19 December 2020

Graphology in selection and assessment

Introduction

This article aims to answer critically to this question based on available peer-reviewed literature.

The article proceeds as follow. We will shortly introduce our source of information and give an overview of HR selection and assessment procedures. In the second segment, graphology, its use, its validity and its perception will be evaluated and explained considering different studies regarding the topic in question. In conclusion, the main results will be summarised.

Source of information

From PsycARTICLES, Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection, PsycINFO, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection we have searched for "Graphology, selection and recruiting" we have selected only academic articles and peer-reviewed. We have chosen the first articles for relevance.

Aims H.R. selection and assessment

A selection and assessment process aims to predict the performance of the candidate. In particular, a selection process (or tool) is said to be valid (criterion-validity) if it can predict the outcome (i.e. performance) of the candidate. The strength of the prediction is usually measured with a number, ranging from 0 to 1. Usually, below 0.3 is considered low, form 0.3 and 0.5 medium, and above high.

Also, the process of selection and assessment aims to be fair to give equal opportunity to all candidates, plans to satisfy the different organisational needs and is based on the idea that human behaviour can be observed and explained by researchers and tests, both of which are neutral and objective.

Graphology and its use in different countries

'Graphology is the art or science of deducing personality descriptions or behaviour predictions from a sample of an individual's handwriting' Clark, (1993).

 In the USA and U.K. Graphology, used as a selection method, is hardly used, contrary to prevalent references (Dean, 1992; Neter & Ben-Shakhar, 1989).  On the other hand, in France, it appears to be used between occasionally and often (Ryan et al., 1999). As a matter of fact, graphology in this country is a more popular technique than psychometric testing (Clark, 1993). In France, intuitive and interpretative approaches are preferred (Shackleton & Newell, 1991). Further to this, according to the research conducted by König et al. (2010), 15.8% of personnel selection procedures used in German-speaking Switzerland involve graphology despite its remote validity.

This chart by Clark (1993) indicates the percentage of use of graphology in France, Germany, Italy and the U.K.

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Is graphology a valid selection method?

It is essential to evaluate a method's criterion-validity (does this method predict what we expect in terms of performance?) and reliability (refers to the extent to which the method measure consistently on different occasions). Assessing candidates with mixed methods is a commonly used strategy to implement incremental validity. 

The table below is part of a paper written by Robertson and Smith (2001), which is one of the most comprehensive reviews of the methods available to select and assess new personnel. Not a lot of new information has emerged in terms of comparing selection methods in the last years.

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In this table, the method's predictive validity (criterion-validity) is examined. Graphology score is .02. Cognitive ability tests score .56, setting it as about 28 times stronger predictor tan graphology for future performance.

Simner & Goffin (2003) conducted a thorough analysis of graphology comparing a great deal of literature available and contacting a group of graphologists. They conclude that there is no reason to counter the conclusion the scientific community has reached that (1) the use of graphology in human selection could prove harmful to individuals and firms and (2) the criterion-related validity is not comparable to widely available and less expensive screening devices and procedure. (Simner & Goffin, 2003).

Besides, Simner & Goffin (2003) estimate that a financial loss that an organisation would suffer due to the use of a graphology test would be 501,759 $ for the selection of 10 computer programmers. 

Also, Simner & Goffin (2003) report the official position statement of the International Graphonomic Society: "Although the use of handwriting analysis in making personnel selection decision has a very long history, the evidence available to date fail to support this practice. Whereas the International Graphonomic Society does not wish to recommend any particular personnel selection device, the Society does not recommend that firms that wish to continue to employ the service of graphologists should exercise extreme caution when accepting their judgements and carefully consider the scientific evidence, which, on balance, suggest that the use of graphology judgments for personnel selection is much less effective than several other readily available personnel selection methods".  (Simner & Goffin, 2003, p 361).

What is the candidate's reaction to a graphology test?

Another interesting aspect worth mentioning is the applicant's reaction to graphology.

In the paper by Anderson et al. (2010) applicant reactions to popular methods of employee selection were reported; the sample included participants from 17 countries. The results proved that the least preferred selection methods considering employees' views were honesty tests, personal contacts, and graphology. In the same way, in the study by Hoang et al. (2012), the aim was to 'explore the differences in applicant reactions to various selection methods in the United States and Vietnam. The results once again reported graphology as the least favourable selection method in both countries.  Liu et al. (2016) used a sample of 294 Chinese graduates to test their perception with regards to the use of graphology as a selection and assessment method. They found that not only graphology was the most unfavourable one, but it was also considered to be unfair. Similarly, Hausknech et al. (2004) demonstrated that applicants rated graphology unfavourably with the lowest grade compared to the other categories such as interviews, work samples, resumes, references, cognitive ability personality tests, biodata, personal contacts and honesty tests.

This table by Arnold et al. (2016) suggests that is not just the scientific proprieties of the method that needs to be taken into consideration during the design of a selection process. Still, there is a recognition that applicant reactions are essential as well. The study demonstrates that graphology (in this case identified as 'Handwriting') has a 'low' criterion-related validity which means that the method does not predict essential criteria. Furthermore, applicants' reaction has been described as 'negative to moderate', and the extent of use is 'low'.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, this article has important implications for organisations interested in changing personnel selection methods using more valid procedures. The use of graphology varies from country to country, but, the evidence available up to this date fails to support the practice of handwriting analysis. For this reason, organisations may want to consider avoiding the use of graphology as a selection tool as they are more likely to cause financial loss and have adverse applicant reactions, rather than positive benefits, for organisations.

References

Anderson, N., Salgado, J. F., & Hülsheger, U. R. (2010). Applicant reactions in selection: Comprehensive meta‐analysis into reaction generalisation versus situational specificity. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(3), 291-304.

Arnold J, Silvester J, Patterson F, et al. Work psychology: understanding human behaviour in the workplace. London: FT Prentice Hall, 2016. 

Clark, T. (1993). Selection methods used by executive search consultancies in four European countries: A survey and critique. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 1(1), 41-49.

Dean, G.A. (1992) The Bottom Line: Effect size. In: Beyerstein, B.L. and Beyerstein, D.F. (eds), The Write Stuff: Evaluations of graphology, the study of handwriting analysis. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, pp. 269–341. 

Hausknecht, J. P., Day, D. V., & Thomas, S. C. (2004). Applicant reactions to selection procedures: An updated model and meta‐analysis. Personnel Psychology, 57(3), 639-683.

Hoang, T. G., Truxillo, D. M., Erdogan, B., & Bauer, T. N. (2012). Cross‐cultural Examination of Applicant Reactions to Selection Methods: United States and Vietnam. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20(2), 209-219.

König, C. J., Klehe, U. C., Berchtold, M., & Kleinmann, M. (2010). Reasons for being selective when choosing personnel selection procedures. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(1), 17-27.

Liu, X., Potočnik, K., & Anderson, N. (2016). Applicant reactions to selection methods in China. International Journal of Selection and Assessment,24(3), 296-303.

Neter, E. and Ben-Shakhar, G. (1989) The Predictive Validity of Graphological Inferences: A meta-analytic approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 737–745. 

Ryan, A.M., McFarland, L., Baron, H. and Page, R. (1999) An International Look at Selection Practices: Nation and culture as explanations for variability in practice. Personnel Psychology, 52, 359–391.

Robertson, I. T., & Smith, M. (2001). Personnel selection. Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, 74(4), 441-472.

Shackleton, V., & Newell, S. (1991). Management selection: A comparative survey of methods used in top British and French companies. Journal of occupational psychology, 64(1), 23-36.

Simner, M. L., & Goffin, R. D. (2003). A position statement by the International Graphonomics Society on the use of graphology in personnel selection testing. International journal of testing, 3(4), 353-364.

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