Horns Effect

It makes you create a very negative judgment about a candidate just because one specific characteristic stood out negatively.

Screening, Post-screening

What is the horns effect?

Why do we think that overweight people are lazy and why do we think that if someone displays a negative personality trait, we assume that they are generally unpleasant or untrustworthy?

This is the Horns effect.

As Leonie Grandpierre puts it: “ the horns effect is actually very similar to the halo effect. It happens when some negative quality then leads to the interpretation of the whole object or person being negative in some way or just being ascribed with some negative associations”. 

Where in the recruitment process is the horns effect the most prominent?

The horns effect can be present at any stage of the recruitment process, but it tends to be most prominent in the initial stages of candidate evaluation. This is because first impressions often carry a lot of weight and can heavily influence subsequent evaluations.

During resume screening

  • A candidate who has a gap in their work history is assumed to be unreliable or uncommitted, even if the gap was due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • A candidate who has a minor mistake on their resume, such as a misspelling or formatting error, is assumed to be careless or lacking attention to detail.

During initial interviews

  • A candidate who is introverted or shy is assumed to lack confidence and leadership potential, even if they have other valuable qualities.
  • A candidate who has a nervous tic or another physical characteristic that makes them stand out is assumed to be unprofessional or lacking in social skills.

During skills assessments

  • A candidate who performs poorly on a single test or assessment is assumed to lack the necessary skills or knowledge, even if their performance on other tests or assessments is strong.

What are the implications of the horns effect when it’s triggered?

When the horns effect is triggered in a hiring process, it can have several negative implications, including:

  • Overreliance on a single negative trait: Hiring managers may fixate on a candidate’s one negative trait, leading them to overlook other positive qualities that may make them a strong candidate for the role.
  • Limited diversity: If hiring managers have a negative impression of a candidate, they may be less likely to consider them for the role, leading to a lack of diversity in the hiring process.

How can you minimize the impact of the horns effect?

If you want to learn how to reduce the effects of the horns effect, make sure to listen to the full podcast episode with Leonie Grandpierre below!

To minimize the impact of the horns effect, you can take the following steps:

  1. Be aware of the horns effect: Recognizing that the horns effect can impact your perception of a candidate is the first step in minimizing its impact.
  2. Focus on multiple factors: Rather than relying on a single negative trait, focus on multiple factors when evaluating candidates. Evaluating a candidate based on a combination of factors can provide a more complete picture of their qualifications.
  3. Use structured interviews: Structured interviews involve asking all candidates the same set of questions, allowing for a fair and consistent evaluation. 
  4. Consider a diverse panel: Including a diverse panel of interviewers can help to minimize the impact of biases, such as the horns effect. 

The horns effect cheat-sheet

The horns effect cheat-sheet

Our inspirational blogs, podcasts and video’s

Listen to what they say about our product offering right here