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Otherworldly Assessment Methods To Choose the Right Employees

September 1, 1995
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Tim Rogers needed help. As head of the marketing department, he was responsible for finding the right person to fill one of the top positions in his marketing firm. After going over resume after resume and spending countless hours conducting group interviews, he still didn't have a clue. He liked the scholarly wit of one Harvard graduate with three years' experience in marketing research, but he just didn't know if the man was the best choice. To Rogers, decisions like this one don't come easily. After conferring with his company's hiring specialists, who informed him they were leaning toward another candidate, he was more confused than ever. So, he went straight to his business consultant—his psychic.

It may come as a surprise to some, but many corporate executives are exchanging business cards for tarot cards, in hopes of finding the right personnel. Although many executives are consulting psychics, this isn't the only alternative to resumes and interviews. Enneagrams, astrology and graphoanalysis are also being used by CEOs, vice presidents and HR professionals to make personnel decisions—even though they may not admit it.

So why aren't the traditional methods good enough anymore? Because executives realize that job seekers don't write everything there is to know about themselves on resumes. After all, they're trying to get the job. Execs also know that a quick trip to the library will provide all the tips for passing an interview with flying colors. Even if a person has nothing to hide, some execs want to dig a little deeper into the lives of their future employees to make sure they're a perfect match for their company. And if seeking an alternative hiring method will tell them more about applicants, the time, energy and money spent is well worth it.

Elaine Sara Peck is one psychic many business executives count on to put their minds at ease about hiring. "The people who come to see me are bankers, brokers and everything else in between," says Peck. "A few years ago, a vice president from a major bank in Newport Beach, California, came to see me. He had 20 different business cards of people he was thinking about hiring. So he showed them to me. Of course, I had never met any of those people before. And, I had never met him before either. He had a tape recorder, so I allowed him to tape the session. I took each card and gave him a soliloquy of everything I picked up. Of course, he immediately went back to the bank and played the tape for everyone. They thought he'd told me [before the interview] everything I had said about each person, but he didn't. Everyone there was amazed because I was able to get into personal aspects of people's lives."

Peck says when people enter her office with the right information, such as job applicants' names and birthdates, she'll tell whether the candidates are right for their organization. "I had a school principal here this morning. She had several names of people she believed weren't working up to par. She wanted to know how to handle the situation—so I offered her advice. Sometimes people are good at their jobs, but with the P's and Q's of hiring and firing, they need a little guidance," says Peck, who is currently writing a book entitled, "The Psychic Next Door." An appropriate title—Peck conducts her consultations at her home. "When people come into my room, they feel relaxed...as though they can tell me anything. But what happens in this room stays in this room," she says.

So what really happens when employers consult psychics? What specifically are they trying to find out about potential employees? Alexander Shaw (pseudonym), a real-estate developer who's been consulting Peck for 11 years, says he asks about candidates' honesty, integrity and aptitude. "She's very perceptive when it comes to people," says Shaw. Vince Towles, owner of Seacoast Distributing Inc., a Dana Point, California-based produce brokerage company, is witness to Peck's perceptiveness. Towles consults Peck approximately three times a year. If he's considering someone for a position in his company, he'll ask her to assess the candidate's dependability. "Sometimes we'll ask her what she thinks of a certain person. We'll ask her if this person will stay around for a while and if they're going to be a viable employee and someone we can hang on to," he says.

Hy Kaplan, co-owner of Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based Advisor Associates, a psychic team, says he can tell an employer even more than that. Advisor Associates offers companies that need someone's employment history with a complete assessment. "We address what job applicants' skill levels are, as well as whether they've worked in other places and why they left. We provide information that no one else can get," says Kaplan. In addition, Kaplan, with partner Phyllis Schwartz, says they can conduct any reading with just five pieces of information: name, age, gender, address and desired position. From this information, they assess whether the potential employee will be able to get along with other employees, and whether the person uses drugs or has serious emotional issues the company should be made aware of. Kaplan adds they can also tell if an applicant is in the process of a divorce or having an affair. "But that's private information we wouldn't reveal," he says.

Have they ever been wrong? Kaplan says if they have, he's not aware of it. In fact, he claims an accuracy rate of 93%, and would claim 100% if he had received results back from all their clients. But the 93% is enough for Kaplan to feel justified in charging companies $1,000 or more per assessment. "That's very cheap," he says.

But if consulting a psychic isn't in your future, maybe using the Enneagram is. An ancient Greek practice, the Enneagram is one of the newest hiring trends in today's business world. The Enneagram is a geometric figure that describes nine fundamental personality types. Based upon the answers to a lengthy questionnaire, a person's number, or type, is revealed.

For example, a person who's a three is classified as a Motivator—a strong, independent, team builder. But watch out—three's can also be competitive, image-conscious and overly concerned about the opinions of others. Personality type seven, the Generalist, is considered a busy, fun-loving, enthusiastic type, who might become an excessive maniac.

Employers can then choose the candidate with the personality type that best fits with their organization. However, Eric Neilson, an office manager at Enneagram Personality Types Inc., a New York City-based Enneagram consulting firm, warns that extensive training is necessary before the system should be used. "When you learn the system in depth, you'll be able to understand what the fears of each personality are and what motivates them," says Neilson. "With the Enneagram, you get a lot of information very fast. And, if you can determine a person's Enneagram type, you'll get a sense of his or her basic temperament."

Prices vary with each assessment. But the firm sells a brief questionnaire for $5 to anyone wanting a quick assessment. According to Neilson the questionnaire has an accuracy rate better than 80%.

Too complicated? Try astrology. Martha E. Ramsey, an astrologer and American Federation of Astrology research member from Arizona, knows several astrologers who counsel business executives looking for additional information on future employees. Although she once made that offer to a client, Ramsey says she doesn't provide that service because of the legalities of the issue. "The idea is not for the employer to make an employment decision based upon information obtained from an astrologer; that would be illegal," she says. "Because then the employer would be making a judgment based upon personal information, rather than qualification. And, it would always be questioned whether an employer made a hiring decision because a candidate's stars didn't match." Ramsey believes if employers find it necessary to consult astrologers, they should only ask to know whether or not the job candidate can work comfortably with the other employees.

If employers want to go the astrology route, they need a birthdate, birthplace and time of birth for an astrologer to make the applicant's chart. On each chart are three elements which dictate the personality type: the sun, the moon and the ascendant. The sun represents a person's ego and soul; the moon is the emotions and the habits; and the ascendant represents the facade the individual puts on for the world. From this chart Ramsey can also tell to what degree an individual uses the potential and creative energy he or she has.

Those searching for a more scientific approach to hiring may want to consider handwriting assessments. One such form of assessment is called Graphoanalysis. Graphoanalysis is a method of identifying an individual's personality by studying his or her handwriting. Bill Harms, director of instruction at the International Graphoanalysis Society in Chicago, says that by using special instruments, an analyst will measure how hard a person writes as well as the slant lines in each stroke of a person's writing to determine his or her emotional responsiveness. "If you seem phlegmatic and slow to react, your writing probably has upstrokes that go straight up and down. It's natural for most people to have a good forward slant to their writing, which means they're a common, emotional person on the inside, instead of a cool-headed, withdrawn person with a back slant," says the instructor, who adds that many Fortune 500 companies put faith in the system.

But Harms and the rest agree that no method is fail proof. Regardless of what type of system HR professionals use, they may still end up with a less-than-stellar employee. Until an absolute, 100% guaranteed hiring method is developed, new and inventive ways will continue to surface. So, with all these new hiring styles, will the traditional resume and interview eventually become obsolete? Who knows? It's hard to predict.

Personnel Journal, September 1995, Vol. 74, No. 9, pp. 66-67.

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