The Halo Effect. What is it and how to avoid it.


The halo effect was first defined by Edward Thorndike who became very popular through the book that Phil Rosenzweig wrote  “The Halo Effect”

What is the halo effect?

It is a cognitive unconscious bias by which the perception of a particular characteristic is influenced by similar situations and a sequence of interpretations of those situations and characteristics.

Ok, and what does that really means? the halo effect is the theory that says that your brain will tell you everything you recognise a group of actions or a characteristic in someone that you have lived that before and the result will be the same.

Meaning that if you see someone who looks alike with your best friend, you will automatically be more inclined to be nice to that person that if they had a different appearance.

How does this affect you when applied to your company or human resources?

Unfortunately it has a big effect and most people don’t realise. They will say things like, it’s my gut, I have a 6th sense for these things, I know if a business will go well or not, or if a candidate is good or not at the moment I see them.

These kind of thoughts will cause you huge problems if you are not aware of them.

NO, that doesn’t happen to me!

I am happy to hear that, but keep reading, just in case! 🙂

Have you ever seen yourself on a situation where you suddenly discover that a person went to your same school, different years, you didn’t even meet back there, but suddenly you feel about that person in a different way. They may be similar to you, and that is of course a good thing, so they may work similarly to you, as they are like you. So if they work well, why not hiring them, or do business with them?

The first thing that a networker knows is to find a common thing with the other person, so they will feel closer to you and more open to listen to you.

Do you play golf? So do I! where? Really? do you know Mark? Yes, Mark and I do business together! What an small world! and that’s it. You have a new friend and someone who will be able to get your attention easily.

the same happens in Recruitment. We tend to hire people who are similar to us, people who did a similar itinerary. Those who were excellent at school tend to hire people with great grads and they really value it on a CV when looking for graduates. They look for someone like them 20 years ago.

Managers who worked in consultancy, like the Big 4, tend to look only for people coming from there. The same happens with self -made man or women, they always look for those who had problems in the beginning and made a career out of effort and hard work.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with hiring those profiles. They are all fantastics. However, if you only tend to hire one kind of profile, your company will be very close minded, and you may hiring candidates who don’t fit your initial requirements.

Ideally, when doing a recruitment process and your team does the first job analysis, they will be looking for certain skills to master certain tasks, that are the origin of the selection process.

Big companies can afford to hire someone and find them something to do because they are nice. Unfortunately you, as an SME Owner, can not afford the luxury of hiring someone who will not be helping with the tasks needed.

How do I avoid it?

Being aware of the problem is the first step to solve it. 🙂

To avoid hiring by halo effect it is important that you follow an structured recruitment process, How to make a more efficient recruitment process? it goes from writing the job description to the offering of employment. We wrote a post on the recruitment steps that you can follow.

Once you have clarified your needs, and you are sure that you know the type of skills and knowledge that you need, don’t take for granted that someone has the knowledge because “with this CV, they know for sure”, or “they must have done it in this X role that they are working at”

It may be, but don’t take it for granted, check with a test or by competency based interviews.

While reviewing job applications and selecting those that you will be calling, review them again. It is usually very helpful to discard first, reject those that you don’t want for sure. Once you have those that could be good candidates, review again and make your top 10 list. Make sure that you have different profiles on those top CVs, it will be easier then to have a successful interview process if you can really compare candidates.

One of the key factors to avoid being unfair or to avoid the Halo effect is to list all the skills and knowledge that you need them to have.

Once they are on a list, you can evaluate candidates while conducting interviews on a scale from 1 to 5.Add the numbers and give each candidate a punctuation. You will probably have a winner.

If you have 2 candidates who have the same punctuation and you like one more than the other, it is ok! you are a human being, give the job offer to the one that you have something in common with. Just don’t evaluate on it!

One last thing before we finish. It is important that potential candidates fit the company culture, so don’t over do and attract job seekers that you know they won’t fit. Just be aware of the situation, and make sure your correct processes help you to take the right decissions at your business.

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