We sat down with
Recruitment Ready's founder Leighton Newberry where we talked about style, confidence, and all things sorority recruitment!
It's That Time of Year Again:
“Back to School” signs in stores start to pop up and “Residence Hall Move In” sections are cleared of Command Strips and under-bed storage bins. For many college girls, this time of year calls for the preparation to undergo the sorority recruitment process. For Potential New Members, Active Members, Family Members, Friends, and Reference Writers alike, this is an exciting time to watch young women go through the recruitment process and join an organization that helps foster lifelong friendships and provides the resources to gain lifelong skills.
Leighton Newberry, the founder of Recruitment Ready, didn’t mean to step into entrepreneurship, but found herself in a position to help young women build confidence in themselves and give them the tools to build a skillset that will be used throughout the rest of their lives. As many young women prepare to go through the Panhellenic recruitment process as Potential New Members (PNMs) in the coming month, we got the chance to speak with her about how to best become “Recruitment Ready.”
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about yourself – as well as more about your background in general and how Recruitment Ready came to be?
LN: “I graduated from Auburn in 2019 but am originally from Knoxville, TN. I also have two brothers and married into a family of all boys, so I would like to say that I bring the girl power to the family! All of that to say, I went through recruitment at Auburn and had a great experience. I truly believe that you can build lifelong friendships, you can grow independence, you can learn so much about yourself and be a part of something bigger than just yourself.
I absolutely loved it, and I didn’t have a lot of older girls pulling for me; I definitely talked my way through engaging conversations and really focused on connecting and meeting new people and absolutely loved [the process] for that reason. I did not know that you have to wear a black dress on pref at Auburn, and I remember feeling like everyone had gotten the memo that you wear black except for me. I just wished that I had an older sister that would’ve told me [what to do as I went throughout the process].
I graduated from Auburn in 2019 and was working as the internal and external event planner at Children’s Healthcarein Atlanta, planning their big fundraising galas. While on the side, I had moms text me from my hometown asking me to help their daughter with what to wear and what she should say [during recruitment]. I was one of the first girls to go out of state from Knoxville to Auburn, so I was getting these texts, and it was so fun for me. So I was just doing it on the side really – helping [PNMs] here and there.
Then, COVID hit, and I had an influx of people reaching out to me because they still did recruitment – but it was online and all videos. That was tough, but I still helped girls through the process. Each year, by word of mouth, [my job helping PNMs prepare for recruitment] kind of grew naturally, and I started to host group webinars. (Laughs) I didn’t mean for it to be a whole thing.
In 2022, I created an online course called the ‘Everything Package’ that helps girls from start to finish. They learn everything they should know from confidence building, to styling, to resumes, to reference letters, to letters of support. We really focus on helping girls from a holistic approach – our tagline is that ‘We celebrate happy bid days and girls who are becoming young women along the way.’ I love the art of the thank you note and all of that kind of stuff, so we teach those things in the online course, and that is when the business really started to grow quickly. Now, girls could get recruitment ready from anywhere – from Europe, from their home, anywhere! It wasn’t just one-on-one coaching any longer. I do still coach one-on-one, and we do styling, conversation prep, etc. Last year we had requests for help in general styling, etiquette, and confidence building, so we also have another side of the business that helps girls with those kinds of things that’s unrelated to sorority recruitment. That being said, our main focus is getting girls ready for sorority recruitment, and it’s honestly just been a joy. It’s been fun to step into entrepreneurship – which is not something I thought I would be doing, but it really grew organically, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Q: Can you tell us more about your styling recommendations for PNMs going through recruitment?
LN: “I always recommend girls dress themselves in a way they feel cute, classy, and confident. That’s always the goal. I truly believe that confident girls can do anything, and they’re going to have a better recruitment if they’re wearing something they feel confident in. It varies on school depending on what to wear specifically, but we do a lot of sun dresses, a lot of bold colors, and fun patterns. A lot of schools also require a Panhellenic t-shirt round, so I help girls make a t-shirt look cute – I am a big fan of the structured front tuck for that. That being said, I do encourage girls to pick patterns and styles that make them feel most like themselves and remind them they don’t have to be someone that they’re not to get into a sorority. And you have to accessorize accordingly! Of course, Susan Shaw is the best for that.”
Q: Do you have any Susan Shaw jewelry recommendations for recruitment?
LN: “Um, yes. I have like 19 options that I love (laughs).
I love the gold
Butterfly Studs because I think a lot of girls that I work with are very into the butterflies. My brand colors are blue and white, so naturally I love the
Blue and White Ginkgo Earrings.
Additionally, I think the
Cross Bangle was really fun and simple, as well as a tangible reminder that you can still have your faith and be true to who you are even when you’re going through recruitment. I also loved the
Cotton Pearl Clusters; I just think that they are so timeless. I especially think that they would be so cute when going through at Georgia or Auburn – where a lot of girls are wearing black dresses one round. I am a beach girl, so I do love the
La Mer Sea Glass bracelet, as well as theDouble Strand Coin Pearl Necklace. I love pearls, and I think a statement necklace is one of those fun ways to stand out from other girls and make a statement for yourself.
I also thought that the
Pearl Hoops would be really cute for bid day if you’re wanting to put on something really timeless that will go with anything – they will look great with whatever sorority color you have. I love the
Square Cotton Pearl Drop Earrings and
Pearl Bracelet – lots of pearls. I love the
Alys Necklaces. I think they are just so cute and are available in so many different colors. I would wear them with a t-shirt so quickly if I was going through recruitment, but I also wear them all the time myself. Finally, I love the
Madeline Studsfor a pop of color when trying to stand out – the
turquoise are probably my top picks.”
Leighton's Outfit Ideas for Each Round:
Q: Do you have any recommendations for Bid Day gifts?
LN: “I think that the
Mini Heart Studs are super cute – specifically maybe for an aunt or friend figure that was writing a reference for someone that they may not be super close to but still wanted to send something personalized to let the PNM know that they are thinking of them. Susan Shaw has some great pieces in the colors or including the symbol of many of the sororities. (check them out below!) I’ve also seen older sisters give Recruitment Ready to her younger sister [as a gift], so I think that a lot of these jewelry pieces can be gifted from an older sister to a younger sister too.
I would always recommend something timeless. For example, gold and pearls will always be a reminder of a sweet time in womanhood that can not only be worn throughout college, but also long after. I just think about how Susan Shaw can meet girls at all different levels of their lives and as they step into all the different phases of life. My mom always liked to give me timeless gifts that I could wear throughout my life.”
Moms, grandmothers, aunts, alum: gift a young woman who is pledging this school year with a piece she'll wear forever. This collection of jewelry is curated with colors and symbols that represent the different sororities. (Hint: Google her organization and find out their colors and symbols! We have pieces for all!)
LN: “...Something that I always love to emphasize is that you are good enough as you are and that it is all going to be okay. You are going to be able to step into this, and you are learning lifelong skills and this is one of the first things that you get to do on your own. For that, own it, have a great week, enjoy the conversations that you have, strive to make new friends.
I always encourage the girls that I work with to focus on their mindset. It’s so important for them to be themselves, to be in conversation, to always ask engaging questions, to look for ways to carry on the conversation, and to give back to what they’re saying… They should be confident in who they are and all that they have accomplished, as well as all that is ahead of them. They will always have our team believing in them and cheering them on. There is nothing more powerful than girls believing in themselves. In addition to the logistical side of things, that message is a lot of what I do.
We have a PDF download that girls can scroll through on their phone called ‘27 Tips to Build Confidence.’ The great thing about this is that it looks like they are scrolling through Instagram, but they are actually scrolling through tips to build confidence. I always remind them that they are building lifelong skills and that the next time that they have to do something hard, they can remember that they got through this [process] and that it isn’t so bad.
Remember that no matter what that bid card says, it’s not your worth; you are enough just as you are and that you are ready to take on the world. This is all just a part of your bigger picture.