Some people won't leave home without consulting their horoscope, and some CEOs won't hire anyone without getting a handwriting analysis. There's no law that says you have to be rational in your management decisions; you could consult entrails, so long as the results didn't discriminate against protected minorities. And like horoscopes, which can seem eerily accurate -- " 'Talented, driven' . . . it's as if she knew me!" -- graphoanalysis has won over many people.

Count Stephen Ransom among them. The president of $4-million Ransom Environmental Consultants in Newburyport, Mass., budgets a few thousand dollars a year for handwriting analysis -- to use not just for screening job seekers but for team building, promotions, and more.

When hiring or promoting, Ransom faxes a candidate's writing samples to his graphologist, along with a loose job description. For $75, his consultant delivers -- by phone and within an hour -- a thorough report on what the writing reveals about that person's character, along with a prediction of how well the subject will juggle the demands of the position. Ransom says that the system works because the graphologist, Judi Piani of Piani, Carter & Grater, in Wilmington, Mass., knows the company and its 46 employees.

That familiarity also helps Piani settle office disputes. When employees lock horns, she reviews their writing samples and meets with those involved to help figure out how the dynamics of the team, the hierarchy, or the positions themselves can be tailored to everyone's liking.

In 1992, when Ransom moved to a team-based management structure, a graphologist analyzed employees' scribblings. For the most part, her analyses confirmed Ransom's impressions and that helped him put together teams that work smoothly.

Perhaps graphology is bunk, and maybe Ransom's graphologist is just a talented amateur psychologist with a shtick. But it works for Ransom. -- Reported by Karen E. Carney

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Resource: Testing: The Limits

Handwriting analysis and other slightly less dubious tests appeal to harried CEOs looking for a quick solution -- and a reassuring method -- for their most vexing problem, hiring. Although research on the efficacy of psychological tests is sketchy, about 15% of CEOs subject job candidates to personality tests.

Much of the research into tests has been done by test publishers themselves, so it's good to see an independent critique, Workplace Testing (AMACOM, New York City, 1994, $49.95), by Diane Arthur. Though the 247-page book is a bit much for busy managers, they will benefit from a quick read of the chapters on psychological, personality, and integrity tests.

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