Contrast Effect

Contrast Effect makes you judge candidates by comparing them to each other instead of by assessing them individually, which will change your judgment.

Screening, post-screening

What is contrast effect?

Take a look at the picture below. Which one of the dots in the middle do you think is bigger – the one on the left or the right? 

a visual showing contrast effect in this case, the smaller and larger dots. To answer the question of which dot is bigger - they are exactly the same size!

Did you know that this is the most simple example of The Contrast Effect? 

This cognitive bias occurs when you’re comparing two similar things. Typically, this bias will distort your perception of something by comparing it to something else – in this case, the smaller and larger dots. To answer the question of which dot is bigger – they are exactly the same size! 

To learn more about contrast effect, we spoke to our very own Head of Customer Success, Jesper van Gelder, who also has a master’s degree in Sports & Performance Psychology.


P.S. You can listen to the full podcast episode with Jesper below!


How does contrast effect impact the hiring process?

In the context of hiring, a candidate’s qualifications may appear better or worse depending on the qualifications of other candidates. The more candidates there are, the more pronounced the effect of contrast bias can be. 

For example, after you just screened or interviewed a candidate who impressed you, you will compare the next candidate to this standard, instead of the objective standard that was set at the beginning. As an opposite to this, if you would have just screened or interviewed a candidate who disappointed you, the standard for the next candidate will be lower.

Jesper also notes that some people ask for multiple candidates to compare against because they want to feel more sure about their decision or see if there is potential for a better candidate. However, this approach can also lead to biased judgments.

To continue, he explains that the reason why people seek out comparisons is to feel more certain about their decisions. By having something to compare against, we feel as if we can evaluate the qualities and characteristics of each candidate better and make a more informed decision. However, this is dangerous as it can lead to the contrast effect, especially if there are a lot of candidates to compare against. It is important for companies to be aware of this and take precautions to tackle this issue to avoid bias in their hiring process.

How can you minimize the impact of contrast effect?

There is a need for hiring managers to be trained in order to avoid unconscious biases and subjectivity in the hiring process, and to make the right hiring decisions. The lack of training and awareness around biases is a common issue in hiring, and leads to the creation of rules/conditions that are not necessarily important for evaluating candidates. 

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