Guild application forms – A thing of the past?

A while ago we had a rather interesting debate among the officers in our guild, regarding our current application form for 25man raid applicants. As you can see we’re pretty standard in that respect – our form covers all obligatory bases such as age, location, spec and raid times, and also a few more things that we believe should provide us with some useful information on potential tralists. As simple and similar as these forms usually look, we’ve actually talked about ours time and again the past years and alterations were made over time, or rather a lot of cuts. (Personally I still think we’re missing the really essential questions, but that’s another matter!)

What stuck out in the last dicussion however, was the suggestion to consider abandoning our guild application form altogether. No more written forms to fill out, rather grab potential members on ventrilo for a personal chat and invite them to a trial 5man heroic or other run to see how they do there and then. Quite a drastic change of procedure and one I have thought about ever since.

Sense and non-sense of application forms

I can see why a more personal approach to the whole application process is beneficial for more serious raidguilds. Written forms only tell you so much and more often than not, an applicant will leave blank spaces or important questions unanswered or ambiguous, so that the time investment to get back to him and all the subsequent emailing take up lots of extra time. This makes the efficiency of the whole procedure debatable.

I’ve also raised an eyebrow before at forms on other guild pages: I’m all for a bit of jolly good fun, but a questionnaire with half the questions revolving around what my favourite color is or whether I prefer Robocop or Batman, makes me wonder whose time is being wasted more here – mine or the guild’s.
It’s obviously very depending on your guild style and purpose but if you ask people to go through a written procedure, you shouldn’t stretch things for no good reason in my opinion.

A questionnaire should be as long needed and no longer than necessary; open questions provide more in-depth information than multiple choice or yes/no and personal questions should serve some guild-related purpose. I guess here too, specific questions on sex or age for example are debatable: what exactly do you expect to get from this answer? Does it influence a decision in any way at all?

A good application form certainly takes some time to work out and ponder over – and yet it will never achieve to satisfy all a guild wants to know. Nothing beats personal contact and experience. And yet in this case, I am for keeping written forms for the following reasons:

  1. Show of effort. Over the years I have seen huge, baffling disparities between the effort and attention applicants were willing to put into our questionnaire. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you take 15 minutes to think about why you want to join your future raid guild. We don’t ask you to come up with stuff of your own, the questions are already there – so how hard is it really? The written application is the very first impression a member can make and it’s an important one. I’m not saying it speaks a 100% for all else to come, but if a person leaves half the form empty or includes leetspeak in every second line, I’ve seen enough. On the other hand, I remember several WoT-applications from the past which were some of the most dedicated texts I’ve ever read; all of them became valued, longterm members of our guild.
  2. Dubious participation. I’m a big spokesperson of this: guildmembers are required to read a forum regularly and also participate actively in ongoing, important discussions. What are the chances really that somebody already too lazy to fill out an application form is going to regularly participate in a guild forum? Filling out an app is only the start, pal! 
  3. Rough pre-selection. If nothing else, a short questionnaire helps you to sift  the painfully obvious non-candidates. If somebody can already not attend your raid nights, is unwilling to use voicecomm or turns out to be a major asshat for some reason, there’s no need to continue the exchange. Save yourself and him time. Also: minimize the risks to yourself (and your guildbank).
  4. Member feedback. In our guildforum all applications get re-published for member feedback. Sometimes members do actually know applicants from past experience or have some other valuable information to share. Their voice is always considered in our application process. Without any written form it’s unikely that you get a larger part of the guild to review your applicants.

Nothing’s to say that you cannot have a more personal chat with a potential trialist besides this – if your team is willing and able to regularly dedicate extra time to the process, that’s great. Realistically speaking, I still think you want to hold on to some way of written information and pre-selection.

A look ahead

All things considered, I’m all for thinking out of the box when it comes to the future of guild applications. In a more hypothetical past article, I’ve mused on raidguilds using entry fees in order to pre-select potential members. Certainly the whole process between opening a guild recruitment topic and making first contact with new members, can be refined and simplifyed a great deal more.

So far, I’ve not actually heard of any guild who’s managed a groundbreaking progress in this department though, at least not without a substantial increase of officer time involved. Maybe the good old application letter has survived this long for a reason?

6 comments

  1. I completely agree with you that an application form is a great start for the process.

    1) It is always there and open. No need for an applicant to try to find an online officer for that first step in the process. Also of course, it means that the applicant will be able to see all the key information about the guild in one place – loot rules, raid times etc. That way if someone doesn’t match up with what they want, then they can’t stop the process right there.

    2) Like you say, it is a really good way to get a first impression of a potential guildie. Out of the questions on the form, which ones do they focus on? What is their language like – are they likely to be able to make themselves understood in the guild? We keep the age question in there as well as we have a lower age limit (16). Sure people can easily lie, but at least it shows it is a rule we care about.

    3) What they are like on Vent and in a group – surely that is what the trial period is there for? For both sides to see if they feel comfortable with each other etc? Else, what is the point of having a trial period?

    Also, your points about making sure they can be bothered and that they from the start get engaged on the form – very, very good!

    Let’s fight the good fight for the continued survival of the good old application form! :-)

  2. I like the application form for the very reason you mentioned; it shows some kind of dedication. If someone isn’t willing to take a few minutes out of their day to make an application – what does it really say about them?

  3. @ Tuf

    You raise a very good point on the meaning of the trial period, I agree that it’s there to give you all the first-hand experience you might need.

    Another good point is that it’s rather unhandy for a complete stranger to get in contact with the right person / recruitment officer online, without any sort of prior contact established. obviously this is already being done if accepted trialists ask for a guild-invite, but the situation is still a little different.

    I also think that despite the fact that people can and do lie in applications, you can tell about the effort somebody has put in at least. even if someone doesn’t speak english well, you can still tell whether he tried or not.

    @Saga

    Indeed, all it says is that they don’t care enough. in return, I can’t care about them.

    @Sihlan

    I probably skipped this part entirely – app forms can be such a source of fun, yes! =P
    whether it makes you smile in a good way or snort in dismay, they never get quite old. and reading a dedicated application for a change is such a sweet thing, too.
    I’ll make sure to check your link out. :)

  4. The cartoon is unintentionally funnier than designed because copywriters is spelled wrong. Copy is an advertising industry term for the text of adverts, copywriters are the people who write it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *