Secretarial: The pen is mightier than the CV

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The Independent Culture
WATCH OUT for requests for hand-written application forms. It spells one thing - graphology: the study of handwriting and how a person's character is revealed through the way they write.

Originally developed by a French priest in the last century, it is now estimated that six per cent of UK employers use it as a way of assessing job applicants.

The size and shape of the letters, slant, pressure and even the spaces between words contribute to the analysis. "We might look for how emotionally stable someone is and what is likely to stress them," explains professional graphologist Bernadette Keefe. "Also, how they manage their thought processes, whether they're analytical or operate more holistically." One thing graphology admits it can't measure, however, is intelligence.

THE FOUR o'clock chocolate run is an institution in most offices. Yet caffeine, in the form of a Kit Kat or a cup of coffee, only serves to nurture a workforce of jangling, stressed people, claims Patrick Holford, the founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.

Snacks that are high in fat, sugar and salt all contribute to yet more imbalance in soaring and crashing energy levels.

GPs report that record numbers of people who eat such foods describe their symptoms as "having an underlying tiredness almost all the time". Having realised that bad diet increases sick days and decreases productivity, employers are increasingly offering information to employees on nutrition and making canteen food healthier. One can only hope their plans make exceptions for the festive season.

ON THE subject of health, corporate gyms and company sports clubs are apparently becoming as appealing to job-seekers as pensions and health insurance.

The Ultimate in Fitness Ltd (which supplies exercise equipment) reports that demand from corporate clients has increased by 100 per cent in the last five years, while Granada Health and Fitness (which manages company gyms) reports that this area of its business is seeing an annual growth rate of 21 per cent. And signing up won't just give you big biceps and a trim tum. Research shows that being seen to exercise and play sport also sends the right messages out at work. It shows you're a positive person and that you recognise the value of having balance in your life. In addition, working out with colleagues can be good for business: it breaks down barriers and fosters a team spirit. Anyone for tennis?

MOST EMPLOYEES think they should be allowed to use the Internet at work, with senior managers topping the chart of those who think sending personal e-mails is acceptable, according to a new study.

Sixty-five per cent of staff believe they should have the right to personal use of their office Internet systems. The survey, by, found that four in 10 admit to having already made use of their employer's system, and the same proportion believe that such use should not be a sackable offence.

The most common Net activities in the workplace are personal e-mail and visiting web sites. Four per cent admit they have visited pornographic sites - a severe disciplinary offence in most organisations.

IF YOU'VE got initiative, strong interpersonal skills and can adapt to different working environments, you may have what it takes to win the national title of Office Angels' "Temporary of the Year". It's the first ever such competition and is launched this month.

Each regional winner will go on to take part in the UK final in February 2000. Research shows that employers identify the key personal attributes required by a successful temp to be: thinking on your feet and showing initiative (60 per cent); being a good communicator (50 per cent); flexibility (40 per cent); presentation (20 per cent). The prize? A night for two at the premier health spa resort Hoar Cross Hall.