Today’s topic

11 tips to stop allowing the Horn Effect Damaging Everything from Your Talent Pool to Your People...

Ever read a CV with a word that was misspelled? Found yourself mumbling things like “sloppy”, “dumb” or similar and then put that CV in the rejection pile? Well my friend, then you have fallen victim to the horn effect! It wasn’t necessarily the misspelling that was the problem, but the snap judgment and association to other related characteristics that cause you to reject the candidate. The misspelled word stood for something more.

What is the Horns Effect?

The horns effect is the less famous cousin of the halo effect. If the halo effect is, broadly speaking, when something makes us enjoy something by association, then the horn effect is when one single negative (a horn) causes us to have a negative association with something larger than itself 🦏.


Like disliking a whole country because you once got dumped at the end of a mini-break or hating all board games because your big brother always beat you at Scrabble, the Horn Effect is a cognitive bias. It’s not limited to our feelings around women or minority groups. Candidates with a high BMI are less likely to be seen as having leadership potential. This is not only inaccurate, hurtful and rude: it’s also stopping candidates from being able to use their skills and add value 🛠️.

11 Tips to action today

  1. Stop using CVs, use screening questions or psychometric tests (or both) instead
  2. Change your ATS systems to hide names and faces of applicants
  3. Reduce or remove length of time in service in your ad
  4. Assess candidates purely on how well they fit the role requirements
  5. Before meeting candidates, review the job description and the candidate’s profile to remind yourself of the skills, traits and personality that you are looking for above and beyond the individuals sitting opposite you
  6. Structure all interviews so that all candidates receive the same questions
  7. Ensure that the interview panel knows what answers comprise success and how scoring will be given
  8. After meeting candidates, check yourself: are you thinking about the candidate’s skills, or their physical appearance?
  9. Check each other’s scores - if one interviewer’s is wildly different, talk about it and try to discover why, as there could be bias at play
  10. Hire widely to ensure a diversity of voices, backgrounds and experiences across the board
  11. Book a workshop or create a video sequence about the horn effect with your organisation to create a dialogue and normalise mitigation strategies (it won’t solve the problem, but it can shed some light on why you need to change your process)

So the next time you find something misspelled in a CV, keep in mind that it can happen to the bast of us.

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