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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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?