The Halo Effect in Hiring


A guest post by Heidi Hamilton Are those who live the penthouse life, cruise around in private yachts and go to the best schools really more intelligent than everyone else? Or could it be something else that propels these particular people to the top? Many studies have shown that people tend to think attractive people are smarter than average and this evaluation has a name. It’s called the “Halo Effect.” The idea behind this is that if we hold a positive opinion about someone or something, we tend to then attach all sorts of positive attributes to them. The opposite is also true. If they are not nice or difficult to get along with, we then attribute negative opinions. It’s an “all or nothing” perception. This also seems to magnify at a certain turning point that is usually upon death; it’s usually in the direction of “good” since no one likes to speak ill of the deceased. So how is this applicable to securing employment in today’s job-starved environment? A similar effect has been found in hiring situations. It has been noted in studies that good grooming of applicants in simulated employment interviews accounted for more positive and favorable hiring decisions than did job qualifications even though the interviewers claimed that appearance played a small role in their choices. The advantage given to attractive workers goes beyond hiring day to pay day. Further studies in the U.S. and Canada have found that attractive individuals get paid an average of 12 to 14 percent more than their unattractive coworkers. So it pays, literally, to get cleaned up and put your best foot (and face!) forward. Positive begets positive. Language is another application of the Halo Effect. Employers are far more willing to consider you for the job when you’ve got a positive attitude than if you’re being a “Negative Nellie.” Negative attitudes are just as contagious as positive, and what employer wants a company full of complainers? Okay, but what if you’re dumb, ugly. and negative? Attitudes can change. If you can’t do this on your own, seek a positive affirmations buddy to point out when you’re being a downer. Perhaps there’s someone in your religious denomination who provides a life improvement skills class, or maybe you can hire a life coach. Some are even willing to extend you a sliding pay scale. Concentrate on adding to your appearance. You can buy a new outfit, get a haircut, shave your facial hair, or even get contacts or a more fashionable pair of glasses. Lastly, there is no such thing as dumb in my book. Every single one of us is better in some areas than others. Find your weaknesses and work on them. Strengthen and increase your vocabulary by memorizing one new word every three days and using it at least three times a day. Extensive vocabulary can increase an opinion of your intelligence. Having a “practice makes perfect” attitude, and all of the self-improvements above could very well be what you need to land your dream job.