A psychologist or a psychic?

Which would you prefer in helping you to make key recruiting decisions?

A widely researched scientific approach that business psychologists use or one that is untestable and unproven (despite a $million challenge)?

Some sceptics might say there’s not much difference and that psychological testing is a bit woo-woo as well but there is plenty of evidence to show that using reliable and valid tests can help managers make rational decisions.

So how rational is it that, allegedly, corporations would spend good money on asking self-proclaimed psychics to assist them in making key decisions? According to a story in this weekend’s Sunday Times Appointments section there are people who claim to use their psychic powers to help companies make appointments and other investment decisions.

One of them, Rachel Willis, calls herself a Corporate Psychic Consultant. On her website, Psychic CEO, she claims that this practice is already embraced in America where one psychic, Laura Day, has been paid $10 million dollars over the last 6 years. Day charges clients $10,000 a month to be on call 24/7 to provide psychic advice and takes on 5 at a time.

She not only does financial work but works with Hollywood stars, advises lawyers on jury selection, and has run management courses for Seagate computing. She prefers to be called an intuitive rather than a psychic as she thinks people associate psychics with tea leaves and crystal balls.

And she’s not the only one over there. There’s someone who uses astrology to predict financial trends. And they all claim to have foreseen the economic downturn.

Willis wants to bring corporate psychics to the fore in the UK and like Day she prefers  to be called an intuitive rather than a psychic. When working on a recruitment assignment she says she tunes in to the job and uses the job specification before she tunes into the candidate but never sees their CV or speaks to them. She says she gets an intuitive sense of whether the person is right for the job (based on what, their name?)

On her website she says her clients are “those who get it and understand the positive power of intuition in business”. It also says “there is no woo-woo, magic or incense burning just a concise insightful information flow”. But click through from that site on her individual readings link and she tells you that she is “a channel for Ascended Masters, Angelic Realms, and Beings of Light” and that she is primarily guided by Archangel Michael. How woo-woo is that?

The other psychic mentioned in the Appointments article, Paul Lambillion, works in a similar way in that he asks for a fax containing just a job title (and what do they mean these days) and a list of candidates, again no CVs or personal contact. He then puts coloured blobs against each name as he considers whether they might be loyal, adaptable, intelligent etc.

He says he has a client in Liechtenstein (that’s the country with lots of investment bankers and the highest average per capita income in the world – $140,000) who has been using him for recruiting to senior roles for 15 years. But he’s not just a corporate psychic and  on his website he claims to use auras for individual readings, does distance readings, and also channels someone called Heartstar.

Now you might think that all of this is just weird. After all the French have been using graphology for years without any scientific proof it works. And you might think “so what” if companies are daft enough (although if that’s how they recruit investment bankers it makes you wonder).

A Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development spokesman said that they disagreed entirely with the practice and an employment lawyer pointed out that if a candidate complained of unfair selection they would be entitled to see all the paperwork and ask for reasons why they were not selected. So there might be a problem there providing evidence.

So is it a harmless fad? Well Willis also claims to be a food intuitive who can sort out your dietary problems, food intolerances and weight problems and that sounds potentially dangerous to me.

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