5. Gear is sometimes an issue.

"I'm sorry. I know you like her, and she's a perfectly nice person, and I wish this weren't the case, but I can't justify spending 2 to 3 weeks' worth of raid lockouts just to get her within 10% of the lowest person on the meters."

This becomes more true the farther a server gets into raid content and if you've miscalculated Rule #1. Gearing up a character in dungeon blues isn't tough when a guild is farming Naxxramas and sharding gear that's not even going to offspec. Gearing up a character in dungeon blues is going to be a much larger undertaking when said guild is struggling through Icecrown. When we were killing ourselves trying to meet the raid DPS requirement for pre-nerf M'uru, I had to wonder at the overconfidence of players who were applying with Kara-geared toons.

The less well-geared your character is upon acceptance, the more time the guild has to spend gettting you kitted in purples, and the less your character is actually going to contribute to raids in any serious manner for the duration. They wouldn't have recruited you if they didn't need you (don't ever forget that) -- but if your gear needs work, you represent a time investment on their part. If there's just no way that the guild could ever get you up to par (see: M'uru example above) in time for you to make a difference to the raid, then you need to be realistic, accept that you're in over your head, and apply elsewhere.

6. Gear is sometimes not an issue:

"Actually, with the spec he's using, that blue could be considered best in-slot until tier. The non-set stuff just isn't itemized well for that build. It doesn't scale well once you get into better gear, but the spec's perfectly reasonable for where he's at."

Always apply in the best pre-raid gear, gems, and enchants you can get. You may think it's stupid and wasteful to drop a ton of gold enchanting blues that you hope to have replaced, but the symbolic effect of a character that's been maxed in every way possible --or, as the case may be, not maxed -- can't be overstated. If one or two slots are lacking, supply a reason for it; we all know that sometimes you just have crap luck with drops.

You need to demonstrate that:
  • You care about your gear (which is one of the inescapable outward signs that you care about your performance)
  • You have a good sense of your class and spec's capability
  • You have at least a passing familiarity with the theorycraft and/or common-sense reasoning behind the importance of particular talent and gear choices
I applied to my first raiding guild back in early BC with mostly dungeon blues that were fully gemmed and enchanted, and wrote that I'd been able to achieve mitigation and avoidance that the Druid forum community considered appropriate for beginning Tier 5 content (which was exactly what the guild was doing). After being accepted, I apologized to the healer who was tasked with keeping me alive on Al'ar attempts -- there was just no way around the fact that, dodge and armor aside, I couldn't begin to compete with the health of the other tanks -- and he said something that I never forgot. "You don't have raid gear,' he said, "But you have raid stats, and that's what's important." It was both an incredibly kind thing to say to a terrified new raider (who then proceeded to completely botch her role in the fight, but that's a story for a different day), and also true. Blizzard has made it possible to get within shouting distance of the stats you need for 10-man and 25-man content without ever setting foot in a raid.

7. Why you left your previous guild is a matter of intense interest

"It's a load of crap. 'I don't get along well with poor players," well, that part's true enough. He also doesn't get along well with good ones. I'm not running a finishing school for social delinquents."

I can't say it more baldly than that. Not providing a reason is pretty much the kiss of death. Providing a good reason is usually enough to get a recruitment officer to nod and move to the next line on the application. Providing a bad reason is either the kiss of death or functionally equivalent to a good reason, depending on how you choose to phrase it. As an (hypothetical) example:

Bad reason: "I got into a fight with the GM because his gear's better than mine and he took upgrades over me. The officers are his friends and naturally took his side and they started treating me like crap. I'm not going to put up with that, so I left."

Any recruitment officer worth his or her salt will immediately be on alert after a statement like that. This may be 100%, totally, completely factually true while still being a dishonest representation of what actually happened.

What was your attendance like? Was this a case of upgrades going to a 90% attendance raider over a 30% one? Are you the type of player who habitually dies 10 seconds into the fight? Was your healing or damage constantly below the threshold that might be reasonably predicted by your gear? These are all questions to which a recruitment officer would want answers, because no sensible person wants to be the next victim of a Me First attitude and a flexible approach to the truth. You'll probably be asked about it, or -- much worse for you -- your former guild will be.

Good reason: "I had a disagreement with my GM over loot distribution. My attendance fell to 60% after a week's absence due to final exams, which I'd notified the officers about in advance. He used the temporary 60% attendance figure to justify taking an i-level 226 upgrade over me, even though I'm still using a blue in that slot and he was using a Naxx-10 piece. We never reached an agreement over the issue, and I'm uncomfortable remaining in a guild where the letter of the law is used to defeat its intent, so I left."

That's an awful lot more reasonable -- and, for that matter, provides information that can be independently verified. The GM may very well shed more light on the issue as a means of defending himself ("I got the Naxx-10 piece while your applicant was off leveling his alt! Boo hoo!"), but that still establishes that the bulk of your story is true.

Conflict will happen. We understand that, and some of it will (for one reason or another) lead to serious arguments or even /gquits. The real question is how you choose to conduct yourself during it.

8. Spend time on your application. Spend time on your application. Spend time on your application.

"Seriously, would it have killed this guy to write more than fifty words on the whole app, including his name?"

Nothing screams "Don't bother taking me seriously" more than a bunch of one-word answers to questions. It's the written equivalent of a non-committal grunt to a reasonable question. Minimal effort does not result in maximum gain unless you've hit the motherlode of being a badly-needed class or spec while the guild's beating its head against a wall (e.g. Shamans, especially Resto Shamans, in Sunwell -- a situation that Blizzard is deliberately trying to avoid in future raid content). While this does happen from time to time, don't count on being a guild's ticket to World of Warcraft's version of punctuated equilibrium.

You don't need to apply in the same fashion that you'd apply for, say, medical school, but we expect to see some evidence that you didn't toss your application together in 5 minutes and then click Submit. Someone who does that will leave the recruitment officer wondering if you approach raids in the same haphazard and uninterested manner. The less interest you appear to evince in the quality of your app, the more we're inclined to think that you're just here for the gear, and that's one of the worst possible impressions to leave with people who actually want to raid with players they enjoy.

Breakfast Topic: Gonna check out Ulduar on the PTR?