Halo offect
Fairytales for people managers, part 3
Simon was looking at a young man sitting across the table. Simon worked as a senior HR manager at a large enterprise. The young man was a job applicant for a key account manager position, so Simon took this task seriously.

As soon as Daniel – it was the young man's name – entered Simon's office, he made a hilarious joke about a picture hanging on the wall. Simon didn't like the picture as well – it was one of his boss' quirks, so it was hard for him to hold back and not burst out laughing.

Simon liked Daniel at first glance. A nice dark blue suit, probably a bespoke, smooth speech, rich vocabulary – Daniel resembled Simon's father, a man Simon had always wanted to be like. Simon thought Daniel was a perfect candidate for the key account manager position (KAM). He made a note in his planner – to discuss the applicant's CV with the HR director.

It was not the last job interview Daniel had, but finally, he was appointed as a KAM. Several people involved in the selection process had some doubts about Daniel's candidacy, but Simon did his best to persuade them, and he succeeded.

But four months later, it became clear that Daniel wasn't cut for this job. He was intelligent and had good manners, which was necessary for the KAM's work, but it was not enough. Daniel completed the technical training but still didn't know enough about the machinery the company sold, and the key customers didn't like that. It was hard for him to establish close working relations with colleagues. And eventually, Daniel was fired.

Simon gave this case much thought. His reputation in the company didn't suffer, his colleagues didn't blame him for the mistake, but he felt guilty anyway. Then, recalling that first interview, he tried to figure out what mistake he had made.

The name of this error is the "halo effect". It is a cognitive bias making us think about people better if we like just one of their traits. For instance, if you meet a woman at a party, and you find her attractive, and with a good sense of humor, you subconsciously begin to believe she is good at everything else. For instance, you may think she is generous, even though there is no evidence of this. Or you meet an intelligent man having good manners, and you may think he is good at negotiations, which possibly isn't true.

The halo effect is the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand, or product in one area to positively influence one's opinion or feelings in other areas. The halo effect is a cognitive bias which can possibly prevent someone from accepting a person, a product or a brand based on the idea of an unfounded belief on what is good or bad. The term was coined by Edward Thorndike. A simplified example of the halo effect is when an individual noticing that the person in the photograph is attractive, well-groomed, and properly attired, assumes, using a mental heuristic, that the person in the photograph is a good one based upon the rules of that individual's social concept.

The only way to overcome halo effect bias is to restrain our feelings and challenge our first impression. The more facts we collect before we make judgements about other people, the better.

Svyatoslav Biryulin

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