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A Reverse Guild App Primer

September 27, 2013

Dear Reader,

We’re going to take a break from the “drama” of the guild to give it some time to play out, hopefully for the better.  Today, I want to talk about the time-honored tradition of guild apps, and how I think it’s time that the practice be shared equally by both parties.

Having to fill out an application to join a digital-only organization in a game seemed to me, at first, a bit of a joke.  I didn’t have to fill out an app for a guild for several years in WoW, not until I switched servers to move to my previous “best guild.”  In their app, I saw what was already becoming a pretty standard formula: ask about the player, check for availability, describe raid preparation, verify they’ve read the guild mission statement, and ask a silly question to get an idea of their personality.  I’ve filled out a lot of guild apps since then, and they’ve rarely strayed from that formula.

That’s not a problem, mind you, but I take my writing and my applications seriously, especially since I usually do a lot of research before I join a guild, so I know I want to get in and want my app to be as good as it can be.  That means that the extended guild apps I’ve filled out, some of which have had 20 or so questions, half of which required a written response, can actually be very time consuming.

One guild app did the “verify they’ve read the mission statement” part by asking a sneaky question about how many movie references there were in it.  Well, shoot.  I don’t know; I wasn’t paying any attention to that, so I had to go back and scour the thing, which of course does nothing for actual comprehension of the mission statement, to find how many references there were, and in the end, I still got it wrong because I didn’t get one of the references.  In hindsight, that was the guild with the very passive aggressive GM, so that should have been a warning sign.

Since I’ve been in the role of “applicant” so much and only recruiter (and not an officer, at that) once, I’ve really gotten more than my fair taste of that side of the relationship.  I’ve come to see a great power imbalance, there, too, which of course there would be, since the applicant is asking to join an otherwise closed organization.  However, I also know that I and many other applicants actually provide great benefit to the guild through our experience, knowledge, time, and dedication, so I feel like it may be time for all good guilds to be prepared to fill out an app of the applicant’s own.

That’s where this project came from.  After my all-too-many failures to find a guild I really fit into, I started to formulate questions that I needed answered before I felt comfortable committing to a guild.  I described before some of them, but have added several and want to get further feedback from all of you, dear reader, about what players should know about a guild before they join.  I’m not talking about what’s in the mission statement, either, because those are carefully crafted responses, like a letter of introduction for an interview, and off-the-cuff and digitally face-to-face answers are far more revealing.

When I was searching for my current guild, I cold-called a few people and asked them five questions.  After I got their answers, I sent the guild leader a list of questions via email for him to answer (as I was having a hard time catching him online).  Here’s a copy of what I sent, with a few redactions for privacy

Hello,

I’m a veteran raider in WoW who’s been in again and out again for a while.  I’ve finally decided I want to get back into end-game raiding.  I bring a lot of experience with me and a whole host of characters for selection.  I’m not particularly demanding in what I want, but I am looking for the right guild “fit” for me.  I’m a professional adult with a lot of outside responsibilities, which means I can’t make a ton of raids per week (I see you have 3), but when I do raid, I like it to be on-task and focused.  It’s very hard for me to find a combination of those two: a serious mentality towards goals but a light atmosphere that recognizes it as a game.
As such, I’ve launched a search for a new guild.  I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask which may have follow-ups in the future.  Please answer as much as you’re willing to, but don’t feel obligated to write a novel, either.  I’ve already spoken to (the two players I spoke well of before in a post) and gotten some input from them, but I prefer speaking to the GM to get a better idea of the foundational pillar of your vision of the guild.
1) How would you describe the raiding atmosphere in your guild?
As an expectation of your answer and a preliminary follow up (if such a thing can exist), if you use the word “casual” to define your atmosphere, please define “casual” from your point of view; it means a lot of things to a lot of people.
2) What are your guild’s expectations of raiders?  Please be thorough including both defined and unspoken expectations.
3) How often do your raids start on time versus late (if they’re ever late)?
4) How would you describe guild chat on an average evening?
5) When not raiding, what do a majority of your players do?
Thank you for your time answering these questions, and I look forward to getting to speak with you in the future.
Sincerely,
Stubborn
To the guild leader’s credit, he wrote a lot for each response, easily a paragraph or two for each.  That kind of dedication to essentially a cold-call really spoke well of him and, thus, his leadership, and it was an important influence in my decision-making.
Each question was designed to get at a specific potential hazard for me.  I wanted to make sure the guild wasn’t too serious or too casual.  Both the first and second questions got to the heart of that matter.  The third was about punctuality; my pet peeve is raids starting seriously late.  His answer was honest, it’s usually a few minutes after while the officers get attendance and organize, but only a few minutes, which I can live with.  The fourth was about the spoken culture of the guild; I’ve twice been burned by potty-mouthed college students, so I wasn’t interested in that happening a third time.  The final question was about unity, which perhaps has been the biggest visible problem I’ve seen since I’ve joined, but I believe is on the path to being remedied.
Since then, I’ve thought of a few other questions to add to that app, as well.
6) Do you have guild meetings, and if so, what is the process?  If you don’t, how do you disseminate information?
7) How does your guild adjudicate problems?
8) How much churn, for any reason, does you guild experience?
9) What is the organizational structure of your guild, and, as a follow up, do officers have specific roles, and if so, what are they?
Again, each of these questions digs at the heart of something that may be hidden.  The first has to do with dissemination of information: will I be attending meetings, expected to read a forum, or what?  The second is rather obvious: what do you do when problems inevitably arise?  This reveals some of the inner-workings of the guild; do the officers council with each other about a solution?  Does it come down from on high?  Or is the guild mostly laissez-faire?  The third secretly asks about longevity of members, which, if there’s a lot of churn, might reveal a problem.  The final question lets the applicant know who to speak to without having to go through all the usual channels at the same moment that whatever issue is happening.
I feel like these nine questions are all direct without being accusatory, and I think they’re a reasonable amount to ask from someone you’re about to spend a lot of time with.  How carefully, thoughtfully, and willingly they answer these questions, and whether the GM takes the time to do it or delegates it to an officer, can also let you know a lot.
So while I hope that everyone’s happy with their guild and stays that way, I hope that next time you’re guild shopping, dear reader, that you’ll consider using this counter-app to help better understand just what sort of organization you’re really applying to.  I feel like it’s the best way for us to protect ourselves, and also provides a guilt-free out if it turns out the answers were misleading (which my GM’s answers weren’t, to be perfectly clear).
If you have other questions you like to ask and think should be included, please let me know.  I’ll compile them all in a single post in the future with a link back to this one.
Sincerely,
Stubborn (not playing the role of applicant, hopefully for a long while)
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2013 10:25 am

    I think this is a topic that a lot of players don’t really think about too often, and that’s a shame. Often times when you fill out an application, you’re approaching it like a job interview where you want to tell them all of the great things you can bring to the table, but rarely asking meaningful questions as to what type of environment you’ll be stepping in to.

    If you’re going to go through all of the trouble applying for a raiding position with a guild, potentially investing a nice-sized chunk of your time in to being around them, why *not* ask these questions?

    Sure, you want to raid, and you want to “sell” yourself to the guild to be given a chance, but how else would one know whether or not they’re a good fit for the guild itself without asking questions?

  2. Beshara permalink
    September 27, 2013 10:37 am

    Number 2 would have been a big help for me had I thought about it sooner. I assumed the guild had read my app and understood that I was interested in raiding from talking on a lvl 1 alt before transferring. After the transfer, a lot of expectations were revealed that weren’t mentioned before, even though there was plenty of opportunity to let me know beforehand. Hoping that my next guild fares better, but if not this is a great idea to use.

  3. September 27, 2013 1:09 pm

    I have to say one of the best “have you read the guild mission statement” question’s I have seen was from Shadows of Darkness on Bronzebeard (which we adapted for our own friends and family guild). It asked “What is your favourite colour?” and the mission statement said at the end that your favourite colour is red. I think that worked much better to test if someone actually had read it then say movie references.

    • September 27, 2013 2:24 pm

      Yeah, I had something similar in a guild. Somewhere in one of the later parts it said, out of the blue, “Oh, and you favorite type of gum is troll sweat. Remember this for the application.” Or something along those lines. I liked the randomness, and the mental image.

  4. September 27, 2013 2:17 pm

    We have a line in the middle of explaining how to apply that says something like “Include the words and to demonstrate you’ve raid this carefully” with the words being fairly uncommon words to use in an application — things like apple, zany, distress, windy, etc.

    Also, speaking from the perspective of a GM, having people asking questions like this delights me — it means they’re serious about what they’re looking for. When people claim to literally have no questions about us at all it makes me wonder.

    • September 27, 2013 2:19 pm

      Apparently it thought I was using HTML or something. Let’s try this instead:

      “Include the words x and y to demonstrate you’ve raid this carefully” with the words x and y being fairly uncommon words to use in an application — things like apple, zany, distress, windy, etc.

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