Mobile devices like tablet, computer or smartphones have crucial impacts. Personnel selection is not excluded from that evolution. There are many advantages of mobile and Internet recruiting, but there is also a shady side: Touchscreens, social networks and online application forms threaten an old-fashioned, strange procedure of personnel selection Graphology.
This method, which is almost as traditional as interpreting inkblots for psychological assessments, is becoming extinct.
The doubtful bases of Graphology
This dying selection method addresses all that handwriting can display – or seem to display – about the writer: personality, intelligence, spirit, strength and weaknesses — only some of which are postulated by graphologists. Applications should appear in educational contexts, marriage counseling, and business contexts – business contexts? That is correct – Selection decisions [can be] based on graphology.
Historical roots of Graphology
In contrast to other slightly doubtful selection procedures like phrenology (interpreting skull forms), graphology appeared quite late, because skulls are there by nature, while handwriting required alphabetization of a large population. Alphabetization of a society is the reason why graphology appeared in the 19th century, which was later inspired and influenced by Freud. Today, there are still many graphologists that provide their services for personnel selection. This is raising the question about how widespread graphology really is. We will come back to that, but first take a look how graphology works.
What do graphologists analyse? How widespread is graphology?
According to major graphologists, they can analyse everything that is handwritten and has more than 5 (!) words. Whether or not this is true for electronic writing devices is not clear yet, but what is the correct interpretation of a specific handwriting, anyway? Unfortunately, every graphologist has his own interpretation. One popular schemata is to distinguish three writing zones — the upper, middle and the lower — each zone representing one of the domains suggested by Freud. The upper zone represents the super-ego, the middle zone represents the ego, and the upper zone represents the id (the dark drives). So be careful if you are lousy at writing the letters g, q, or y! Otherwise, you will be seen as a barbaric, prehistoric human in the eyes of a graphologist when you apply for an IT position.
The bigger your handwriting, the better… !
The bigger one’s handwriting, the bigger one’s will. That is one other popular conclusion of analysing handwriting. But I remember hearing something similar before – Ah yes, I think it came from phrenology or some random talk show. They said something like: the bigger the nose of a man, the bigger… you get the point.
Another interpretation of handwriting addresses how crowded or opened-up letters are. If the letters of your handwriting are crowded, then you probably have a lack of social belonging. If your handwriting has a tendency to go down at the end of the line, then you have probably a major depression, so you should probably go get some help.
BREAKING NEWS: There is no relationship between results from graphology and job performance
Compared to other silly procedures of selection, there is a substantial amount of studies that address the validity of graphology for selection decision. Schmidt & Hunter (1998) summarized the obvious result: there is no relationship between what a graphologist predicts about a candidate’s aptitude and their eventual on-the-job performance (Surprise, surprise!). Graphology is a total failure for selection. Other studies came up with the some result and concluded that it is time to write-off graphology (Driver et al., 1996).
France at the edge? Graphology should have some distribution there
How widespread graphology actually is in personnel selection is completely overestimated. But the myth is still resisting. The country with the highest distribution should be France. A study by Bangerter et al. (2009) cited a survey that “showed” 38% to 98% of all companies in France to be using graphology, but concluded that this number is much too high. Maybe that is one of the reasons for the decline of the French economy. Anyway, more serious estimations talk of less than 5%.
A statement by the International Graphonomics Society
The International Graphonomics Society (IGS) represent researchers that work on identifying relationships between the planning and generation of handwriting and drawing movements and other basic work. In regard to the usage of graphology in personnel selection, they published the following statement:
“Although the use of handwriting analysis in making personnel selection decisions has a very long history, the evidence available to date fails to support this practice. […] the use of graphological judgments as personnel selection is much less effective than several other readily available personnel selection methods…”Simner & Goffin (2003, p. 361)
- Bangerter, A., Konig, C. J., Blatti, S., & Salvisberg, A. (2009). How Widespread is Graphology in Personnel Selection Practice? A case study of a job market myth. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 17(2), 219-230.
- Driver, R. W., Buckley, M. R., & Frink, D. D. (1996). Should we write off graphology? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 4(2), 78-86.
- Kanning, U. P. (2010). Von Schädeldeutern und anderen Scharlatanen. Unseriöse Methoden der Psychodiagnostik. Lengerich: Papst Science Publishers.
- Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262-274. doi: 10.1037//0033-2909.124.2.262.
- Schuler, H., Hell, B., Trapmann, S., Schaar, H., & Boramir (2007). Die Nutzung psychologischer Verfahren für die externale Personalauswahl in deutschen Unternehmen. Ein Vergleich über 20 Jahre. Zeitschrift für Personalpsychologie, 6 (2), 60-70.
- Simner, M. L., & Goffin, R. D. (2003). A position statement by the international graphonomic society in personnel selection testing. International Journal of Testing, 3(4), 353 – 364.