Interviewing Applicants

How do you interview potential guild members?  Do you have a trial period?  How do you measure performance during raids?  What (if anything) can a trial member do to shorten their trial period if they prove exceptional?  What if they prove to be a waste of time?  What about the ones you’re not sure about?  Do you offer an extended trial if you just aren’t sure about someone?

Every guild has different answers for these questions.  Some have very strict procedures while others take a more laid-back approach.  Each has their pros and cons.  Today I’d like to talk about some of the different recruiting and interviewing styles I’ve used in the past.

The Trial Period

The first thing to decide is whether you have a formal trial period or not.  Guilds tend to break one of three ways here:

The last of these tends to be used in one of two ways: by guilds that are desperate for members and don’t want to discourage people by forcing them to go through a waiting period, and guilds that have strict discipline where you can be booted for non-performance or other issues regardless of how long you’ve been around.

My preference is a short defined trial period (ten days or two weeks) combined with a strong suggestion that trial members try to do as much with the guild in that time.  If you only raid three nights a week, having a trial log on for just those raids and logging off immediately after isn’t going to allow for you get a feel for them, or vice versa.  Make sure that everyone understands that at the end of the trial period, people are either in or out.  If you feel that you might need to extend trials, write that into your policies and do it in properly sized chunks (one week at a time for example).  Don’t let a trial applicant linger without a defined date, because people will get fed up of hanging around waiting for you to make up your mind.

Raid Performance

The obvious place to go to measure raid performance is meters and log parses like those from WowWebStats and WoWMeterOnline.  The problem is what you consider the mark trial members should meet.  With identical gear and spec, you can compare raw numbers to gauge relative skill, but you’ll rarely have that luxury.  Applicants will typically have lesser gear than your main raiders, so you have to know what percentage of performance you expect them to hit.  If you have class leaders, this should be their job – they should be capable of extrapolating what two hundred less spellpower and four percent less crit chance should equate to.

Don’t try to compare different specs – you can’t gauge disc priest performance against holy healing numbers.  if you don’t have a similiar spec and class to compare to, try browsing historial parses for the same fight over at WMO – you’ll need to adjust (sometimes dramatically) for the gear of the members in the parse, but it’s better than making guesses about a class or spec you’re not familiar with.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help outside the guild either – even if you don’t have a frost mage in your raid roster, you probably know one, and their advice and review of combat logs can be invaluable.

Don’t forget to look at the “soft” metrics either, like failure rates, above-average DPS idle time, mitigation/avoidance (for tanks) and early deaths, especially from avoidable environmental damage.  If you’re not using an addon like EnsidiaFails, get it.  If you’re going to call out trials on their fails, be sure to call out everyone in the raid, including yourself.  Otherwise, just keep the results to yourself and use them in your eventual evaluation.

Loot Restrictions

Decide up front whether you’re going to restrict the loot that a trial can receive.  If you’re using a currency-based loot system the member may not get any loot, especially if long-time members have a high balance.  If you go with the textbook “you can get anything that would be sharded”, be sure that you mean that, or that you put a cap on the number of items before you take someone to a farm instance.  I’ve seen trials come out of their first Naxx run with 6-7 epic upgrades because that’s how the loot policy was written, only to be judged as a poor fit and not be invited into the guild.  Ask yourself whether this will bother you before you bring a trial on a run.

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

I believe that every member should know the strategies for every fight.  A DPS member may not understand all the subtle nuances that a tank has to be aware of, but they should be able to give you the 30 second rundown, covering the various phases, special abilities used in each phase, and the general role each archetype (tank, healer, melee dps, ranged dps) need to play.  If there’s a specific role to be played (like a ranged tank on Mimiron P3/P4), they should be recognize that the role needs to be assigned.

So, ask them.  Before you pull, ask the trial to give the rest of the guild a rundown of the fight.  Let them finish, then fill in any areas they may have missed.  Anyone who says they can’t do this (or even worse says “strat?” in /raid as you approach the boss) probably isn’t going to shine when the fight starts going pear-shaped.

Fit and Personality

Remember: you can upgrade gear, but you can’t patch stupid

The best DPS or healing is of no use if the trial member just doesn’t mesh with your existing members.  You can’t risk alienating your existing raiders just to get your raidwise performance up a bit.  It’s important to gauge whether the member is going to be a good fit personality wise.  This can be difficult for a guild leader to do, because just like on a first date, trial members are more likely to put their best foot forward when dealing with you directly or when you’re leading a raid.

Having trusted non-leadership members is a boon here.  Ask them to run heroics with the trial, and get a feel for how they act when they don’t think anyone important is watching.  Don’t ask or expect them to confront the trial if anything comes up – just get a report and give it due weight when making a final determination.

If you’re really sneaky, you can leave one of your alts at a non-privileged rank (or even outside the guild), and join a group with three guildies and the trial.  Make sure the members know not to give away your secret.  You’d be amazed what you can learn about a person when you’re a fly on the wall.

Also try to find out how people act outside the guild.  Are they an unrepentant asshat in general or trade chat?  If so, will it bother you if people attribute such behaviour to the guild instead of to the member?  Avail yourself of tools like warcraftrealm’s character history.  You may want to ask an applicant’s former guildies for their impression of the player.

Existing Member Participation

How do you get your members invested in the guild?  By making them ultimately responsible for who gets in (and possibly out) of the guild.

A few years ago, I was an officer in a fairly large raiding guild on a US realm.  One of the things I undertook was a revamp of how we recruited members.  I was (for reasons that I now forget) very much into democracy at the time, and I wanted to get the rank and file involved in approving or dissaproving applications.

When we brought in an application for trial, I would copy their app over to a members-only forum.  After one week, we added a poll indicating whether the person should get in or not.  After one week, if they had more than 10 yes votes and not more than 2 no votes, they got in immediately.  If they had more than five no votes after one week, the trial ended immediately.  Otherwise, voting went on for another week, at the end of which they had to have at least 10 yes votes and no more than 10% no votes.

In restrospect, this system was probably a bit over the top, but it did get people involved.  Did everyone vote?  No, but those who did had a voice in who they were going to raid with.  If I had to do it over again, I would at the very least ensure that my raiding members had a place where they could voice opinion on applications under trial.  If my web forum supported it, I’d allow people to make these comments anonymously.  I might not have quite the same thresholds, but I would allow for four possible outcomes: fast-track acceptance, fast-track rejection, regular acceptance and regular rejection.

If you choose to use this type of acceptance process, you will have to decide whether the guild leadership has the final word.  Can a guild leader unilaterally end a trial period, or must they wear a member’s hat and register their desire that the person not make it into the guild?  Once you’ve decided where the ultimate power lies and don’t violate that contract.  There is no point in empowering your members to make decisions if you reserve the right to second-guess them.

The other facet to member participation is whether your members can ask for another member to be kicked from the guild.  I proposed this when the above system went live, but the other officers didn’t take me up on the suggestion.  If you choose to do this, make sure that the threshold required is high, and preferably have a two-phased process – x members have to ask for someone to be kicked for the matter to be put to a larger vote, either among the leadership or among the members.  Do be wary of the power that cliques can hold if you offer this to all of your members.  This implies a huge amount of trust in your members, and may be something that you only offer to a particular rank, or perhaps even a select un-named group within your raider ranks comprised of level-headed members that you feel will wield the power responsibly.

How Would I Do It?

Long-time readers of this blog may see a contradiction between what I plan to do with the guild Cold Comfort (beneavolent dictatorship) and the advise I dispense (true democracy).  While I want to believe that a fully democractic guild decision structure would work, my personal experience says that I won’t find enough people who want to participate to make it a reality.  You need to be careful of applying true democracy to a very small active population – if you set up policies like “no more than 10% no votes” and only three of your members regularly vote on applicants, a single vote can result in an otherwise good applicant being rejected.

If you already have a large active guild community, I’d still suggest using a system similar to the one I describe above.  For a small guild, or a guild starting out, I wouldn’t lay down quite so many rules.  Allow members who want to provide feedback a way to do so (including an anonymous option if you can), but ultimately the decision needs to lie with someone who can be pragmatic and take the long view for the guild (either the guild leader or the recruitment officer).  Don’t discount one person’s voice, but at the same time don’t allow disproportionate power to be wielded by one member, especially if there are any indications that they might have an axe to grind.

How Do Others Do It?

For a look at how some of the top guilds handle these issues, be sure to check out Gravity’s guild leader interview series over at

Until Next Time