Avoid the Horns and Halos: Objective Recruitment

We have previously written a piece on the importance of human capital. It really is vital, and it starts with your recruitment.

There are a number of biases that you need to be aware of when you begin a recruitment journey. When you have battled through the sourcing process, and according to recent research it can be a real challenge identifying the people to bring to interview, you need to get the interview process right.

Horn and halo effect in recruitment

Human nature means that we make certain snap judgement, and use stereotypes to understand the world. Sometimes these gut instinct reactions are useful. However, when you are going through a recruitment process they can equally be very damaging and prevent you from getting to the right decisions on the people to employ in your business.

Many small businesses recruiting for the first time have to take care of the whole recruitment process themselves. Employing recruitment agents costs money, as does hiring an in-house HR person. So what are the horns and halo effects? And why are they important?

The horns effect

There is a natural human mechanism whereby we judge people very quickly. If we see a characteristic in someone that we don’t like, then, we may have the tendency to see other behaviours and interview responses in a negative light. The problem is that sometimes the spark of this negative perception can have nothing to do with ability to do the job.

We all have preferences. We may have a preference for well-manicured, non-bitten nails. But, does biting one’s nails really have an impact on how someone will perform in an accounting job? If someone went to a certain school will it impact on their ability to sell products for your company? Often we are unaware of the perceptions we are forming and the flavour that we are therefore bringing to an interview.

The halo effect

The halo effect is the exact reverse of the horns affect. If we see something that we immediately empathise with in an individual, we may see that person in a positive, ignoring or downplaying markers that suggest the person is not a good fit for the job throughout the interview, giving them an easy time with questions and responding favourably in general. This can result in bosses hiring people exactly like them; or perceived to be like them.

Daniel, of Express Staffing, explains that “this, ‘like me’ hiring can have detrimental effects on your business. As the boss, and probably owner of the business, you need to behave a certain way, have certain competencies, and relate to people as the boss. If you are hiring for your job, then, yes, perhaps someone like you might fit the bill very well, assimilating into and enhancing the culture of the company. However, the majority of the roles that you will be recruiting for your company will be very different to what you do.”

How do you overcome these biases

A lot of overcoming these biases is about having a structured interview process and understanding your own stereotypes and biases.

Unbiased job interview

Understanding yourself: Self-awareness

Before and during the interview you need to be aware of the emotional reactions you are having to certain aspects of the recruitment process and candidates. This self-awareness must be particularly high at the start of an interview process. If you notice that you had a negative reaction to a certain aspect of a candidate you need to assess what it is you are mentally and emotionally responding to.

You then need to be self-aware enough to not allow it to affect the rest of the interview process. Part of this comes down to having a structure to the interview.

Competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews are just what they sound like. They are where you focus an interview on the competencies of the candidate and see whether they match onto the competencies required to do the job.

It is true that attitude and personality are very important in certain roles. Richard Branson swears by recruiting for attitude rather than ability. However, research suggests that if you understand the competencies required to do a role, and then map out an interview process that looks at how candidates have responded to challenges in the past, and whether they have displayed those competencies, you’re far more likely to hire the right people. If you can put the competencies into a hierarchy of importance, and then have a scoring system to candidates, you can measure them against each other in an objective way.

At the end of the recruitment process. You can then look at candidates objectively and use the information from your intuition, or gut, as a backup in your decision, rather than the driving force for it. You need to trust your instincts in business, but you need to get the people that can do the job best in the roles in your company to be successful.

Photo credits: Carl Carpenter / Flickr, Gvahim / Flickr