General recruiting

Create Order Out of Chaos with Human-centric Recruiting

Whether it's through revolution or evolution, there's no doubt that there has been a shift away from the cold, impersonal, company-centric recruiting of the past towards the warm, personal, candidate-centric recruiting of the purported future. In the former framework, an enterprise's needs are put first, and the best candidate for a company is ruthlessly sought out. In the latter framework, the candidate's needs are the focus, and the candidate's experience with the company is prioritized first and foremost. [0]

"Pish posh", I say. "Why is it one or the other?" I understand that candidate-centric recruiting has developed as a backlash against legacy recruiting processes that treat people like nothing more than human capital, but I believe that good recruiting prioritizes both the candidate and the company in a balanced way.

How is this accomplished? That's what I like to call "human-centric recruiting".

Before you write the term off as a meaningless call to love and cherish each other as fellow human beings, let me elucidate the practicality of this approach. One of the things that makes recruiting so unique as a field is the human aspect—you're dealing with someone's life and livelihood here. (And anyone who's ever taken or switched jobs knows the existential crisis it often comes with.) On the company's side, you're not just talking about a new employee but a new teammate—someone new that you're going to have to work with on a daily basis. The process is fraught with emotion, as humans are naturally emotional and chaotic beings.

Human-centric recruiting is a style of recruiting that deals with the chaos that comes with working with humans and helps create order out of that chaos. It is optimized for the humans involved in the process and accounts for the power dynamic, the emotions, the turmoil, the joy, the disappointment, and everything in between. It kills two birds with one stone by catering to both the candidates looking for a job and the teams looking for their next teammate. Human-centric recruiting is a great way to get optimal results for both the candidate and company.

Here's a strategic guide to create a human-centric recruiting process.

Three Steps Towards Human-Centric Recruiting

🏗 Create order through standardization

The first step towards human-centric recruiting may seem cold and impersonal, similar to the company-centric model of the past, but it is essential to create structure that you can rely on when everything else turns to chaos. A structured framework allows you to handle the unexpected in an unbiased and efficient way.

There are three main things I recommend standardizing to start: your interview loops, your interview questions, and your interview evaluations.

Standardize your interview loop. Every candidate for a given role should go through the same set of conversations in order to get the job. If you're not disciplined about this, it's going to be hard to get the exact right signal you need to evaluate a candidate, and you will likely introduce bias into your process.

Standardize your interview questions. Similarly, if you don't ask the candidates the same things, you won't get comparable answers to evaluate. First-time interviewers often want to "wing it" so that the conversation feels more natural, but there are other ways to do that (a story for another time) while asking a set of pre-designed questions.

Standardize your interview evaluations. If you're not working from a rubric, you're doing something wrong. If you take the notes you got from an interview and try to read tea leaves with them, you're going to get inconsistent (and biased) evaluations across the board. If you look for evidence of pre-defined qualities in a candidate's answer, you're not only going to have a better understanding of whether or not they'll be a good fit for your company, but you're also going to create a more fair and equitable evaluation process for your candidates. Plus, it will help you avoid the dreaded "unicorn" or "purple squirrel" search. [1]

🤝 Tame chaos through mutual understanding

Once you've structured everything you can structure, it's time to admit that you can't control everything in such a human-centric field. The best way to tame the chaos is to achieve a sort of steady-state equilibrium between the candidate's needs and the company's. The best way to do this is to foster *mutual understanding* between your team and the candidate. Once everyone feels like they understand each other, both parties can make a clear-headed decision about whether or not to work together.

This is easier said than done, but there are a few principles I like to follow, all aimed at achieving mutual understanding.

Understand, don't judge. Some people think that recruiting is the perfect field for someone who is discerning and a good "judge of character". I say that recruiting is the perfect field for someone who is discerning and good at *understanding* other people. When you step into an interview with the intent of judging the other person, you worsen the power dynamic that threatens to sully the signal you're trying to get from the person.

Communicate with transparency. There should rarely be secrets in recruiting. This comes into play in two key areas: how you communicate about the interview process and how you communicate about your company. Make sure the candidate has a clear understanding on both fronts to ensure that they have their bearings and are thinking clearly about what's best for them. In the long run, it'll be what's best for the company as well.

Be yourself always. This one is easier but underrated—be genuine and be yourself. Doing so will encourage others to be themselves around you, which is the best way to forge genuine connections and gain valuable signal about a person's candidacy. You can encourage candidates to be open and genuine with you if you set the example. Not only will you benefit from deeper insight, but the candidate will have a better experience and feel seen as a holistic person.

Ask many questions. In other words, be inquisitive! Don't assume answers to questions you haven't asked. Be aware of the questions that you haven't asked when evaluating the signal you got during an interview. Never stop after asking just one question—if you're not asking follow up questions or digging for more information, you're selling yourself and the candidate short. If you don't go into the recruiting process with an inquisitive nature, you're not going to get the fullest amount of signal on a candidate, and the candidate won't have the opportunity to shine their brightest.

📈 Gain insight through data and metrics

For all these guidelines, there's no one-size fits all approach when it comes to maintaining a balance between order and chaos, and it's not an easy thing to do when you're flying blind. Data is your only saving grace. If you're not collecting data on your recruiting efforts, there is no way to gain signal from the noise and incrementally improve over time.

I generally recommend taking a hypothesis-driven approach when you start collecting data: come up with a hypothesis about your recruiting process then validate or invalidate the hypothesis with the data that you have. That is, use data to answer questions. However, there are some generally useful metrics to measure. These are some basic metrics that you can start tracking to understand the health of your recruiting process.

New candidates by source. At any point in time, you should be aware of where your candidates are coming from. Are they mostly coming through your Careers page? LinkedIn? Outbound sourcing efforts? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses in attracting candidates can help you hone your efforts and improve your ability to get candidates into your pipeline. It can also be useful to understand how employer branding efforts are affecting your recruiting efforts.

Pass-through rates (a.k.a "conversion rates"). A pass-through rate is the percentage of candidates that move from one stage to the next. For example, if you interview ten candidates in your initial interview and only four make it through to the next stage, you have a 40% pass-through rate between those stages. Pass-through rates are important to understand because they tell you how stringent you are being at each step of the way. The more stringent, the more likely you are to avoid false positives, or candidates that are not qualified for the position but that you move through your process anyway. The less stringent, the more likely you are to avoid false negatives. In general, I recommend guarding for false negatives (i.e. being less stringent and having a higher pass-through rate) at earlier stages of your interview loop, but you can design your interview loop to be top- or bottom-heavy depending on your needs. Pass-through rates can also indicate bottlenecks in your pipeline. For example, if you have a strangely low pass-through rate at your hiring manager screen, it might indicate that your hiring manager is miscalibrated on the requirements for the position or that your sourcing efforts are miscalibrated to the hiring manager's expectations.

Offer to hire ratio. You can think of this as the "final" pass-through rate of your pipeline: of the candidates that you extend an offer to, how many actually accept and start at your company? This metric indicates how effective you are at closing candidates and how you stack up to the competition. Examining this metric can help you test and track strategies for pitching and closing candidates. It can be especially useful as you start working on your employer brand.


Recruiting is a human-centric field to an unparalleled degree. The process is fraught with emotion from both sides: the company's and the candidate's. Human-centric recruiting, as opposed to candidate-centric or company-centric recruiting, is a style of recruiting that optimizes for the humans involved in the process by creating order out of chaos in a kind of dance between art and science. Working towards a human-centric recruiting model can help your company hire quickly, efficiently, and responsibly, doing right by both your team and the candidates you interact with.



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