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How to reduce Halo and Horns effects and improve recruitment?

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No matter how hard we try, no one is totally objective. But, when hiring staff for a company, we must ensure that the selection is made as objectively as possible, without the biases of the recruiter influencing the choice of one person or another. there are many cognitive biases. Reducing the Halo and Horns effects, one of the examples of cognitive biases, is of great importance in the personnel selection process. For this reason, it is necessary to be aware of what they are, and apply measures that help to alleviate their consequences.

Cognitive biases: negative and positive

When we meet a person, it is possible that based on certain attributes or personal characteristics of this person, we get an idea of what they should be like. What is at work here is the cognitive bias.

Our brain uses previous experience to help us form an image of what that person should be like. But what our head tells us does not necessarily have to coincide with reality.

For example, if we hear that someone comes from a disadvantaged neighborhood in a big city, we will surely end up thinking that it is a person with little education and conflict. However, we may be dealing with someone with a good cultural and educational level, responsible and hard-working.

What happens in this case is that our cognitive bias has created a prejudice. But be careful, because prejudices can also be positive.


Let us now imagine that a company receives the CV of a person who has obtained his degree from a prestigious university. Based on that information, the recruiter will think that you are a serious and responsible candidate. However, it could happen that that person has obtained his title based on copying in exams and acquiring from other students the works that he has been delivering. In other words, it is the complete opposite of what the coach thought of him at first. 

In the latter case, just because we are aware of a good piece of information, we have already formed a positive idea about a person. While in the first case, just the opposite has happened.

What we think of someone, and reality, can be very different, for better or worse. Precisely for this reason, we must eliminate cognitive biases as much as possible and objectify the selection process. We'll start by working with the Halo and Horns effects.

What is the Halo effect?

It is a bias that leads us to judge a person positively based on a few data or the perception we have of it. 

It occurs in the case that we have just seen, the one in which we create an ideal image of a person just for knowing that he had studied at a good university. But it also happens when the candidate for a job looks impeccable during the interview.

It has been shown that if we see a well-dressed and well-groomed person, we immediately think well of them. We are even going to attribute qualities such as kindness or sympathy.

What is the Horns effect?

Just the opposite. In this case we appreciate certain characteristics in the other person, or we have certain information, which leads us to think ill of her

Suppose a candidate has been having a coffee before entering the interview and has stained it. The recruiter may think that he is in the presence of someone careless, when perhaps the person in front of him is very neat, and his current appearance is due to a mere accident.

Consequences of not reducing the Halo and Horns effects in hiring

These biases have been present in the recruitment processes of companies for decades, and have led to hires that have not been as successful as expected.

The Halo effect can lead us to make a wrong choice of candidate, preventing the coach from recognizing the skills of other people, because he has been "in love" with who gives off the effect that we are analyzing.

On the contrary, the presence of the Horns effect can lead us to lose good candidates, and can even make it difficult to give feedback to applicants when explaining why they have not been chosen. Because in this case the reason for their non-selection is merely subjective and not based on their professional and personal skills.

Ultimately, these biases make the selection process inefficient. Letting good candidates go, and promoting the election of people who do not fit the profile sought as much as is believed. All this translates into a waste of time and money for companies.

How can Halo and Horns effects be reduced?

The solution is simple: not be prejudiced. However, this is something very complicated to achieve because, as we said at the beginning of this article, nobody is ever completely objective.

What can be done is to work with recruiters to make them aware of the presence in them of good and bad prejudices, and take steps to increase your objectivity. This can be done in the following ways.

Prioritize objectivity as a way to reduce Halo and Horns effects

Among the multiple cognitive biases that exist, there is one that leads us to think that we are less permeable to prejudice than the rest, that we are more objective than the rest. In this case, who we are not being objective with is ourselves.

Since this type of bias is also present in recruiters, they must be made aware of it. That they verify that they are not as impartial as they think and learn more about Halo and Horns effects and how they affect your work.

The best way to get rid of this type of cognitive bias is to know its existence and give priority to objective factors when judging a candidate.

Anonymize requests

These effects that we are talking about can appear from the beginning of the selection process. Data such as the origin of a person, their sex, their age, or the image they show in their photograph, are enough for subjectivity to come into play.

In order to ensure a resume screening that is as objective as possible, many companies have already put in place an application anonymization system. Recruiters see the objective information related to the job, but not data such as the name of the person or their image. 

A measure as apparently simple as this is giving rise to miscellaneous equipment become a reality in today's business world.

Prepare the interview as a way to reduce the Halo and Horns effects

When a recruiter gets carried away by cognitive biases, they can end up conducting very different interviews with two candidates applying for the same position, and this is neither fair nor efficient.

In order to prevent this from happening, what needs to be done is to create an interview script, highlighting the basic points about which the candidates will have to be asked. On the other hand, you have to create a answer scoring system that allows a simpler and faster classification of the interviewees.

What will be valued in these cases will be really measurable factors, such as experience or knowledge of specific tools used in the job, ignoring personal issues and background.

collective wisdom

It is something that goes a little further than asking for a second opinion. It is about putting the objective information of a person in the knowledge of other members of the Human Resources team to do away with unconscious bias.

Instead of the hiring decision being made by one person, it is based on the collective judgment issued by all interested parties. Precisely for this reason, it is increasingly common for there to be more than one recruiter in interviews.

Evaluate skills as a way to reduce Halo and Horns effects

Classic recruitment processes, such as CV screening and personal interviews, continue to be too subjective. Especially when the recruiter must fill the vacancy as soon as possible.

So that this does not become a problem, what more and more companies are doing is resorting to skills assessment like Hirinth. A set of tests that are the same for all candidates and that measure those soft skills that are necessary to fill the vacant position. 

Not only do they speed up the hiring process, they also improve its effectiveness, because they take cognitive bias completely out of the equation. The tests are scaled and this allows easily know who stands out in each competition and, therefore, who is the most suitable candidate for the vacancy offered.

We are human and we have a marked tendency to let ourselves be influenced by certain factors, characteristics or behaviors. Given that we cannot completely eliminate cognitive bias, what we can do is adjust the selection process so that the Halo and Horns effects do not play their tricks and lead us to hire a person who is not the best fit for the job. position, at the same time that we let escape those who would have fit the profile of the ideal candidate.

With Hirint you can reduce bias in the selection process thanks to our assessment, if you want to know more about how to reduce bias, book a meeting with us here

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