Graphology is 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 sometimes used today as a way of assessing job applicants.
Professional graphologist Bernadette Keefe estimates that six per cent of UK employers consult graphologists for this purpose. But, she says, applicants shouldn't feel nervous at such scrutiny.
"It's not our place to go prying into the bad parts of someone's character. We only assess what is relevant to the job. It's usually to the person's advantage. Someone could be brilliant at the job but not have the social skills to put it across at the interview."
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," Ms Keefe continued. "Also, how they manage their thought processes, whether they're analytical or operate more holistically. But graphology can't show you the quantity of intelligence. I always recommend using it as an adjunct to other tests."
But can graphology help individuals assess their own career potential? To this end, Ms Keefe analysed the handwriting of Hazel Montgomery.
Hazel, 34, has an arts degree and has worked in a number of administrative positions, none of which she has particularly enjoyed. Now temping, she plans to return to college to qualify as a dance teacher.
Ms Keefe asked for notes, doodles and a letter written on plain paper. She also requested Hazel's CV. In hindsight, she felt more samples would have made the task easier. "With some people, their writing tells you that they're suited to a particular kind of work," she explained. "But Hazel's shows she could be capable of a number of jobs. It's useful to work with more examples in this case.
"Her writing is legible, rapidly done and simplified. This tells us that she grasps the overall picture quickly and just gets on with things. She doesn't complicate things and make a fuss.
"The way it moves across the page tells us she's not in a hurry," Bernadette continued. "Emotions are allowed in when she's ready but she doesn't rush headlong into anything. She's not driven.
"Hazel needs to enjoy what she does and as long as teaching dance is enjoyable for her, I can see that she might do it very well."
Bernadette produced a written report on her findings. The travel or fitness industry, teaching, marketing and media production were suggested as possible areas of employment, some of which Hazel has already worked in.
Bernadette suggested a third party comment. Hazel's friend, company director David Gilmour, said: "I think the report presents quite a good picture of her. It reflects the fact that she's dynamic and thrives on novelty and change. Hazel's very good at getting new jobs but she doesn't always stick with them.
"She does have good verbal skills and it's true that she just takes a brief and gets on with it. And she is very determined.
"As an employer myself, I would find this report quite useful if someone was applying for a job. It would tell me much more than the usual platitudes you get in a reference. But I don't know whether this tells Hazel anything she didn't already know."
Hazel was sceptical about the need to provide a CV, but she felt the analysis was "fairly accurate. It's underlined a lot of things I already think about myself."
The need to be physically active, her attraction to "novelty and amusement" and a tendency to start more than she finishes, as outlined by Bernadette, all rang true. "She also said I need a lot of personal space and freedom, which is definitely true."
Hazel disagreed with the description of herself as a team player, however, and although she thought there was some truth in her "impulsive criticism and wild mood swings", this was not, she felt, "wild enthusiasm to despair".
"It's interesting and quite a good description of my character," Hazel concluded, "but I don't feel it's given me any more focus. But maybe I will give some more thought to some of the points."
Bernadette Keefe can be contacted on 0181-464 3505. The London College of Graphology is on 0181-876 5338; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.Reuse content