I remember the very first time I learned what happens to all those recruitment profiles that Potential New Members submitted when they made the brave (and exciting) decision to go through formal recruitment. As a sophomore in my chapter, it was my first time participating in recruitment as a sorority woman and I’d be lying if I told you that being part of the recruitment team for my chapter didn’t make me feel like I was in the FBI. If having the opportunity to view every profile of the women going through recruitment didn’t make you feel powerful, then knowing you played a hand in selecting the best candidates to join your organization certainly did.
As a freshman going through recruitment, I knew my recruitment profile would be reviewed by every group on campus – but I didn’t understand how exactly this would impact the membership selection process. Did chapters really care if I put in 30 hours volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House? Would it make a difference if my GPA was .3 higher? Would a professional photo make it seem like I was trying too hard? I’m notorious for over-analyzing these types of things but even my over-achieving high school self couldn’t calm myself from becoming a wreck preparing for recruitment.
Each organization may have different methods for membership selection, however, we are all ultimately analyzing the same criteria. Sure, some organizations look for a very specific type of woman during recruitment – but undeniably, we are all searching for the best. The “best” of course is comparative – against every single other woman going through recruitment. On paper, potential new members (known as PNMs in sorority-world) are competing in grades, extra-curricular activities, personal/family connections, appearance (through their provided pictures), social media profiles (God help us all), and volunteerism… just to name a few components. Yes, PNMs are also competing on the strength of relationships they’re able to develop through quick rotations of five minute conversations – but it’s that “on paper” analysis I’m going to use to make my point.
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 some intensely high stress levels) 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 in the workplace or classroom 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?
How can we fault a woman who makes a snarky comment about a fellow potential new member when we can’t be respectful in our own delivery of criticism? How can you chastise a woman whose GPA is below a 3.0 when you are facing academic probation? Thinking of commenting on a woman’s appearance when you didn’t show up presenting your best self today? I think you get it.
Of course, no matter your personal situation, in recruitment you’re looking for the best of the best. Even more so during recruitment, chapter’s often try and recruit women who will advance their organization in areas they are currently lacking. For example, the chapter with the lowest GPA on campus might raise their GPA requirements during formal recruitment to recruit women that will ultimately make them a stronger chapter. I’m not faulting these chapters for strategy – I’m saying that recruiting women to fill in your gaps isn’t the only way to “fix” the problems within your chapter. We can always start with ourselves.
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. Fill out your organization’s recommendation form with your information, complete a Potential New Member profile, 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 conversation today.
Would you give yourself a bid?