Bias Eraser #1: The Halo Effect in Business

Not too long ago, I was hiring for a key position in my organization. After a number of so-so candidates, I became enamored with a certain candidate before ever meeting her. Quite honestly, she stuck out because she was a Harvard grad. Even as a so-called expert in psychology, bias, and employee selection, I was blind to the fact that my enthusiasm to interview this candidate was based solely on a word in a resume.

Luckily, my team of rockstars was quick to call me out on my irrational exuberance. It was embarrassing but enlightening. I was perpetuating a bias in my hiring process. As I moved on from my Harvard crush, I quickly met and eventually hired someone with a less impressive pedigree, but a more impressive skill set. Lesson learned? Maybe...

We are all guilty of bias in one way or another. Our brains are amazing, but they are imperfect.

How does the Halo Effect Hurt Hiring in Business?

There are many great resources all over the internet that explain cognitive biases and how they develop. For a more in-depth understanding, check out very well mind’s detailed explanation.

Most biases are systematic thinking errors that occur when we process and interpret information in a way that affects our decisions and judgments. There are a lot of them (at least 100), and they can have a detrimental impact especially when hiring. These biases can lead to bad decisions and subpar talent. They also cause both individual and societal harm, because when biases create obstacles to career success, well-qualified people can become economically disadvantaged.

What is the Halo Effect in Business?

In my case, my ‘educational institution bias’ was a striking example of the Halo effect at work. More formally, the Halo effect is the tendency to form really strong positive impressions of an entire person based on a single characteristic or observed attribute. In most hiring contexts, it allows one good quality of an interviewee to cloud our perception of their bad qualities.

Examples of the Halo Effect in Business

Take, for example, someone who is funny, shows up on time, compliments us, or tells a powerful story about closing a sales deal. When the Halo effect is operating, we tend to tune out the negative information and become blind to risks. The candidate may have quit their last three jobs in record time. Maybe they discuss disliking all their managers or how they spent company money on a vacation. Due to the Halo Effect, we genuinely might not detect any of those red flags.

The Halo Effect can Influence People Differently

On top of that, the positive things we hear and focus on are often those qualities that we value. Therefore, when we have less in common with someone, we might find that nothing stands out to us at all. In other words, the Halo Effect can particularly disadvantage people who are different from us, potentially leading to poor diversity and unfair hiring.

How to Mitigate the Halo Effect in the Business World

Luckily, there are ways to erase the bias:

  1. De-emphasize the Resume: Resumes are a notorious source of bias. A person’s name often reveals gender or ethnicity. Institution names and education dates expose age and socioeconomic status. Company names, previous job titles, and fluffed-up experience might trigger the Halo effect. Resumes still have a place in hiring, but they should come later in the process to minimize bias.

  2. Enfuse Objective Assessments Early: Start your screening process the right way. Employ an objective assessment process like PerceptionPredict to gain bias-free insight into candidates’ likelihood of success. We design a Custom Fingerprint, and the candidate ranking uses the statistical relationship between people’s characteristics and success in the role to make precise predictions about future job performance. These features help eliminate the Halo Effect’s interference with hiring decisions.

  3. Use Structured Interviews: Reduce opportunities for bias by eliminating those unstructured, informal interviews. A solid structured interview process provides uniform questions for all candidates and a clear rating scheme on which to judge the quality of responses. This prevents non-job-related information from confounding talent decision-making. It offers a method for interviewers to rate the quality of candidates without distractions from biases like the Halo Effect.

It takes work to hire in a fair and unbiased manner. Doing it right brings in better talent and benefits society as a whole. Let me know when you want to get started.

Are you ready to forego those psychological tricks that divert attention away from the truly qualified candidates? Book a demo today to discover how Perception Predict eradicates confusion and bias to locate outstanding talent for your business.

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