Sep 13, 2011

10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Recruitment as an Undergrad

GHQ Staff Blogger Recruitment
10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Recruitment as an Undergrad

By Alex Carrick – Senior Leadership Consultant

Fall is one of my favorite seasons for multiple reasons: college football, apple cider and fraternity recruitment.  If your chapter has actively recruited new members during summer vacation, congrats.  My guess is the vast majority of chapters are gearing up for the yearly meat market known as “formal rush” where you hope complete strangers walk through your front door, eat your wings and then accept their bid at the end of the week.

Working as an Expansion Consultant, I’ve picked up on numerous recruitment strategies that are proven to work, but are rarely utilized. I recently made a comment to a co-worker that I wish that I knew all these strategies as an undergraduate.  Instead of dwelling on the past, I decided to pass on my knowledge to all of you in the form of this list. Without further ado:

10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Recruitment as an Undergrad:

#1 –  Use the IFC Recruitment List

Does your IFC provide a list of all people that have signed up for/shown interest in recruitment?  Do you get that list days/weeks/months in advance?  If so, there’s no reason to not start contacting those people immediately.  They’ve already shown interest, and that’s half the battle in recruitment.


In conjunction with #1, if that IFC list gives phone numbers, use them.  It may feel awkward at first, but they’ve already shown interest.  It’s easy to ignore an email or text, but everyone picks up the phone (it could be a girl!).  Your conversation looks something like this:

You: Hi is this _______________?
Them: Yeah
You: Hi, My name is ________________ and I’m calling in regards to your fraternity interest form.
Them: Yeah?
You: I’m with Phi Delta Theta looking for the best and brightest here at ______________ and after looking at your past accomplishments you were someone I had to talk to.
Them: Okay
You: I was wondering if you had 10-15 minutes to meet in the Union and talk more about this opportunity?
Them: Sure, I have a break tomorrow from 10-12
You: Perfect, lets meet at 10.  I’ll text you a couple hours before to make sure that time still works and I look forward to meeting you.

That’s it.  In 2-3 minutes you just got the first crack at a top-flight Potential New Member before Formal Recruitment even starts.

#3 – A Cup of Coffee is Cheaper Than 300 Wing

Personal experience has shown that having a personal 1-on-1 meeting is a much more effective recruitment tool than hoping the greatest students on campus are craving wings.  Take a second to imagine how much money your chapter spends on food, now calculate how many cups of coffee could be bought at individual meetings (For my fellow Poli Sci majors, take that amount and divide by $2).  The best part: most PNM’s will decline the free cup of coffee.

Use the meeting as a chance to get to know the PNM on a more personal level, as well as finding out if they meet your standards for membership (see #10).  Once you get the introductions over with, briefly explain the benefits of Phi Delta Theta, as well as Greek Life in general.  As a reminder those are:

  • Making a big school feel smaller, joining the wider Greek community
  • Lifelong friendships
  • Networking (175+ campuses, 160,000 living alumni)
  • Leadership Opportunities
  • Giving back to the community
  • Non-Hazing Fraternity
  • Alcohol-Free Housing
  • Direct business applications (sales, event planning, project management, accounting, marketing)

On average you should aim to talk no more than 60% of the time.  While its important to get your message across, it becomes easy for PNM’s to lose interest.  In order to combat this, ask the following ownership questions:

  • What was the biggest lesson you learned in your sport/community service/leadership position?
  • Where do you see yourself going after college, and how do you plan to get there?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Tell me about a time you faced adversity and how you over came it?

If these sound like job interview questions, they are.  Actively listen to their responses and try to tie in their answer to one of the benefits above.

#4 – Events Do Not Matter

Every time an undergraduate asks me what the best rush events are, steam erupts sideways from my ears Looney-Toons style and my blood pressure spikes.  Any event that encourages genuine conversation is a “good” recruitment event.  Some of the best chapters in North America incorporate recruitment into events they already do as a chapter like pick-up sports and community service.

#5 – Get Out of the House

Just like your mom when you played too many video games, I’m telling you to GO OUTSIDE!  Far too often chapters hold all their recruitment events at their chapter facility.  Imagine you’re a freshmen on a new campus.  You meet a sophomore who invites you over for free food at his fraternity house later that night.  You walk up to the address to find a colossal 4-story house with strange letters that are so big you could see them from space.  You slowly climb each of the 12 stone stairs and are face to face with a giant red door and can hear a dull roar of conversation and music coming from the other side. Kind of intimidating right?  Look outside your four walls for opportunities both on-campus and in the community.  You would be shocked at how many CHEAP and FREE opportunities there are out there.

#6 – Dress to Impress

Its hard to look a PNM in the eye and say you’re part of an elite social organization wearing shorty-jorts and a party tank.  I’ll take it a step further and even say wearing matching shirts make you look like a cult.  At a minimum, I would suggest un-ripped jeans or shorts with a collared shirt and nice shoes.  Additionally, the best-of-the-best students are not going to be impressed by a t-shirt with references to alcohol, drugs or sex.  There’s also a great opportunity here.  Ask a couple girls from your favorite sorority to put on a “Dress For Success” seminar for the chapter.  You’ll learn a lot AND improve your sorority relations.

#7 – Train Your Members
Everyone has heard the cliché “You’re only as strong as your weakest link”, and recruitment is no exception.  Every member should be proficient in these basic social skills: handshakes, eye contact, conversation and remembering names.  Also every member should know and be able to communicate information about the following: local and international history, dues, hazing policy, time commitment, leadership opportunities, academics, housing and networking.  If a Potential New Member asks five different brothers about dues, and gets five different answers, how does that make your chapter look?  This is another opportunity to call upon your favorite sorority and have members practice their skills and responses.

#8 – Bumping

One of the most common responses for a PNM choosing one chapter over another is “I knew more people there.”  For as much as I personally dislike sorority formal recruitment, they excel in this area due to a process called bumping.  Without getting too technical, the concept is to engage PNM’s in a meaningful and memorable conversation and then pass them off to another member with something in common.  Through this method, Potential New Members are meeting and connecting with more than one person in the chapter in a meaningful way.  If you haven’t picked up on the recurring theme here, re-read the last sentence in #6 and #7… wash, rinse, repeat.

#9 – Dealing with Millennials

This generation of students has been told they’re special from birth.  Don’t be afraid to use this to your advantage and stroke their ego a little bit more.  It may feel strange at first, they will be more focused on the compliment than anything else.  Try and use the following phrases/questions in conversation:

  • You’re level of involvement is impressive
  • You’re exactly the type of student we’re looking for
  •  How did you maintain such a high GPA and stay so involved?
  • You exceed all of our qualifications
  • What weren’t you a part of?
  • You’re the most impressive candidate I’ve seen all  day/week/month/summer
  • I think you would bring a huge benefit to our organization

The above statements can be combined with a solid pre-close for a great 1-2 punch.  This is also a chance to mention that you should never lie to PNM.  If your chapter is deficient in some area of operation, use this concept to show opportunity.

Example: You’re talking to a PNM who regularly does over 100+ community service hours a year and has won national recognitions, but your chapter is last on campus in service hours.  You say: “ Our chapter has been working really hard to improve our community service program, based on all the work you’ve done you seem like exactly the right person to step into a leadership position right away and lead the charge”.

#10 – Set High Standards and Tell Everyone

If there was only one thing on this list I wish I could go back and change, this would be it.  Too often bids are given out because a PNM is “Cool, Legit and Solid”.  As organizations that strive for greatness, we should hold ourselves and our PNM’s to higher standards.  This is accomplished by creating what’s called a Values-Based Recruitment Criteria, which articulates important values, and measurable criteria for membership.

The next step is communicating these standards.  If I was a chapter participating in formal recruitment with a house, I would find a way to put those criteria on a banner that takes up an entire wall.  This banner would be so big it would be impossible to miss.  In addition, I’d print out copies and post them on every door, every bathroom stall and in all my recruitment materials.  This serves two purposes.  First, it shows PNM’s that you hold members up to the high standards that you agreed to when you signed The Bond and that you’re an elite organization.  Second, it deters all those who do not meet your standards so you have more time to focus on your 5-star prospects.

It is also important to revisit these criteria on a regular basis, and slowly ratchet them up until the entire chapter is full of the campus’ best leaders.

Alex graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science. Within his Chapter he held the offices of Philanthropy Chairman, Vice President, Recruitment Chairman and two terms as Phikeia Educator. Beyond his Chapter, he also served on the Greek Week Steering Committee and IFC as the Vice President of Recruitment. Through his hard work and effort both inside and outside of his Chapter, he was honored as a “Distinguished Greek Leader of 2010” which was awarded to six students out of a Greek Community of over 5,000. Brother Carrick has had the pleasure of attending all three major conferences: ELI, RBC/RW and PLC and he is the President of the Oxford Alumni Club.

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