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Halo and Horns Effect


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Halo and Horns Effect


The halo and horns effect is a bias that describes how a selector’s impression of a person can significantly influence their feelings and thoughts about that individual. 


  • Halo effect: The halo in this bias refers to the halo of an angel, implying that the candidate can do no wrong. A recruiter or hiring manager focuses heavily on a perceived positive aspect of the individual they are considering for a position. This positive aspect or quality can overshadow the rest of a candidate’s application. 

  • Horns effect: The horns in this bias refer to the “devil’s” horns, implying that this candidate has no positive attributes. A recruiter or hiring manager focuses exclusively on a perceived negative aspect of a candidate’s personality or application. 


This bias type occurs when a hiring manager or interviewer assumes that one aspect or detail about a candidate generalizes the rest of the individual’s provided or perceived information.  


The halo and horns effect brings into play other mental models that are magnified when they work together. For example, the implicit personality theory mental model states that people believe that both positive and negative traits are interconnected. The result is that the person making a hiring decision may believe that the presence of one trait automatically implies the presence of other traits. 




An example of the halo effect would be if a recruiter finds one positive aspect about a candidate—such as the sports they play, past employers, or where they attended school—they may focus on that and fail to perform a comprehensive background investigation of the individual. Additionally, they may lean more fully into hiring this candidate over other candidates who may be more qualified for the position. 


The hiring manager or recruiter zeroes in on that “halo” and allows it to guide them and their opinion of the candidate. The halo effect can result in hiring managers ignoring critical red flags. 


The horns effect occurs when a recruiter or hiring manager finds one negative thing about the candidate and then assumes that if A is true, B must also be true. For example, if a person is overweight, they must also be lazy. The same aspects that drive the halo effect can also drive the horns effect. This aspect can even be something as simple as a personality trait or character flaw that plays into the hiring manager’s unconscious biases. 


Related Terms

Anchoring Bias

occurs when a hiring manager relies too heavily on the first thing they learn about a candidate and use this knowledge as a starting point for decision-making.

Expectation Anchoring

also known as focalism or anchoring bias, is a term used by psychologists to describe the human tendency to place undue influence on one piece of information or trait about another person regarding decision-making. 

Confirmation Bias

refers to a person’s tendency to consciously or subconsciously seek information that confirms their opinions or views while disregarding input that challenges their perception.

Confirmatory Bias

is another term for confirmation bias.
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