A Scottsdale businesswoman believes if a company wants to make sure it has crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in the hiring and promotion process, the firm should check how job candidates cross their t’s and dot their i’s.
Ellen J. Nusbaum, 44, is a graphologist. Graphologists say they can discern character traits by analyzing handwriting samples.
Nusbaum started a business that provides tools she hopes will be adopted by companies when they make hiring and promotion decisions.
"Yes, I’ll admit graphology is controversial, but it should definitely be used as a natural part of a company’s interviewing process," said Nusbaum, a long-time computer software engineer and marketing expert who has 10 years of experience with graphology. There is no certification or licensing of graphologists.
Nusbaum created HireByHandwriting.com, a business that has sold her copyrighted instructional booklets and other data to two local companies. She declined to name the companies.
Nusbaum plans to offer seminars and classes to help firms adapt graphology as part of their hiring, promotion and other in-house activities.
"Handwriting should not be the sole determining factor in hiring or promoting," Nusbaum said "But it should be an integral part of the interviewing process."
"We can identify through handwriting characteristics negative traits such as procrastination, a quick temper, and even whether someone is accident prone,’’ she said. "I recommend the company also ask the person being interviewed to sign a waiver acknowledging they are aware that their writing sample will be used for information — and possibly a decision affecting them — and that is okay with them."
Attorney Doug Tobler of the Phoenix law firm of Hammond & Tobler said a waiver would probably protect an employer from possible lawsuits.
"As far as I know, there is no law that prevents an employer from using graphology," said Tobler, whose firm represents mostly employers. "And if they got a waiver, it would protect the company.
"However, I wouldn’t recommend using graphology. It has no scientific basis."
Nusbaum’s positive view of graphology, meanwhile, is also challenged by at least two certified handwriting specialists.
John Hale, a forensic document examiner from Prescott Valley and a long-time member of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, called graphology "a parlor game."
Hale said using it to make a decision affecting the future of an individual is improper from a legal as well as a moral point of view.
"If somebody was not hired because of his or her handwriting, then I wish they would come to me," Hale said. "I would be willing to testify in court on their behalf — free of charge. That’s how strongly I feel about it."
Bill Flynn, a forensic document examiner in Phoenix who examines handwriting, inks and paper for court cases and testifies in civil and criminal cases said, "The courts have ruled that handwriting is a physical aspect of a person, like a fingerprint or (photo). If you deny a person a job or a promotion because of his or her physical aspects — which are defined by the courts to include gender and race — then you could be in a lot of trouble."
Flynn said he thought signing a waiver would likely not be legal nor protective.
Nusbaum said the list of graphologists is long and includes characters such as French psychologist Alfred Binet who, around the turn of the century, performed several experiments with handwriting analysis to test personality traits.
She said one of the first graphologists was the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Basically, graphologists such as Nusbaum believe that handwriting samples are under the direct influence of the central nervous system.
The written strokes, for example, reflect changes in the central nervous system, she said.
Nusbaum’s business offers booklets, including charts that are used by interviewers, that can provide information about personality traits of a potential new hire or an employee being considered for a promotion.
For example, the job candidates may be asked to write a paragraph or two about why they believe they would make a good employee.
The writing sample is then analyzed by the interviewer.
Her instructions include several, two-by-three inch cards that contain images and "traits" interviewers can use to make decisions.
One card titled "Red Flag Traits," shows a writing sample slanted to the right and down, which, according to Nusbaum, indicates the writer is depressed or pessimistic.
Another Red Flag is a t crossed from center to left and is longer on the left — a warning that the writer has a tendency to procrastinate, according to Nusbaum.
The stack of cards also contain "Positivity Traits," such as wide letters that shows the scribbler as being "Sociable."
A "Gold Star" trait shows writers who make a dot over an i are observant and those who make a dash over an i are enthusiastic.
Nusbaum graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Arizona in 1983 and worked for a time as a copy editor at the Mesa Tribune, forerunner of the East Valley Tribune. She said she became interested in graphology about ten years ago.
"I would talk about graphology at cocktail parties, but I never really thought about it as a business," she said.
That all changed last July while on family vacation in the Caribbean.
"I was laying on the beach when I suddenly had an epiphany," Nusbaum said. "I turned to my husband and told him about starting a company.
"Since then, I’ve prepared the materials, sold my products to a few companies and now I’m trying to expand.
"I want to make graphology a natural part of a business interviewing process. It, however, should not be the only determining factor, but it should be an integral part of the final decision — after assembling a candidate’s pool of information from a resumé, work history, etcetera."