Have you ever been to a job fair, internship fair or career fair? I was recently on a college campus, in the student union, when a job fair was going on and it made me think back to my own experience attending several of those in college. When I think back to those days, visions of large crowds, loud conversations, and mass chaos cloud my head. I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed, kind of intimidated, and exhausted after it was over – similar to how I felt after sorority recruitment was over. As I thought more about the job fair environment, I realized that there are a lot of similarities between them and fraternity/sorority recruitment – and a lot we can learn from them.
Picture yourself walking into the student union, dressed to impress. You’re a little nervous, anxious and excited. You walk up to a table outside a big ballroom where you check in, get your nametag, and a couple instructions. Then you walk into the room crowded with strangers and a lot of commotion. For those of you that were wondering, I’m talking about a job fair, not sorority recruitment. The similarities are shocking – I know.
What happens inside these job fairs, however, looks a little bit different from fraternity/sorority recruitment. While the inside of the room is chaotic, there are lot of people moving around, info booths, tables, and recruiters, what is actually happening at those tables and booths is where the magic is.
When a job seeker or “recruit” (read as “you”) walks up to a booth, the first thing that happens is the recruiter acknowledges your presence by greeting you with a warm smile and a handshake – which is really no different than fraternity/sorority recruitment. Next the recruiter immediately starts asking questions about you in an effort to get to know you (the good recruiters anyway). They don’t immediately burst out with a practiced speech about how awesome their company is or all of the amazing jobs and opportunities they have. They invest in you, get to know you, talk to you about you. When, and only when, you ask about the company or the available jobs, do they talk about it.
This looks a little different than what happens in fraternity/sorority recruitment. We typically ask the three questions that every fraternity man or sorority woman knows how to ask (Where are you from? What’s your major? Where do you live?), then get a little awkward and don’t know what to say next. Then as a way to fill the silence we start talking about our organization and how awesome it is because we love it and think other people should, too. People actually don’t care. They want to talk about what matters to them – themselves, not what matters to you – your fraternity or your sorority. When they are ready to talk about your fraternity or sorority, they’ll ask.
A good recruiter would then hand you their business card and potentially some information about the company or the available jobs. They would then, in one fell swoop, without you even realizing what is happening, usher you to a table where you fill out a form that gives them your contact information and potentially a resume. Within 48 hours, the recruiter will follow-up with you even if it’s just to say, “thank you” or “it was great meeting you”. If they are interested in you as a candidate, they usually call you immediately and attempt to set up a time to chat with you before they leave campus.
When they set up a time to meet with you, they don’t ask you to come back to the job fair or attend a reception. They set up a private meeting with you, usually at a coffee shop, restaurant, or small meeting space. Good recruiters understand that they need to be in an environment where they can give someone their undivided attention in order to really get to know them – and they know that those environments are not big, loud, events with tons of people around.
Last year, I spent a lot of time at an Ivy League institution. I frequented a coffee shop near campus for several hours most mornings to start my day. There were multiple times that I would find five or six recruiters from a company (big companies like Rubbermaid, Deloitte, or Google) who had set up shop there and had a constant stream of students, all day, coming in to meet with them. The meetings we 20-30 minutes in length and one-on-one. This is what top companies do for several days after job fairs – they sit down one-on-one with people that they met at the job fairs.
Typically when we (fraternity/sorority members) meet people outside of the formal process of recruitment, we don’t do these things. Getting contact information is something we use Facebook for – we go on and stalk people, find them, and then friend them so we have a way to get a hold of them – if we even do that (that’s creepy by the way). Occasionally if we do get their contact information (in a normal and appropriate way), it’s not common practice to follow-up right away. We either wait until we need something from them or until we have a big recruitment event to invite them to. We then use those “big events” as they way we get to know them and potentially build a friendship with them - and it just doesn’t work well. We typically don’t get enough people or the right people to those big events. We rarely use small activities like coffee or lunch to get to know potential members.
We can learn something from what corporate recruiters and human resources professionals do at job fairs. They navigate these environments with ease. They don’t need entertainment, videos, chanting, singing, matching t-shirts, or food to be successful. They also know that while those environments are a great opportunity to meet people, that they are not a great opportunity for getting to know people.
Now, the ladies reading this article are getting caught up in “but we can’t do this sort of stuff during sorority recruitment”. You’re right. You can’t. However, you can and should do this stuff outside of sorority recruitment even if you can’t take new members. Corporate recruiters don’t always have jobs that they are hiring for, but they know that they should continually search for high quality candidates in the event that they do have a job to fill – then they have a pool ready to draw from.
If we as fraternity men and sorority women were constantly meeting people by shaking their hand, talking to them about them, giving them getting contact information, following-up, and getting to know them through a small activity, we would be able to build a funnel of highly qualified people into our organizations. We would have a waiting list, a group of people that we know we want to join, we’re just waiting for the opportunity to bring them in. We would be able to recruit in a normal, natural, and authentic way.