But handwriting analysis is widely used in Europe by businesses looking for suitable employees and individuals seeking career advice.
In time, experts say, it may catch on in the United States as a legitimate way to match workers with jobs.
"This is the only tool, whether it's self-improvement or career guidance, that's totally objective," says Mark Hopper, president of Handwriting Research Corp. in Phoenix, Ariz., who has been poring over dotted i's and crossed t's for 20 years.
Psychological tests aren't as objective because they rely on information you provide and often conclude that what you've done in the past is what you would do in the future, he says.
"But handwriting analysts can't discern whether you're a man or woman, your age, race, education, background, all the things that most people judge you by," he says.
Tucson, Ariz., graphologist Heidi Harralson blames America's skepticism about handwriting analysis on the free-enterprise system. Harralson, president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, says quacks making wild claims give legitimate analysts a bad name.
"Anybody can do anything they want, and there is no licensing in graphology, so people can read a book and go start a business and make outrageous claims."
Handwriting can't tell a person's future, and it can't predict diseases, although some people would beg to differ. "But we can see the psychological condition of the writer at the time of the writing," says Harralson, who owns Spectrum Consultants. The company provides handwriting analysis in the areas of personnel screening and career counseling, document examination, jury selection and compatibility and personality assessment. "I wouldn't say anything's foolproof, but I think it's an extremely accurate way to measure someone's potential."
For the Arizona Republic, Harralson analyzed handwriting samples of Arizona State University theater major Michael Myer and Nikole Tomasi, a recent marketing graduate.
Myer, 21, enjoys computers, math and science and may open a lighting design business. His quick, energetic handwriting shows he's enterprising and extroverted, Harralson says, but inconsistencies in his writing signal immaturity.
Harralson advised him to get more experience before launching a business.
In contrast, Tomasi's handwriting is deliberate, the uppercase i's are small and the letters hang back. Although Tomasi, 25, is contemplating a career in acting or marketing, Harralson believes she isn't self-confident enough to succeed there.
"There's an artistic quality in her, but she's a background person, and acting and marketing require so much dynamism," she says.
Tomasi could develop more confidence for an acting career, but otherwise would do better in advertising, Harralson says.
Myer's only previous experience with handwriting analysis came when he borrowed a book from his junior high school library. He finds the topic interesting but thinks it's not the way to plan your future.
"I'm not planning to make any major career changes (due to Harralson's analysis)," he says.
Handwriting analysis does have a "carnival-type" stigma, says ASU career services director Elaine Stover. But Stover agrees it's useful for career planning.
"It's a measurement -- not the measurement -- of people's personalities and qualifications," she says. "But I think students want a quick fix. If the handwriting analysis aspect of it can be done quickly or online, it might take off."(c) 2001 The Detroit News
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