Avoiding the Halo Effect During the Recruiting Process

Make sure you’re not blinded by first impressions.

By Krista Pouncy-Dyson
Founder of DiversityEmployed.com
February 15, 2021 at 2:00 pm

The halo effect is the process of assessing someone’s character based on one — or just a few — known traits. The halo effect has the capacity to work in an individual’s favor or against them. In this scenario, a person’s positive or negative trait creates a halo for an overall impression for that person in the absence of more concrete information.

Here are some examples of the types of thoughts that signal the Halo Effect in the recruiting activities you may be involved in:

  • ”She seems more reserved in comparison to the other employees. I think someone else would be better suited for the managerial position.”
  • ”When I went in for my final interview, the director didn’t even shake hands. I don’t think I want to work for this company.”
  • ”I love how this candidate dressed for the interview. I’m sold.”

Writing for Healthline.com, Kristeen Cherney provides this example:

The halo effect is regularly in effect at places of work, too. You might assume a formally dressed co-worker has a good work ethic. On the flipside, another co-worker in casual clothing might be judged as not having the same work ethic, though this could be completely untrue.

The halo effect prompts us to put too much stock into what lies on the surface. Whether it stems from a first impression or an anecdotal fact, the halo effect prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

If you want to avoid the halo effect during the recruiting process, here are a few suggestions:

  • Be Aware: Slow down when it comes to assessing a candidate or an organization. Make sure you’re still giving the situation a chance to work beyond your first impression.
  • Ask Questions, Question Others: Inquire with your candidate or the hiring manager and give them a chance to challenge what you are learning.
  • Get Educated: Probe further with your peers to help you understand or re-contextualize your experiences. Things aren’t always what they seem.
  • Take Action! Make sure to encourage others involved in the recruiting process to keep an open mind, even if the interview doesn’t start strong.

Krista Pouncy-Dyson is the founder of DiversityEmployed.com and managing principal for Performance First Digital, a marketing agency in New Orleans. You can connect with the author on LinkedIn.

Learn More About the Halo Effect & Diversity

Illustrations of the Halo Effect by Author Terry Williams