How to get the Halo Effect


Have you ever met someone and instantly decided they’re brilliant, before even having an in-depth conversation? Or sat in a meeting and noticed everyone snaps quickly to attention when one particular colleague speaks, for no objectively good reason.

You’re likely witnessing the “halo effect”.  It’s a phenomenon behavourists identified more than a century ago. And its power hasn’t diminished over time.

The halo effect is when we generalize about someone, based on a single positive trait

The research shows celebrities especially benefit from the “halo effect”.  It’s why the media often quotes movie stars about subjects they’re really not experts in –because we find them attractive, we assume they’re intelligent.

 Decades of studies by social scientists confirm when we give a person a high rating on one quality, we’ll give them a better score overall. In other words, based on just one thing, we jump to conclusions, until we have to reason to re-consider.

 halo effectHow to put the halo effect to work for you.

Professionally speaking, knowing how to get the halo effect is helpful.  And none of us needs to be a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie look-alike to do so. For the record, it’s not even our looks that determine our attractiveness to others. Science tells us it’s how we present ourselves that influences response.

Wear your confidence, enthusiasm, passion. These qualities have a huge impact on how people perceive you out of the gate. You get positive attention when others recognize that you are genuinely engaged and quietly confident (but not arrogant).

Smile. A study in Inc. magazine shows people who enjoy a halo effect smile easily and often. Unfortunately, a lot of people who find interviews stressful forget to smile, and greet the interviewer like he or she is a judge who is about to sentence them to a lifetime of hard labour. They come off ill-at-ease and even a little angry.

Research confirms a smile communicates friendliness, plus it makes the person at whom you’re smiling feel seen and liked.   It’s just human nature to think kindly of those who like us.

Walk in tall.   Studies vary but most agree about 50% of us have bad posture.   It’s so prevalent that, whether we realize it or not, people who stand and sit straight impress us much more than slouchers.

The world-renowned “guru” of power poses, Harvard professor Amy Cuddy offers these tips:

  • Keep your shoulders back and your chest open.
  • Keep your chin up and level, but don’t raise it so far that you’re looking down at people.
  • Don’t have penguin arms when you walk in. Cuddy says when people feel anxious and powerless they often pin their upper arms – from armpit to elbow – at their sides.   It communicates powerlessness.
  • If sitting at a table, lean forward and place your hands on the table. Or use arm rests rather than knotting your arms in your lap.

Between all of us at Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Service, Bagg @ Your Service, Bagg Managed Resources and Turn Key Staffing, we interview thousands of candidates a year to lead in finding the right people for the best full-time, contract and temporary positions.

We know that many people miss out on the halo effect by failing to start off on the best foot. It’s not unusual for candidates to open with what isn’t working for them, or speak about areas in which they’re less adept or uninterested, before introducing positive qualities.

We urge all candidates to talk about what their good at first when meeting someone to a advance their career ambitions.

Think of it this way: If a chef introduces themselves by telling you about everything that went wrong in the kitchen before presenting their dish, you’ll pick up your fork with a niggling of doubt, no matter how good the dish actually looks.

But if that same chef proudly tells you first about their signature dish, you’ll expect it to be wonderful, and you’ll assume they’re generally great at cooking.   And that’s how we glow.

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