Is the Halo and Horns Effect Influencing Your Hiring Decisions?

8 minutes read
Mar 04, 2022

Recruitment requires quite a set of skills, especially when making the right decisions with people. Even the resume can help you create first impressions and base your further choices around them.

Sometimes that initial hunch will prove to be the right one, but you’ll often find out much later that it was wrong. You could even end up hiring a person who quickly turns out to be a misfit for the company.

Luckily, there are ways to minimize the chances of bias during the initial phases of the selection process. With that said, let’s dive in deeper into the halo and horns effect in recruitment. 

The Definition of Halo

As the name implies, you get the first impression that someone is an “angel”. Top-notch resume, professional look, good references, a promising motivational letter. You think to yourself: “This will be a quick and easy quality hire!”. 

In other words, you subconsciously begin favoring the person based on facts that are not necessarily essential for the job opening you have. It’s similar to when you get a liking to someone who could potentially become your friend or partner but soon find out that you got a bit carried away. 

An American psychologist called Edward Thorndike invented the term “the halo effect” in the early 1920s. The idea behind it is that we tend to perceive “conventionally-attractive” people as more successful and competent than others.

Examples:

  • The candidate graduated from a prestigious university and has an exceptional work history within well-known companies.

  • They appear at the interview formally dressed and show great communication skills: smiling a lot, making you feel comfortable in their presence, etc.

  • Their physical appearance makes them seem very confident, and you think they will reflect that on their job responsibilities.

  • You associate closely with the person because of a game or music band interest that you share. Surely that means they are a good fit for the role… 

The definition of Horns

In this case, your intuition, a.k.a. subjectiveness, tells you that an applicant would not perform well or is not suitable for the position. That’s all based on the first impression of their resume or appearance and performance during the interview. 

Something that you most likely personally disagree with sets off the red flag and automatically puts other candidates in favor, who are perhaps much less qualified for the job opening. Prejudice does its work, and a potentially great talent gets left out.

Once again, this applies to other everyday situations where you get to meet other people and interact with them. At first, they might seem like their personality is not your cup of tea, but eventually, you become friends for life or something of the sort. 

Examples: 

  • The candidate’s resume is written poorly and without following some of the basic rules, such as a decent picture and formatting that is easy to read.

  • Their work experience is somewhat related to the project you are hiring for, but at the same time, short and scarce. 

  • They dress casually for the interview and act a bit shy. You barely get them to open up and get the information you need.

  • The physical appearance of the candidate makes you think that they are not active in sports and probably lack motivation for anything else.

How to Avoid the Halo and Horns Effect in Hiring Tech Talent

There are a lot of examples we could add to the lists above, but you get the bigger picture. There are two important things to avoid during a hiring process: bias and subjectiveness. 

It’s difficult to be objective in some moments but effective in the long run. You should always give yourself and your team enough time to get familiar with the candidate and make sure that you are making the right decision. Here are a few tips you could consider when recruiting tech talent:

Take Your Time

Your ultimate goal should be to go for long-term results - hire a candidate who will stay in the company and be a perfect fit for it. Patience is a virtue, so try not to jump to conclusions after the initial screening. 

One way to give all applicants an equal head start is to switch the selection phases like this:

  1. Technical Task

  2. Sending a Resume 

One way to give all applicants an equal chance is to disregard their resume before you test their skills first. If you do that, the Halo and Horns effect won’t have much influence on your decision once you meet them in the later stages of the selection process. You might still subconsciously favor other candidates, but you’ll be well aware of everyone’s potential job performance.

Make the Interview Objective

As soon as you begin digging into the applicant’s background, you might find something that will work in or against their favor. That’s why it’s good practice to prepare the same questions for everyone and stick to them. 

Again, you are minimizing the chance of being subjective and focusing more on their skills and what they can offer to the company. Hiring someone who fits the company culture is important but shouldn’t be the most viable criteria for a new employee. 

Team Up!

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to avoid bias is to conduct a candidate evaluation with a few of your colleagues. Up to three people would be perfect since more than that could be exhausting for the person you are interviewing. 

Your teammates’ opinions will help you determine whether your intuition about someone is right or wrong. They might notice the positives that you didn’t and vice versa.

How Does FatCat Select Handle the Halo and Horns Effect?

Our recruiters have years of experience in the industry, especially when hiring tech talent. They’ve all faced similar obstacles in recruitment at some point, and learned a lot from them.

Today, FatCat Select puts everything into practice and makes the most out of every recruitment process, whether it’s an internal one or for a client. If you would like to hear more about how we do it - feel free to reach out to our team and you’ll hear from us as soon as possible.

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