Are UK employers embracing graphology?
Stuart Poole-Robb, August 13, 2014
Handwriting analysis, or to give it its proper name graphology, has become the UK's latest tool in high-level HR screening.
The science of graphology, or handwriting analysis, is fast becoming a crucial element in the vetting and screening of incoming personnel. Some believe it can act as an early warning system for negative personality traits.
Graphology already has a long-established reputation for accuracy and reliability in mainland Europe and a pedigree reaching back to Freud and Jung, the founding fathers of modern psychology. Many leading European psychologists regard handwriting as a clearer window into someone’s personality than body language. It has been taught as a bona fide branch of psychology in many of Europe’s foremost universities, although this is not yet the case in Britain.
“The Société Francaise de Graphologie has a well-established reputation and around 80% of companies in France use graphologists for recruitment and screening purposes. In Germany, the figure is on the increase,” says Erik Rees, a leading graphology expert and founding member and former chairman of the British Institute of Graphologists.
According to Rees, graphology is now also gaining a foothold in markets such as the UK and US. In Britain, Rees believes that around 30% of companies use handwriting analysis as part of the recruitment process, although few will openly admit to it.
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).
Professional analysis of an individual’s handwriting script is so accurate it can even be used to spot early signs of mental illness such as schizophrenia.
“Three or four people on the board of any large company are likely to exhibit schizoid tendencies observable in their handwriting because of the constant stress and pressure they have to cope with,” says Rees. Graphology can also be used to gauge to what extent people in a team are likely to be able to co-operate with one another.
The world’s special forces such as Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) have also discovered the usefulness of graphology.
“I have helped not only in the SAS recruitment process but also in matching personality profiles. For example, if three guys are going on a mission together it is important to know the level of friction likely to occur between their different personalities as SAS soldiers often have high aggression levels and it is important they do not fall out when on active operations,” explains Rees.
Business is also increasingly turning to graphology as a way of screening incoming staff. According to KCS’ findings, four-fifths of malicious cyber attacks come from inside an organisation.
Although graphologists can often tell something of a subject’s personality from a few lines or even words of their handwriting, a longer sample is needed for an accurate reading and a full personality profile would take a graphologist at least four hours to complete.
While graphology is a useful indicator of a potential weakness or character flaw, it should be seen as only a part of a more thorough background check. Companies, governments and security agencies across the world have long realised the effectiveness of handwriting analysis in vetting and screening key personnel. It should, however, always be used in conjunction with a combination of other screening tests.
Stuart Poole-Robb is chief executive and founder of strategic intelligence and risk company KCS Group.