Angels and Demons

Everyone carries various prejudices, positive and negative, based on their cumulative life experiences.

This is a (shallow) example of Halo-Horn Bias in hiring, where we recognize one “perceived” good (halo) or bad (horn) trait in a person, and then we assume that they are good or bad as a whole. This behavior is a type of cognitive bias and, in the extreme, it can manifest itself in hiring. For example, where males are summarily selected over females or where minorities are unfairly filtered out of candidate pools.

In a post by Ebin John Poovathany on LinkedIn, other research-based examples of Halo-Horn Bias in talent management are described:

  • Skinny people make more money than overweight people
  • Tall men are promoted more often than short men
  • White women are paid more than black women
  • Bald men make less money than men with a full head of hair
  • Men in general are paid more than women

Halo-Horn Bias is potentially one of the biggest underlying causes of a lack of diversity in talent acquisition. It is not always blatant; a subtle, unconscious prioritization of certain people over others is enough to negatively impact inclusivity.

Okay, so Halo-Horn Bias is bad. How do we mitigate it?

The answer lies in establishing two critical practices:

  • Comparable/unbiased evaluation processes
  • Proper training of interviewers



In an article in the Harvard Business Review titled 7 Practical ways to reduce bias in your hiring process, Rebecca Knight writes that:

structured interviews, whereby each candidate is asked the same set of defined questions, “standardize the interview process” and “minimize bias” by allowing employers to “focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance.” Bohnet [Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School] suggests using an interview scorecard that grades candidates’ responses to each question on a predetermined scale. “Ideally interviewers don’t know the specifics about how well each candidate did in terms of the CV review and work sample,” she adds. The goal is for the “interview to become a third independent data point.”

Structured interviewing mitigates Halo-Horn Bias in interviewers from the candidate-evaluation and hiring-decision making processes.

Going further, in an article in titled 11 Steps to reduce unconscious bias in hiring processes, Lisa Coleman, a member of the Forbes Expert Panel recommends:

“Develop the [structured] interview while developing the job description, creating questions to discern candidates’ knowledge, skills and abilities relative to the job. Be disciplined about asking all applicants the same questions, which allows hiring decision makers to base decisions on informed comparisons about applicants’ capabilities rather than their first impressions.”


With regard to training hiring managers on structured interviewing, research suggests that structured interviews are underutilized because they are incorrectly perceived as hindering interviewers’ need for autonomy and power, they may not be in alignment with organizational culture and norms, they require time and money to implement, and many hiring managers are simply not aware of their credibility and practical usefulness. Consequently, there can be organizational resistance to effective training even if there are clear corporate goals for greater diversity and inclusivity which unbiased hiring would address.

APTMetrics has effectively addressed these issues with its recently released Interviewer Experience, a cost-effective, engaging simulation-based structured interviewing training environment, which helps enterprises to effectively teach hiring managers the unbiased interviewing skills that lead to better hiring and increased inclusivity. Complimentary evaluation licenses are available.