Human-Centered Hiring

Four ways to humanize your hiring process
by Andy Park-Buffelen

First impressions are everything, and when an individual is engaged in a job search, that impression is often developed in the first steps of the hiring process. At Intentional Futures, our small size has allowed us to employ practices in our hiring and onboarding that have set us apart, evidenced by positive feedback from new iFsters. We often hear that the hiring process was a large reason why new employees choose to join the company, and much of that can be attributed to the philosophy of iF’s long-standing Head of People + Culture, Andy Park-Buffelen

With the better part of a decade spent at iF, Andy is one of the most tenured iFsters. Most employees at the company were hired under his leadership, and the impact his contributions have made are tangible and appreciated within the organization. To get a better understanding of how Andy applies his personal mission to hiring at iF, we sat down with him to glean four best practices for humanizing the hiring process. 


Respect and Value Every Applicant

One of the key principles to humanizing the hiring process is treating each applicant with respect and valuing their time and effort. Recognize that applicants invest their energy in crafting resumes and cover letters, and they deserve acknowledgment for their work. At Intentional Futures, we review every resume and cover letter personally, ensuring that applicants feel seen and appreciated. By establishing a respectful and attentive approach, companies can create a positive experience for candidates, even if they are not ultimately selected.

Foster Positive Communication

Clear and timely communication plays a vital role in humanizing the hiring process. Companies should aim to provide open and honest communication throughout the entire process. This means promptly acknowledging receipt of applications, setting realistic expectations for timelines, and maintaining transparent dialogue. iF places great importance on effective communication, ensuring applicants and interviewers feel supported and informed at every stage. Here are a few ways we do this: Ensure someone is responsible for communication with applicants, respond in a timely manner if someone has a question, develop and iterate on more template based responses, treat people with kindness and as professionals, and don’t leave them hanging. If someone submits an application, and it’s taking longer than you though to move forward, let them know. This is your first interaction with a potential employee and it truly does make an impression. By fostering positive communication, companies can create a sense of trust and transparency that enhances the overall experience for everyone involved.

Level the Power Dynamic

Traditionally, the hiring process can create a power dynamic in which the employer holds the authority, leaving applicants feeling subordinate. To humanize the process, it is essential to bridge this gap and create a more equitable environment. The hiring team at iF actively works to reduce the power dynamic by treating applicants as equals - we do this in several ways: One way is by acknowledging the time, energy, and free labor it takes to apply to a role. Second, throughout the process be as transparent as possible about what applicants can expect during the steps, let them know who they are going to talk to and for how long, and follow through on your communication commitments; Finally, create a culture of graciousness within your hiring teams. These are just a few tactics we use to close the gap and establish mutual respect, valuing the unique perspectives and contributions applicants can bring to the table. By dismantling the hierarchical mindset, companies can foster a more collaborative and inclusive atmosphere during the hiring process.

Ensure Equity Throughout

While less evident to the candidate, an equitable hiring process is key to a successful and inclusive hiring process for both the potential employee and employer. We live in an exciting time where employers have the opportunity to engage with a phenomenal spectrum of people of intersecting identities. Practicing equity requires a consistent and constant curiosity, understanding the dynamics of power and oppression which more affect marginalized and underrepresented communities, and implementing these learnings - as best as you can - into your hiring process.

Part of this work to humanize the recruiting process means accommodating the needs of your applicants. It’s impossible to be proactive about every scenario you may encounter, but you can start with what an applicant can expect and ask them if they have any additional needs. For example, we tell our applicants leading up to our virtual interviews: The interview will be over a Zoom video call. You will need a computer or device(s) which has a camera and microphone, an internet connection, as well as seeing, hearing, and speaking abilities. Please let me know if you need any accommodations within or outside these elements.

The effort for equity is never ending, thus our process is ever flexible and ready to improve.


The hiring process is a crucial aspect of building a successful and cohesive team. While many companies are limited by sheer volume of applicants and open roles, there are ways to infuse a human touch that can make a significant impact in the experience of the candidates. 

By incorporating four principles - respecting and valuing applicants, fostering positive communication, shifting power dynamics, and ensuring equity throughout - organizations can humanize their own hiring processes and create an inclusive, collaborative, and thriving work environment.

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