The Halo Effect: Interviewing Under the Influence

Have you ever stepped into an interview and immediately felt a strong sense of connection, thinking, ‘Yes, she’s the one!’ or ‘Yes, this is the company for me!’? Some people believe this is a matter of instinct or simply “knowing” when you meet someone who aligns with your values and attitudes. Perhaps you can envision how they would contribute value to your company right from the start, or you can sense a potential for great camaraderie if you were to work together.  While this may seem like your gut, be cautious as you may have unknowingly fallen prey to The Halo Effect.

The Halo Effect is powerful. It can take hold of you and your judgment like a runaway train. It can cloud all your objective thoughts and drown them in sugar-coated positives. Not to say that you can’t enjoy this feeling, but your life will be easier in the long run if you can take off the rose-colored glasses and truly assess the candidate or company you are interviewing with.

What is the Halo Effect?

In technical terms, The Halo Effect refers to a cognitive bias where a person’s preexisting view of an individual, brand, product, or company influences their thoughts and emotions about that entity’s character or attributes. Psychologist Edward Thorndike coined the term in 1920, likening the perception of a person to having a halo around them.

While interviewing candidates, succumbing to The Halo Effect is all too common, especially if you have invested considerable time and effort into the recruitment process.  You might enter a room fervently hoping that the person sitting across from you is the right fit. You silently plead, “Please be the one!”.  It’s important to sweep this aside and ensure that we don’t just see the positives, but also dig into areas that require further exploration.

The Halo Effect can also influence candidates when assessing companies. You might instantly establish a rapport with the interviewer, but it’s essential to ask key questions that critically evaluate the company’s suitability for you. Are you allowing your connection with the interviewer to cloud your judgment of the company?

Overcoming the Halo Effect

To overcome the Halo Effect, start by acknowledging its presence and consciously seek comprehensive information beyond initial positive impressions. Ask probing questions, ask questions that truly paid a picture of a day in the life, about expectations, specific and measurable previous work related accomplishments, employ a structured evaluation framework, and consider diverse perspectives to gain a balanced understanding. Take your time to reflect objectively, focusing on concrete evidence and achievements. By applying these strategies, you can minimize the influence of the Halo Effect and make informed, unbiased judgments. Approach evaluations with an open mind, challenging your initial perceptions to ensure fair assessments.

Ultimately, remember to ask yourself “Is this The Halo Effect? Or have I truly found the right candidate/company for me?”