Guild Guide: How to recruit smarter, not harder
Every guild has a certain number of members, and almost every guild would like that number to be bigger. New people, new friends, new options, new opinions. It's all good! Until you're looking at the group a few months down the road and realize that the guild has gone from being a small group of people you did want around to a huge collection of people you barely know and definitely don't want around.
The problem with recruiting new members - as someone who has been on the recruiting side many times - is that you wind up in the unenviable position of casting a wide net and looking for people who want to be in your guild, but whom also haven't wanted to be in any previous group. It's easy to turn the whole thing into a numbers game, but just like increasing your friend count on Facebook won't make you feel any less lonely, having more people in a guild doesn't make it any better. So let's talk about recruiting smarter rather than harder, making the best possible group for what you want to do in the game regardless of how many people you have.
Decide what you want from the group (independent of friend invitations)
If you're worried about recruiting, the odds are good-to-absolute that you are an officer. That means your first priority needs to be figuring out what you want out of the group, if you haven't already.
Remember how the very first column I wrote here was about the need for a focus? That's relevant here. You want your guild to have a focus from the moment you say "go," and while that's frequently difficult, it also means that you have a built-in filter when you're recruiting. If you want your guild to be a hardcore progression gathering, you're not going to recruit random jerks who are still leveling.
One of the most destructive ways to kneecap this is by making invitations solely based upon referrals rather than what you want to achieve in the guild. You're ensuring that your do build a guild out of people who share views and opinions, yes, but rather than recruiting based on an overarching plan or scheme, you're recruiting based entirely upon who likes who. It's a quick way to have cliques and shadow guilds forming, because Mike will recruit his friends who are doing what Mike wants and Todd will recruit the same, and you wind up with half of the guild following Mike's lead and half of it following Todd's lead.
No, you are responsible for shaping the guild that you lead, and that means taking an active hand in figuring out who you want in the guild. Which means you need to focus.
Target your invitations
Remember when you were young and you tried to find dates by shouting into random rooms, "DOES ANYONE HERE WANT TO GO TO A MOVIE AND MAYBE MAKE OUT?" Probably not, because that's a terrible idea, and no matter how clueless you may be when it comes to dating you are probably aware that's an awful plan.
So why would you do that when recruiting for your guild?
I'm not saying that you can find members for your group just by sitting around and never saying that you're interested in recruiting. But there's a certain all-too-common theme in most MMOs particularly wherein guilds will just shout in public for new members, advertisements targeted to absolutely anyone in the world. It gets your guild's name out there, but it says nothing about the group other than the fact that you want more members, while at the same time communicating very little about what you actually want from those members.
Put more simply, you wouldn't show an advertisement for a new BMW during a NASCAR event, because there's not a whole lot of overlap between the viewers of the latter and the consumers of the former. (Probably, anyhow; I don't sell cars for a living, maybe I'm wrong.) You would, however, show advertisements for a new Ford muscle car.
If you're forming a new progression group, form pick-up groups with people on your server, then ask the people in your run if they're looking for a guild if things go well. Forming a roleplaying group? Roleplay with people and recruit the ones you like. Trying to form a solid group to play Team Fortress 2 with? Note the people you enjoy playing with and then contact them afterward to set something up. Targeted recruitment has a much better chance of including members you didn't know before who actually might turn out to be good additions.
Get to know the player
This spins off of the previous bit of advice, and might even be considered a logical extension of it. Once you have someone targeted, don't just throw an application at them and let them sort it out. Find out who this person is and whether or not you really want to keep them around.
Run content with this person - dungeons in MMOs, matches in MOBAs, that sort of thing. Talk with them outside of the game. Get to know who this person is beyond a name and a set of skills that you find desirable. For one thing, this is just good practice, but for another it lets you get a real sense of the person you're proposing as a candidate beyond whether or not they can impress you in a vacuum.
It might be that the person who put together an excellent application is a real drag over an extended period. Or maybe they're a lot of fun as long as they haven't been drinking, but they get maudlin in chat channels when they are drinking and that could be a long-term problem. Or absolutely nothing is wrong with them whatsoever and you picked a real winner; the point is that you don't know until, well, you get to know them.
And, by extension...
Don't be afraid to say no
It seems so obvious but is really hard to do: most guilds work on entirely the wrong recruitment system by making full recruits out of would-be members who do nothing wrong rather than those who do something right.
Almost every guild beyond a certain size (and most of those below that size, even) have a grace period wherein the potential new recruit and the guild feel one another out. What causes issues here isn't the idea of having that grace period, which is actually a good thing, but the idea that if you manage to make it through that period without causing any undue issues, you get a pass into the group. It's treating it like a new job, in other words.
This is not good. You don't want to make people full members because they don't offend you, you want to see if they fit with the rest of the group. And that means you, as an officer, need to be willing and able to tell would-be recruits that they're not in because they just didn't impress you. Being good enough is not.
Sure, there are always going to be recruits who are tolerable and don't send up any red flags, who don't anger anyone. But that's not what you want for your members; you want people you can enjoy playing alongside, not just ones you can tolerate.
Yes, it means that you lose out on some potential recruits. But simply having a bigger guild for the sake of a bigger guild doesn't foster community so much as resentment and irritation.