When I was preparing to offer someone a full-time position at my company for the first time, I felt like I was planning a marriage proposal.

First, I’d take her to her favorite place for breakfast. Over pancakes, I’d tell her how valuable she is to the company and how happy I am to have her. Then, we’d head to the nail salon for mani-pedis. After that, we’d wander around the county fair, killing time before I took her to a really nice restaurant and, two courses in to a four-course meal, I’d pop the question. With all that flattery and pampering, I figured I’d be able to seal the deal before dessert.

But I wasn’t so lucky.

I was incredibly nervous the whole day. The person I was “proposing” to, Elaina, had no idea what was going on, but she could tell something was up because I was acting so weird. Not to mention that it was strange that her boss had planned this whole day with uninterrupted one-on-one time out of the blue. Creepy much?

The biggest deviation from my plan happened during our fancy, four-course meal that night. When I asked Elaina if she wanted to work full-time for my company, Student Maid, where she’d been working part-time for about a year, she turned me down. She said she really liked her job and she was grateful for the opportunity, but she had three semesters left in college, and she wanted to use that time to figure out what she really wanted to do with her life. Plus, she had an internship with an extraordinarily fancy hotel chain and she was sure it would lead to a job offer after graduation.

Honestly, I was shocked. After all that planning I did? After all the fun things we did together? Your toes are pretty and polished right now because of me, I wanted to tell her, and you’re really going to turn down this job right now?!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that all the pedicures in the world would not have been enough to convince Elaina to work with me. That’s not what she needed from her employer; she was looking for something more.

I used those three semesters Elaina had left in school to figure out what it was Elaina and people like her really needed in a work environment and what I could do to make Student Maid the ideal choice. Luckily, I made the right choices, and Elaina eventually accepted the job. She turned down the job offer with the fancy hotel chain, and she has been helping me run my entire company for more than six years.

What I learned from that experience is applicable to organizations of all kinds, not just businesses. When we’re looking to join a new organization, the perks or the prestige might be what draws us in, but it’s not what makes us say “yes.” People accept a position because of the way you make them feel.

The best way to recruit new members is not by offering the biggest or best perks. It’s not about the events or the connections. Those things are great, yes, but aren’t what make people want to stay involved in your organization year after year. Instead, focus on building relationships, focus on making people feel safe and trusted, and focus on investing your time in the people who could one day become your best friends for life. Do that, and you’ll attract the kind of people who will fight for your organization and keep it going because they believe in it and want to see it succeed. Mani-pedis, four-course dinners, and all of the other things we think attract people aren’t what matter, it’s how we make people feel that makes all the difference in the world.


Credit // Author: Kristen Hadeed

Kristen Hadeed went from being the worst example of a leader and CEO to employing over 500 millennials in her thriving business, Student Maid. Learn more about Kristen’s journey to becoming the leader she is today and her keynotes at campuspeak.com/hadeed.