Job interview skills training very often focuses on how to strip the assessment process of any inherent prejudices that could lead to negative stereotypes. What is important to understand is that the very nature of the interview process lends itself quite easily to positive stereotyping that could potentially be just as disastrous. One of the most common examples of positive stereotyping is known as the Halo Effect.
What is the Halo Effect?
What is the Halo Effect? If you want the short answer to the question of what is the halo effect, here you go: the world of education psychology gave birth to a term used to define the problems of positive stereotyping within the construct of personal evaluation. The dynamic of the job interview to evaluate a potential employee seeks to balance the search for useful information with the need to create a relaxed atmosphere. It is that latter element which creates the space in which the Halo Effect can take shape. What exactly is the Halo Effect ? The propensity to allow a favorable general impression of a person to color the judgment of significant individual traits.
Stereotyping is usually associated only with its negative component. Just as an interviewer may hold a particular prejudice against something, he can also hold a prejudice in favor of something. Indeed, that favorable prejudice may actually exert an even greater influence than any of his negative prejudices. The Halo Effect can easily and, worse, invisibly take hold and guide the course of the interviewer if he is not trained to recognize any seemingly benign bias that may subconsciously influence the evaluation.
Advance Planning for Greater Balance
In addition to training interviewers to be more intuitive about their own prejudices–which could be anything from a preference for Ivy League graduates to partiality toward certain brands of business attire–the interview process will benefit significantly from greater advanced planning . Loosely planned interviews tend to balance more heavily toward creating a relaxed environment than to task of extricating specific and significant details. A more comprehensively planned interview can more effectively shift that balance toward equality or, failing that, toward getting the information necessary to make a reasonable evaluation.
The Importance of Specificity
Perhaps the single most effective lesson to be learned from interview skills training as it relates to avoiding the Halo Effect is the role of specificity. The Halo Effect is grounded in the influence of generalities. A charming, charismatic, witty and articulate candidate may be so rare that it becomes almost impossible not to “take a shine” to such a person to detriment of objective evaluation of what should be an equally obvious lacking in specific qualities. That is why it is fundamental to identify precise attributes considered essential for serious consideration of an applicant. Of course, it is crucial that the interviewer be trained in how to properly (and legally) assess a candidate to accurately determine whether he possesses those specific attributes.
Eliminating the Halo Effect
One final note must be made about the role of the Halo Effect in the job interview process. Do not assume that anything can be done to eliminate such positive stereotyping from the evaluative process entirely. Even if the interviewer has been put through extensive psychological profiling in order to identify and eliminate the influence of positive prejudices, the effect will enter into the process. It is simply human nature to be charmed and distracted. So rather than struggling vainly for elimination, just try to do all you can to recognize and reduce its undo influence.