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The Halo Effect: Interviewing Under the Influence

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by Erin Devlin

about 2 years ago

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Have you ever walked into an interview and immediately thought, 'Yes, she's the one!' or 'Yes, this is the company for me!'?  Some people call this instinct or 'just knowing', that feeling of meeting someone that reflects your values and attitudes.  It might be that you can see how they could immediately add value to your company, or that if you work together you'll get on famously. 

Partly this is instinct, but don't be fooled – you may have fallen victim to The Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is powerful. It can take hold of you and your judgement like a runaway train.  It can cloud all of 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 lift the veil just a little bit and let some of your critical thinking peek through. In technical terms, The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias in which the observer's existing view of a person, brand, product or company can influence their thoughts and feelings about the person or entity's character or properties.  

Psychologist Edward Thorndike first coined the term in 1920 in reference to a person being perceived as having a halo around them. It's easy to do in interviews, particularly if you've put a lot of time and effort into the recruitment process.  You can walk into a room and just want the person to be right.  'Please be the one,' you're thinking!  At people2people, from time to time we're the same – we just want the next candidate to be the right one for our client.  

Fortunately, professionalism helps us to sweep this aside and ensure that we don't just see the positives, but also dig into areas that require further investigation. The Halo Effect can also come into play for candidates assessing companies.  

You might walk into the interview and hit it off with the interviewer, but remember to ask some key questions to critically assess the company's fit for you.  Are you letting your excellent rapport with the interviewer cloud your judgement of the company? Many interviews can start with a feeling that you’ve fallen victim to The Halo Effect. The question you need to ask yourself is:  'Is this The Halo Effect?  Or have I found the right candidate/company?'

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