Recruitment Won't Fix Your Problems

Thursday, August 31, 2017


How do you choose your new members?

I get this question all the time. From young women before they go through recruitment, new members after they've received their bid to join a chapter, current initiates trying to understand the selection process, and even from strangers in the airports I meet while traveling. The question is never asked with the intention of understanding our processes or procedures, but is always meant to gain understanding on how some women are chosen and others are not. How do you choose your new members? Like many organizations, our chapters are simply looking to select women who will strategically advance their sorority. I underlined "our chapters" because those from headquarters don't swoop in during recruitment and tell our chapters who to select. Our chapters are the driving force in determining their needs for strategic advancement and we empower them to select accordingly. Strategic advancement could mean everything from academic excellence, university involvement, leadership experience, or possibly just an outgoing personality that connects with our current chapter women - because down to our core, we are social organizations. In helping chapters determine their qualities of strategic advancement, I always ask the same questions:
  • What kind of new members does your chapter need?
  • What kind of new members does your chapter want? *there's a difference
  • What areas can your chapter improve on?

The answers I get to these questions sometimes leave me puzzled. 
  • Our chapter has the lowest GPA out of the sororities on our campus - we want to recruit new members with high GPAs.
  • Our chapter struggles to find women to fill leadership positions - we are looking for new members with leadership experience.
  • We didn't place in last year's Homecoming Skit competition - we need to find new members who have skills in dance, theater, choreography, or singing. 
  • Our chapter can't get members to show up to events - we want to find new members who have enough free time to make our chapter a priority.
  • Our chapter doesn't have a strong social media presence - we need women who are skilled in photography, writing, and graphic design. 

These answers don't puzzle me because I can't follow their logic - I'm with you 1000%. But what I don't understand is the mentality that by recruiting these specific types of new members and their skill sets, that chapters will suddenly solve their problems and find solutions to many organizations' culture issues. I'm not even saying you shouldn't follow this logic in recruiting for strategic advancement. I am saying you can't recruit new members with the expectation that they will solve problems they didn't create. These types of answers follow the "ask not what your fraternity can do for you; ask what you can do for your fraternity" mentality. The only issue is that our organizations focus on member development. We should be focusing on the development of our young women - not the other way around. Strong, successful, and confident members will develop the organization all on their own. 
Recruitment isn't a solution, recruitment is an opportunity. 

Recruitment can't fix your problems. Only YOU can.

One new member with a high GPA doesn't cancel out your member on academic probation. One hyper-involved new member can't guarantee the rest will show up. We've got to start at home. We have to raise the bar ourselves.You should always strive to recruit better than yourself. You should also then strive to personally meet the new standards of excellence you set for you newest members. 

So first, let's go back to the drawing board. Before we start the recruitment process, let's think of different approaches to the answers above. In addition to looking for these new members to help grow our chapter, what can we do to serve the growth of our current members? Is there a program? Do we need an area-specific adviser? What incentives can we offer for attendance or growth? What ways can we recognize individual member success? What opportunities can we provide members to learn new skills? Get creative and get specific!

Second - let's talk about personal accountability. Whether you’re on your chapter’s recruitment team or simply another member participating in the recruitment process, it can be so easy to get caught up in what may seem like a never-ending judgment process.  We try to slap labels like “values-based recruitment” on it and encourage “no-frills” policies to take away some of the materialistic edge, but at the end of the day everyone is competing. Chapters are competing for new members, potential new members are competing for bids to chapters they covet… all that competition (add in lack of sleep) and you’ve got yourself a very intense process.

This isn’t a post about how we shouldn’t judge others. When only the most qualified candidate will be hired – how do employers decide? Sorority recruitment is no different…  Oh, how I wish I was the girl who could bake the cake with rainbows and smiles and make everything a pretty picture.  I’ve stretched myself thin for years trying to become that girl – convincing myself that if I didn’t speak my mind or if I wasn’t as assertive that I could be known as “sweet” or “nice” and my life would be much easier.  But down to my core, I’ve got an eye for the optics – I analyze things and I’m pretty straightforward in my delivery. So I’ll say it again…

This isn’t a post about how we should ignore what makes us competitive.
This is a post about personal accountability.
This isn’t a post about chasing perfect.
This is a post encouraging you to become the woman you’d want to recruit.
How do you measure up?

My challenge to you is this: become a Potential New Member again.  Whatever methods your organization uses for membership selection, put yourself to the test. Can you personally help the strategic advancement of your organization?  Fill out your organization’s recommendation form with your information, complete a potential new member profile, and do a real-time recruitment assessment based on how you woke up and decided to present yourself to the world – in both appearance and in how you interacted with others through conversations.

Would you give yourself a bid?

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