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  • Writer's pictureDavid Westol

Recruitment Excuses

Recruitment Is…No Excuses

I had the privilege of speaking to presidents and recruitment chairmen of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity in January of 2008 at the Delta Sigma Phi Summit meeting in Indianapolis. My topic was, “73 Excuses That Should Never Be Used Again in Recruitment”. I took some of those excuses from this article that was published several years ago. While this was written for men’s groups I have found that women’s groups may also fall into the practice of making excuses for a poor recruitment.

Take every excuse you have heard about a poor recruitment effort—every one of them. Write them down on a piece of paper—it may take a flip chart size sheet. Then, crumple or wad the paper into a ball. Burn it. Shred it. Destroy it.

Now, we’re ready to start talking about recruitment.

Excuses for a poor recruitment have one common aspect. Every excuse has been used for years…and years. Most have been recycled—a change in a key term here, the use of popular slang there. But the same excuses continue to enjoy a life well beyond their origination.

At your recruitment school for your chapter:

Exercise One:

Place four or five chairs in a row about four feet apart. Ask one of the members to run through the chairs and then back to you—an agility drill for football or basketball if you will. He will do so with ease. Then, have him put on a blindfold. After he is blindfolded, have two or three other members quietly remove the chairs. Then, ask the blindfolded member to run the chairs again.

Of course, he will become tentative in his movements. He will walk, not run. He will hold his hands in front of him to find the first or second chair so that he won’t stumble or fall.

Tell him, “Okay. Stop and remove the blindfold”. Then, ask him, “Why did you slow down?” He will say “I thought there were chairs there and I couldn’t see them”.

Now, turn to the audience. Explain that our member “Saw” the chairs in his mind. How does that relate to a poor recruitment effort?

Some of the members will respond that the exercise demonstrates what happens when we make excuses for a poor recruitment. Encourage them to elaborate.

“We see obstacles or hurdles that aren’t really there”, they will answer. “We convince ourselves that there are barriers to success in recruitment and we use those reasons to justify why we cannot succeed”.

Good answers. Make that “Excellent answers”. In order to justify a poor recruitment, we create or invent obstacles or use traditional excuses.

Some of the 73 excuses for a poor recruitment:

7) “The IFC didn’t publicize recruitment”

This is among my Top Ten Lame-O recruitment excuses.

Let’s start with this fact: IFC is not an acronym for “I’ll Fill Chapters”. If your IFC or other governing group is doing its job, it is helping with preparations, assisting those chapters that ask for help through mentors or advisors, and perhaps hosting an event or two on campus to increase interest. But, it is not the job or the duty of the IFC to guarantee your chapter a successful recruitment. That is your job.

The charter for your chapter does not contain the phrase, “The IFC will fill your chapter house for you”. It is your chapter. It is your house. It is your recruitment.

21) “No one did well this semester on our campus”

Response: Yes, someone—at least one chapter and probably several—did do well on your campus. The members worked hard, the recruitment chairmen were well organized, and the leaders of the chapter were united in their support of the recruitment effort. I always like to ask the Fraternity/Sorority Advisor for the numbers and then casually mention to the excuse-makers that ___ ___ ___ did very well indeed. Watch for the windshield wiper effect—faces turning toward each other as though to say, “Why didn’t we know that?” or “Who will clue this dude in?” Then, listen for 21a.

21 a) “Those chapters took anybody they could..they were desperate…they handed out bids to everyone”

Really? May we see the numbers again please? What if we contact the leaders of those chapters—what would they say? Excuse 21a is usually used when the undergraduates of the chapter that did not do well assume that we will not check the facts. But, we do.

37) “We took quality”

This is by far the traditional, time-honored, venerable and most often used excuse for a poor recruitment effort. It is a good excuse, as excuses go. It not only explains away a poor effort with regard for details—it also provides the excuse-makers with an upside—that the chapter members consciously decided to take only the best men.

Help me out here a minute, will you? If Chapter A has 200 men through recruitment and extends bids to 20, and Chapter B has 100 men through recruitment and extends bids to 20, which chapter is being more selective?

“Chapter A” is the answer most undergraduates will give you.

And how did you arrive at that conclusion?

“Because Chapter A gave a bid to one of every ten men who came through recruitment and Chapter B gave a bid to one of every five men who came through recruitment. Therefore, mathematically as well as philosophically, Chapter A was more selective”

“Marvelous” I will intone in my best Clint Eastwood imitation. Then, may we agree that the chapter that has the largest number of men through recruitment can be more selective than a chapter that has a smaller number of men through recruitment?

We can. Which puts a torpedo amidships into the “Quality” excuse.

Ironically, in trying to salvage a poor recruitment effort, the excuse-makers often will extend bids to a high percentage of those who visit the chapter, thereby becoming exactly what they claim other chapters have done to succeed in recruitment.

45) “We didn’t get our advertising/posters/ads in the campus paper/website stuff/emails up or out in time”

Exercise Two: Schedule a recruitment school each semester, even if the chapter does not have a major recruitment effort that semester. Good chapters schedule these each semester to emphasize that recruitment is indeed 24/7/365.

During the recruitment school or workshop, have each member stand and state the name of the undergraduate member of the chapter who was most influential in his decision to join the fraternity. Don’t let them wiggle on the “Most influential” by naming two or three persons. Don’t let them cite a parent or sibling, either.

As you may surmise, some names will be repeated…sometimes three or four times. Capture those names—write them on a dry erase board or a flip chart.

Now, ask the members to tell the chapter what those individuals did to become the “Most influential”. Of course, you will hear comments such as, “He took the time to get to know me…he followed up with me every day to make sure I was going to come by for the next event…he spent time explaining everything to me…he listened to what I had to say and answered my questions”.

In other words, nothing about text messages, emails, high-end websites, posters (I still see ‘em on campuses—do you?), advertising or marketing. Just basic conversational tactics, sincere interest in others, good listening skills, and following up.

Okay. In reality, we are teaching ourselves what works during recruitment by listening to these stories and points. We are also identifying the positive consistencies that characterize good recruiting members.

Recruitment is profoundly simple. It is the excuse-makers who want it to be complicated, because that gives them a basis for excuses. I do my best to turn that sleeve inside out and encourage each member to be the reason one man joins the chapter that semester.

52) “We don’t have famous alumni like __ __ or __ __ __”


Perhaps the best response is, “Did you join because (insert the name of a famous alumnus here) joined at another college or university five/seven/twenty-two years ago?”

No. You joined because of the members in the chapter. What other reason could there be?

Sure, we talk about social, intramurals, homecoming, academics (sometimes), networking and all of the other time-honored reasons. But, we join because of the members, and usually because of one or two.

73) “We did about as well as we did last year/in 2009/in 2008/when I joined”

Life would be much easier if we were held to a vague standard of, “About as well” or that we need only maintain and never improve. Life would be easy, indeed.

My question: If you were CEO of a major corporation, a coach, a university president…and all other things being equal, you stood up at a meeting of shareholders, fans or alumni, faculty and staff and said, “Uh, er, we hope to do about as well as we did last year”, what would happen? I suspect that a standing ovation, a fat bonus and a new office would not be included in the response.

Recruitment is measured in different ways, including the ratio of bids to acceptance and the number of men initiated as opposed to the number who begain joining the chapter.

Regardless, we are not a mega-corporation. We are men’s national fraternities. And, on hundreds of campuses there are three to four men who are not involved in the Greek community for every man who joins a fraternity.

If our product is indeed good–and I join you in believing that fraternity and sorority life is indeed a good thing–and we have ample opportunity to recruit new members, then we should be improving, each and every year. Improvement doesn’t mean growing the chapter beyond its logical size or becoming the largest chapter on the campus. Improvement means doing a better job each year in recruitment and reaching our goal of recruiting better members–better than we are.

Excuses? Rationalizations? Put ’em away. The prospective members are out there. Get rid of the chairs, and let’s get to work.

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