Remember the name Susan Boyle?
If not, that’s a surprise. Everyone was talking about her not too many years ago. She is the unmarried, unemployed 47-year old English woman who lived with her cat in a small village in England. Several years ago, she kept a promise to her dying mother and tried to become a star on England’s version of “American Idol” called “Britain’s Got Talent”.
Mission accomplished. Her surprising and amazing performance captured the hearts of the world (her song on YouTube has surpassed the number of viewers that watched the 2010 Super Bowl…take a few minutes and watch it if you never saw it, Coach).
O.K., did you watch it? Did it make you feel good? If so, you just experienced the psychological experience that is called “elevation”.
“There’s an emotional state called elevation, characterized by a warm, glowing feeling, that we get when someone transcends our expectations,” says Lynn Johnson, a psychologist in Salt Lake City, in a recent USA Today article. Boyle is “an elevator — we want to believe in something higher, that there’s meaning in life and that the ugly duckling can become the beautiful swan.”
I emphasized “transcends our expectations” because that’s where Susan Boyle, psychology, and the way you recruit all intersect. Surprising your recruit and exceeding their expectations is a sure-fire way to cement yourself at the top of their list. I’ve seen it happen on campus after campus, and we’ve had the chance to help formulate those strategies for programs that bring us to their campus.
What should you do if you want to practice the art of “elevation” in your recruiting, and why does it work so well? Glad you asked:
• It’s the vindication. We like it when prospects are told one thing about a school, and it turns out to be wrong. Prospects like it when they uncover their own “truth” about a program (hopefully, your program).
• It’s the surprise. Your prospects go into every new recruiting relationship with a pre-set list of expectations. You, as the recruiter, want to find ways to surprise them with new things they didn’t know about you and your program. Things that will replace their assumptions with exciting and unexpected new truths. Hint: If you want help achieving “surprise” while you’re recruiting your prospects, consider using our Total Recruiting Solution program.
• It’s the guilt. They might even feel a little guilty about assuming some things about your program and college, and then discovering the truth about you. They’ll feel a little guilty, which can cause a powerful alternative reaction which is a real, passionate curiosity to find out more about you and what you can offer them.
• It’s the hope. You have to remember that your prospects are nervous, doubtful and unsure about what their future holds. If you can provide hope, and demonstrate why they should trust you and your program for their academic and athletic future, that will go a long way towards cementing you at the top of their list.
• It’s the distraction. You absolutely MUST do something different than other schools when you host a recruit on your campus. You absolutely MUST sound different in the language you use in your recruiting letters and emails. “Distracting” your prospect from the normal, bland recruiting language that most of your competition is still using gets their attention and helps you and your program break through the clutter of the recruiting process.
• It’s the authenticity. Unlike most of the contestants on American Idol, Boyle clearly has not been groomed to be a pop star, so she is perceived as the real deal, says Ken Tucker, editor at large of Entertainment Weekly. “People want their idols to be authentic.” Likewise, prospects want their coaches to be authentic. For those of you that have read our recruiting study, “Inside the Mind of Your College Prospect”, you already know that the coaches that are genuine will usually win the most recruits. Authoring your own blog and using Twitter, for example, show recruits the real you…not the pre-produced you in the media guide and brochures that are being read by your recruits less and less.
Those six examples can be powerful psychological tools that you can use to your advantage to win recruits. Psychology plays a major role in the process that your prospects use to make their final decision, especially when it’s “irrational” – something not based on fact, but on the feeling they get about you and your program while they are being recruited.
Susan Boyle managed to put almost ALL of those things into play in her meteoric rise to international fame. Something tells me that if she can do it, you can too when it comes to signing better recruits using these simple psychological tools.
Ready to learn more creative approaches that will dramatically impact your recruiting efforts year after year? Make sure you attend our annual Summer recruiting event, the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. It’s amazing collection of recruiting experts and coaches ready to teach you their secrets. Get all the information on this year’s event here.