Get the job – Recruitment expert shares how to be ‘brilliant fit’ and avoid Halo Effect
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The Halo Effect can often see less qualified and unsuited candidates being appointed to positions because of the bias associated with them, a situation wherein both the correct candidate and the employer lose out. Khyati Sundaram, de-biased recruitment expert and CEO of Applied shared in an exclusive comment to Express.co.uk just how this bias comes into play in the workplace and how to avoid it.
Essentially, the Halo Effect is when positive impressions, such as someone being funny or friendly, makes people assume other positive things about them, like they must be smart and accomplished.
The opposite can also be true, wherein someone makes a bad first impression then the interviewer is likely to assume bad things about them, and ultimately stops them from getting the job.
Mr Sundaram explained: “The phrase was coined by Edward Thorndike, a psychologist who used it in a study published in 1920 to describe the way that commanding officers rated their soldiers. The idea is that if you assume that someone is nice and friendly, you are also likely to assume that they’re smart and good at their job.
“In a hiring context, this first impression – which we might get from a job interview or a response to a question on an application form – can impact our overall opinion of that individual, overshadowing the objective reality of their performance and preventing us from assessing future interactions with them without bias.”
This is undeniably problematic in the workplace for all parties involved, but how can jobseekers and recruiters avoid falling victim to their own biases?
1. Research the hiring process
Mr Sundaram continued: “Before applying to roles, research your prospective employer to find out how they hire and what processes they use.
“You might choose to prioritise applications to businesses that are using debiased recruitment methods, so that you can be certain they’re doing their best to remove unconscious bias from the process.”
2. Check out the team
A fairly obvious indication of bias in a business’s hiring process is whether the team looks like carbon copies of the employer, physically or personality-wise.
“If a team is diverse, this is often a good sign of a de-biased and inclusive recruitment process. If everyone is the same age, ethnicity or gender, this might suggest that a businesses’ recruitment process isn’t yet weeding out unconscious bias and the Halo Effect. But remember, this won’t necessarily be true for every business,” he added.
3. Dig into company culture
“By looking at how a company markets themselves and talks about their culture – be it through newsletters, social media accounts, media articles or blogs on their website – you should be able to ascertain a sense of their values.
Mr Sundaram explained: “Is de-biasing hiring on their agenda? Do they seem to care about creating equal opportunities? Do they talk about inclusion and diversity? If you can’t find an answer, calling the HR team to find out more can often be helpful.”
4. Remember that it’s not always you – it’s them
This is generally a good mantra to have in mind when going through the recruitment process as it can be quite soul-draining to keep going while constantly being rejected.
“If you miss out on a role and suspect the hiring process wasn’t as fair as it could have been, you can take comfort in the fact that that clearly wasn’t the right company for you. You want to find an employer that wants you because you’re a brilliant fit for their particular role.
“Don’t let others’ biases (that are out of your control) knock your confidence or hamper your future job search,” he concluded.
1. Advertise jobs using neutral language
Mr Sundaram advised “The first step towards removing bias from your hiring process is to ensure the way you’re advertising roles isn’t excluding any potential candidates. Research shows that using ‘masculine’ language can discourage women from applying to roles.”
2. Anonymize candidates and randomise their answers
“Anonymizing candidates in your applicant pool – and removing any information about where they live, where they went to school and their previous roles – will help to remove some of the unconscious biases that drive the Halo Effect.”
He continued: “Employers should also randomize answers when assessing applications, giving each individual answer a score without knowing who it came from.”
3. Follow a set structure for interviews
While many businesses believe their interview questions are predetermined, often times interviewers will be more inclined to focus on one topic over another depending on how they have perceived the candidate, such as focusing on employment gaps in their work history if they’ve given a bad first impression.
“Following a predetermined interview structure that stays the same for every candidate can help mitigate against the Halo Effect.”
Mr Sundaram also advised: “Questions should focus on the skills needed for the role and employers shouldn’t go off script. This gives all candidates equal opportunities to showcase their skills; and prevents interviewers from giving some candidates preferential treatment.”
4. Hire based on skills alone
Often a candidate may not fit the required education level or work experience requirements but have the right skills to succeed in the position.
By looking for identifiers and testing candidates on the actual skills the role requires rather than how many certificates they can produce will often see a far better suited candidate getting the position.
“First impressions and subjective opinions become irrelevant when you’re only interested in the specific skills that make a candidate well-suited to a role. In order to implement a skills-based approach effectively, employers must get really clear about the soft and hard skills needed to succeed in that particular position,” Mr Sundaram concluded.
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