Recruitment in Chicago (the bad)

In my last post, I discussed how recruitment is everywhere around you. In my recent trip to Chicago, I experienced some great recruitment efforts utilizing persistence and positive absurdity.

Unfortunately, not all recruitment efforts are successful in the Windy City. As fraternity and sorority members, a lot can be learned by observing these misfortunes, and implementing strategies to ensure they do not befall our chapters. Allow me to describe some of the recruitment failures I witnessed in Chicago.

Big Huge Party Guy:
I was enjoying a night out in The City of Broad Shoulders, when my friends and I decided to stop into a local watering hole. The place was empty – like PNC Park empty. The one unique thing that immediately caught my attention was the guy in the corner wearing a tuxedo and conversing solemnly with his friends. Not wanting to be bothered, our group decided to take a seat in the entirely empty back room; and that’s where we saw it…

An obnoxiously placed poster was hanging from the TV with a picture of who else, but Mr. Tuxedo. The poster was advertising Mr. Tuxedo’s big huge retirement party (he was 35, tops), and invited the entire city of Chicago out for the festivities. So why was there nobody there?

As fraternities and sororities, we are constantly trying to get people out to our events (recruitment, philanthropy, educational, etc.). We plan for a big huge crowd, get posters printed up, reserve the space, then when it comes time for the event, nobody shows up. It’s not enough to put up fliers promoting how wicked-sweet your event is going to be, you actually need to put in the time to talk to people about exactly what it is that you’re doing. Facebook events only go so far, and are way too easy to ignore. Word of mouth will forever be the best public relations tool that your organization can use.

Mr. Tuxedo wanted a big huge party for himself, except nobody showed up. Perhaps instead of inviting the world, he could have personally asked his true friends to join him. In my book, a night spent with a few close friends is far more beneficial than a night surrounded by superficial acquaintances. Do your big huge recruitment events often end up with you all dressed up with nobody to talk to? Might things have been different if instead of inviting the entire campus to your house, a healthy portion of your membership spent the night in small groups with potential new members having meaningful conversations and actually getting to know them?

The Saleswoman:
My two female friends, with whom I was staying with for the weekend, decided that a rainy day would be a perfect opportunity for us to walk around the city and do some touristy things. It wasn’t until an hour and a half later, when I found myself surrounded by handmade soaps and creams, that I realized that the entire excursion was a ruse for my friends to visit LUSH at the Macy’s Store.

While trying my hardest to look manly, I noticed a strange phenomenon; the women working at LUSH were really just trying to recruit my friends into buying their product. One saleswoman’s methods, in particular, caught my eye.

As my friends were shopping, the saleswoman walked up to one of them and declared, “I really like those shorts, they’re SO CUTE!”. My friend turned, thanked the saleswoman, then awkwardness ensued. I stood and watched for what felt like minutes as the saleswoman had no follow up, she just stood there, forcing a smile as she stared at my friend.

I couldn’t help but think of Panhellenic recruitment parties, and how this saleswoman obviously had never been trained on how to develop a meaningful conversation. Had she been, she would have known some great follow up questions to ask in order to keep the conversation going. Instead, she muttered, “Let me know if you need help with anything,” then walked away.

As social organizations, we pride ourselves on building deep relationships and lifelong friendships, all of which start with a simple conversation. Social excellence is a key to success in recruitment, and in life. If we could learn to initiate honest, meaningful conversations with complete strangers, just imagine how far we could go with our potential new members.

This Place:
I’m pretty sure that every city has one of these establishments. The nightclub where women dance in the windows as a way to entice patrons into the place. My guess is that the majority of the people reading this post have either never stepped foot into a place like this, or are ashamed to say that they have.

For the few people out there who are reading this, thinking to themselves, “That girl is my lighthouse beacon, calling me to the party”, I’m assuming you’re either a cast member on the Jersey Shore, or you are currently wearing more than one popped collar.

This lesson is mainly for the guys, but women should take heed as well. When you try to recruit using nothing but the temptation of alcohol and sex, you will find it incredibly difficult to find the quality of member you are looking for. No self respecting person would be lured in by a dancer in the window, and likewise your future chapter president isn’t going to be joining your organization because of that sweet party your house threw during recruitment.

Your best members join because they fully understand the values of your organization, it’s history, and the benefits of joining. I’m sure most of us know a brother or sister who joined for all the wrong reasons, and like me, you kick yourself every day for allowing your organization to be portrayed in such a false manner. In your recruitment strategy, ensure that you are placing the highest emphasis on the history, values, and benefits of your organization.

That pretty much wraps up my weekend of recruitment experiences in Chicago. Seeing these varied styles and tactics being utilized serves as not only great blog fodder, but superb reflection on how we as fraternity and sorority members are approaching recruitment.

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