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Guild Guide: The mistakes you're making with recruiting

You want more people in your guild, but you might be hitting a few pitfalls in your zeal to recruit new members.

So you're recruiting more people for your guild. That's great! You never want to have your guild stagnate and start moving backwards; bringing in new people is the best way to avoid precisely that happening. I would be remiss in failing to point out that Gamer Launch has a number of great tools to recruit new people and bring a little new blood into your guild.

But the problem is that recruiting is like anything else - all the tools in the world won't help you if you're using them incorrectly. And while there are definitely times that it's appropriate and even smart to have your guild recruit new people, when done incorrectly you run the risk of damaging your guild or making everyone decide that they don't want to be a part of your guild.

Today, then, I'm covering the mistakes that you may well be making with the best possible intentions. They're easy mistakes to make, but also easy ones to avoid - and if you're really striving for solid recruitment, you'll need to work on avoiding them.

Casting too wide a net

Let's be clear about something - your criteria for guild membership should never be "unguilded person, no other requirements." That ties back into topics that have been discussed here ad infinitum. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if your guild has a focus, this is not a way to make sure that said focus is actually being advanced.

The trouble with casting too wide a net is that it means that you're not actually looking for anything, least of all cohesion with the existing group. It's the equivalent of sending friend requests to random people on Facebook in the interests of raising your friend count. Sure, you're going to have a high number listed, but do those people actually care what happens to you? Does having more members make your guild better? Or does it mean that more fights break out hither and yon?

People make fun of the fact that guild application processes can be slow and annoying, and I get that. I know I've bounced off of some applications because, frankly, I didn't feel like applying and being interviewed right then. But that doesn't mean that those things are dumb or shouldn't exist, it just means that I wasn't feeling it right then. Accepting everyone who shows even the most mild interest doesn't mean you're building a community, it means you're throwing everyone together and hoping they stick around.

Being a bit more selective isn't a bad thing. Heck, it's necessary in the long run. Better to have some barriers to entry before joining rather than after.

Annoying people

If you have played an MMORPG at some point within the last ever, you know that people put recruitment messages in chat. That's fine. What's not fine is when someone has a paragraph-long advertisement that gets reposted to chat so frequently that you'd swear it was a Skyrim meme. Usually, these are the same guilds that wind up casting too wide a net, but being annoying is a separate problem all its own.

A few years back, you may remember a series of particularly annoying commercials for a supposed headache remedy called "Head-On." The commercials just chanted the same phrase constantly, they looked as if they were being filmed for the public access cable network, and they were constant. Pretty much anyone you spoke with could remember the commercials and how annoying they were.

And they weren't very successful, not just because the product didn't actually work. Because people remembered the ad being annoying, tuned it out, and forgot about it.

Constantly spamming your advertisement in chat puts you into that territory. People are going to tune you out at best, and actively dislike you for spamming chat at worse. You want to get the word out, sure, but constantly barraging people with notifications that your guild is recruiting tells people that you tend to be a bit on the pushy side. Heck, at that point most of the recruits you actually get are likely to be of the sort that needs a wide net to even be accepted.

Advertising is fine. Just don't make it screamingly obnoxious.

Casting too narrow a net

Having high standards is not exactly a bad thing. If you're forming a team for Heroes of the Storm with an eye toward serious competition, you're damn right that you should be asking for win stats. You should be looking for skill. Progression raiding in World of Warcraft should require new applicants to show what they've done and how much they're capable of.

But there is a point where you move from "high standards" and into "insane standards." I've seen guild applications that require more information than the paperwork needed to legally own a tank as a civilian. I've seen application processes for guilds that are pointlessly elaborate and obtuse, including more than a few ARGs required to find and apply. And while I understand that the motivation is finding the best possible people for the guild, this goes so far in the other direction that it becomes intolerable.

Past a certain point, you've created such a high barrier to entry that the only people who have any hope of joining your guild are the people who are already good enough to have other guilds begging for their application. High standards are all well and good, but not when they make joining your guild so difficult that good applicants will just bounce off. Make the process as simple and straightforward as possible.

Pinning everything on recruitment

I've mentioned before that I once had a friend who was trying to start a progression raid group that always was on the cusp of being ready. He'd always have nearly enough players... then someone would leave. And he'd recruit someone else, and then another person, and be right on the cusp... and then someone would leave. And one of his mistakes was that he had started the guild without enough people to do what he actually wanted to do.

You've met people in your life who always need to be dating someone. They can't be single. They always need someone else in their lives. This is the guild equivalent of that, assuming that at some magical point you'll have enough members and then the guild will work out wonderfully. The fact is that if your guild can't already support what it's meant to do, you need to re-evaluate what it's meant to do. You cannot pin everything on people joining.

Guilds take time to find their shape, yes. But if you're always looking at getting more people before starting that step, you'll never build a core to shape the guild around.

Perpetually recruiting

I have mentioned before that there comes a time when a guild should stop recruiting. I stand by that. Being in a perpetual state of recruitment isn't the same as pinning everything on recruiting that perfect lineup, but it does indicate that however well the guild is going, it's not quite enough yet.

Stability matters. Having a point when you are comfortable saying "yes, membership is in a good spot" matters. You don't always need to have an influx of new members. After a certain point it becomes more healthy to let people stop and breathe, build relationships, and work on addressing whatever mild weaknesses run through the heart of the guild.

It's a bit less satisfying than watching the guild grow, but watching it create a foundation is a net positive. And in the end, that's the hardest mistake to correct, to let yourself accept that the right thing to do in a given situation might be nothing whatsoever. To just let go, let it be, and give some space.

Like every mistake, it's made with the best intentions. But you can avoid the mistake if you're looking out for it, and in the long run, you'll be better off for it.

Published Feb. 12th 2016

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