc. These tests give full-disclosure before they are administered.
Until Graphology gives full-disclosure to the participants as to what they are evaluating, I believe it’s a violation of privacy. And that’s what I have been debating all along.
I broke my wrist a few years back and the way it healed, I lost quite a bit of my fine motor skills in my fingers and my writing looks nothing like it used to. I can’t imagine what an analysis of it would be now!
Susan, this is the third article from this publication, and only from this publication. Just what is the underlining issue? Is it lack of a certification process? Is it truely a crusade against charlatans, and frauds? Are you aware that there were widespread abuses of polygraph examiners, and handwriting has been used as an alternative. The problem as I see it is that anyone can call themself a handwriting expert. There are numerous individuals who lack ethics or understand the issues of Graphology who may be fradulent. To someone who knows what they are examining, handwriting, like body language, voice recognition can not be hidden or disguised. However, an applicant for a particular job may submit a fradulent application, thus throwing the application process askew. But, in a larger sence your writing is part of the public domain, and being able to analyze it is equally part of the public.
Today I seemed to have stirred up a hornet’s nest with Graphologists, which was not my intention. I am advocate of the job seeker, and I only wish to point to my clientele what they need to be aware of when they search for a job.
I’m not seeking certification for the industry, or to attack fraud or charlatans. In fact, if you re-read my comments, you’ll see that I supported its possible validity and I’m only concerned with the tactics used to collect information. Not all intentions are revealed up front before you hand over your handwriting sample.
I’ll use urinalysis again as an example. If you pee in a cup because the company says they want to make sure you’re healthy enough to perform the job, and they are looking for the appropriate “nutrients” and you gullibly agree, but then they come back and tell you the results contained other substances (you weren’t aware they were looking for,) I consider that underhanded and sneaky. There is nothing sneaky about a drug test. They lay everything on the table before you do it.
I’m all about honest communication between employers and candidates. In fact, several years ago one of my clients actually answered the question on an application “Do you use illegal drugs?” He said, “Yes, pot on the weekends.” To which the employer replied, “Well I certainly wasn’t expecting that response, but since I now know you’re honest, I’m going to hire you.” I got a good laugh out of it.
As for handwriting being part of the public domain, I consider handwriting to be a communication between me, the writer, and the person I wrote it to. This forum is a typewritten blog and is indeed a public domain.
“There are unpublished studies that indicate that FICA scores can be determined from handwriting.”
I love this line. If they are unpublished how do you know of these studies? And if there was POSITIVE research out there, why wouldn’t they WANT to publish it?
Just food for thought.
Thanks for the article Susan, it adds to the research I’m gathering about the ethnics concerning companies using handwriting analysis in the pre-screening process.
Boy, I really showed my intelligence level.
I believe that handwriting analysis amounts to nothing more than psycological quackery. Why not just get a palm reader? If it worked then we could have taken a look at the genius (GWB) in the White House and could have prevented the once greatest country on earth from being driven right into a ditch. Analyze that.