Step # 2 Move Recruitment To PC/Washington

 Today, Recruitment for the Peace Corps is divorced from the role of the staff in  PC/Washington. Few people at HQ (beyond those doing selection) have any idea of what is coming down the pike. New recruits arrive at the airport ready to fly off to the developing world like so many free range chickens ready to be plucked.

The Peace Corps needs to return to the most effective recruitment system the Peace Corps ever used.

In April 1963, Bob Gale, who had been vice president for development at Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota came to the Peace Corps and sold Shriver on blitz recruiting.

Gale, who worked for Bill Haddad, then Associate Director for the Office of Planning and Evaluation, didn’t want to lose Gale, but Shriver told Haddad that recruiting was crucial to the Peace Corps. “The trouble,” Shriver told Haddad, “was that recruiting has never been approached creatively before. We’re thinking like the army and the navy. Gale knew the academic bureaucracy.”

Gale knew that the Peace Corps had to get college administrators and the faculty on the side of the Peace Corps. He set the standards for recruitment used by the agency during those first years.

  • A famous name led a team of recruiters;
  • An advance team arrived one week before the Recruiters;
  • Radio and television stations were booked, as well as classroom appearances.
  • Recruiting for the Peace Corps was like a political campaign.

The blitz recruitment idea was tried out first at the University of Wisconsin, and then the University of Michigan. It worked like magic. Within a few months, no major American campus would have failed to feel the Peace Corps presence. By the end of ‘63 very few deans existed who did not know about the Peace Corps.

Since there were very few RPCVs everyone in the Peace Corps building, even secretaries, (yes, there were secretaries back then) were sent out on the road. Whatever job you had in the agency (and I had one after my tour in Ethiopia) you also  did a minimum of two weeks of recruiting.

This total involvement in recruiting efforts for the Peace Corps meant that the ‘building’ understood:

  • Who was interested in joining the Peace Corps and why;
  • What the talent and skills were from graduates of  American colleges.

However, the real benefit was that the Headquarters’ staff was connected in a personal way to the Volunteers being sent overseas. The Peace Corps wasn’t a lot of divisions and offices, each working separately. Recruiting Peace Corps Volunteers was everyone’s responsibility.

Ask any Recruiter and she or he will tell you that former Volunteers, whether they are friends, family, teachers, or strangers met on the train, are the best recruiters. Applicants listen to them and respect what they have to say about serving in the Peace Corps. Encourage and enlist RPCVs through the local groups to work with the Peace Corps by paying them to recruit!

Today, the Peace Corps Recruitment effort wastes too much time going to too many colleges. We know what colleges and universities produce the most PCVs directly off of a campus. The new Recruitment effort should targets these locations and concentrates on these school for the maximum effort. Use a combination of HQ staff and local RPCVs and focus on specific colleges, specific skills. This new direction and the Internet will take care of everything else.


[Tomorrow, Step # 3: What To Do in 2011]