Recruitment and Selection: The ‘Halo Effect’

22 March 2016


What is the ‘Halo Effect’?

According to The Cambridge Dictionary[i], the ‘Halo Effect’ describes the way in which our first impression of a person, based on a particular quality or feature, influences our opinion of his or her character. This means that you are likely to attribute positive traits – such as being intelligent, kind and trustworthy – to someone you immediately consider to be likeable. However, the ‘Halo Effect’ can also work in the opposite way, known as the ‘Horns Effect’. This occurs when a person’s initial feeling about someone is negative, and as such they tend to ignore any of their positive characteristics and concentrate only on the unfavourable ones.

What role does it play in recruitment?

This brilliant article by The Economist explains the psychological process and how it has a growing influence on business and recruitment:

Today, we tend to make judgments about people we meet very quickly based on our first impressions, and an interview situation is no exception.

An interviewer’s first perceptions of a candidate can lead them to subconsciously make assumptions about the candidate, meaning that the interviewer is likely to overvalue attributes of candidates that they view positively, and undervalue those they have a more negative opinion of.

How can you use the ‘Halo Effect’ to your advantage?

This psychological bias occurs naturally and is inevitable. It does seem unfair, but there are ways to use it to your advantage in an interview!

It is crucial to create a good first impression, so be friendly and look presentable. Smile, give a firm handshake and keep eye contact.

Try starting the interview with a positive statement, as this helps the interviewer to form a good impression of you; even if you are nervous try to be confident.

Try to engage with the interviewer as much as possible by asking them interesting and relevant questions.

Be yourself and try and enjoy the experience!