Better Questions, Better Conversations

Better Questions, Better Conversations

by Erin Chatten

Don’t you just love going to an appointment and filling out those “introductory” forms? Doesn’t it give you all the warm and fuzzies to check boxes, write your address, t-shirt size, and family history?

What?! It doesn’t?!

So then why do our registration, intake, and interest forms to gain membership into a fraternity or sorority look and sound just like those forms? We are so much more than that.

  • We have the potential to get to know more about a potential member before we even meet them face to face.
  • We have the potential to have truly meaningful conversations because we learned more about an individual in advance.
  • We have the potential to leave a meaningful first impression that teaches potential members what we are about.

…all by asking better questions. It’s that easy.

About a year ago I wrote a blog that challenges this idea and following that, Phired Up staff presented at multiple fraternity/sorority conferences to understand what you considered to be better data that can lead to better members. Here’s what we learned…

Whether you use CampusDirector, ChapterBuilder, Google Forms, or the classic pen and paper, you can infuse better questions to learn more about a potential member and teach them about membership. These are typically short answer questions that allow a PNM to freely answer as they see fit and asks them to reflect upon themselves and why they are signing up for this lifetime experience.

When learning about the potential member, it’s important to not just understand who they are but to get a step deeper to understand why they are that way and who they aspire to be. Use your form to learn about…

1. Who they are and how they see themselves

Imagine if we knew more about the personality of an individual from their own words. This gives us an opportunity to understand how this individual shows up in social environments and gives us an idea of what members they would get along with. As a bonus, if your university uses a personality test such as Strengths Finder or Meyers-Brigg, you can use that in your form.

Questions to ask:

  • Describe your personality.

  • How would your friends describe your personality?

  • Where do you fall on the introversion/extroversion scale (0- Fully introverted 100- Fully extroverted)?

  • Describe your ideal social gathering.

  • A part of membership is the social building of friendships and brotherhood/sisterhood/siblinghood with other members and the community. Describe what you look for in a group of friends.

2. What they care about 

Know about what matters to every individual who you recruit. Is it their family? A sport? Their academics? Video Gaming? Whatever it may be, everyone has at least one thing that matters to them. We don’t need to share these passions with our PNMs, but we can learn and bond over it. Not only will this create better conversations, but shows the PNM a level of care and encouragement that is a foundational part of our memberships.

Questions to ask:

  • Describe what you are most passionate about.

  • What matters the most to you in life?

  • Describe how you spend your time outside of school.

  • A part of membership is having an impact on causes and philanthropies to improve this world. Are there any causes that are particularly important to you? Describe them.

3. Where they are going

Not every individual has their entire life planned out when they are starting to show interest in membership. That’s okay. What we do want to know is what they are currently striving for. This could be a career goal, a fitness goal, or self-growth. Whatever it is, we know membership grows us as individuals. We need to know where they see themselves going to help them see how membership helps them move toward that goal.

Questions to ask:

  • What goals do you currently have for yourself?

  • Describe your current career aspirations and why you selected it. (if you are undecided, tell us about what you’re currently exploring and why)

  • A benefit of membership is the opportunity for continual development in and beyond your undergraduate years. How do you hope membership develops you for your future?

4. Why Us?

The motivations behind a decision tell us a lot about that individual and their intentions. It is important that we understand the motivation or desire behind their interest in membership to either align expectations or describe how we deliver on their hopes.

Questions to ask:

  • Describe what you hope to receive from your membership?

  • Describe why you are interested in joining?

  • What do you expect membership to be like?

  • Membership is more than a four-year undergraduate experience, it is a lifetime commitment. How do you see yourself benefiting from this type of membership?

5. Why College?

Just as it is important to learn motivations for membership interest, it’s important to understand the decision of your institution as well. Was it because it was close to home or offered scholarships? This information can guide our conversations and help us understand the individual. This also gives us an opportunity to learn about potential members as a student to help them focus on their academic success.

Questions to ask:

  • Describe why you choose to attend this university over anywhere else?

  • What do you hope to achieve in your undergraduate years?

  • Describe your main focuses as a student.

  • A part of membership is holding members to academic expectations and supporting academic growth. Describe how you plan to balance your academics with social life on campus.

Did you notice how some questions had statements before them? That’s because these questions can hold a dual purpose. Not only do we learn about the potential members but we also get to take a moment to teach and align expectations of what membership is like. Use it as an opportunity to tell the potential member about what’s important to your organization or community and have them reflect on how that part of membership can or is currently showing up in their life.

My challenge for you is this. Pick Two. Pick two questions from the list above that your community or organization would benefit from learning and add it to your registration, intake, or interest form. Make sure you can share the responses with members and improve your conversations by improving the questions you ask. To learn how to add these questions to CampusDirector contact us and to have a conversation about teaching and using these questions in a chapter setting, contact me at