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The Guild Counsel: What every leader should know about recruiting

Karen Bryan

We've all been there -- you came up with "Your Vision," the paint's dry on the guild hall, and you're ready to select some quality members, but instead you're surrounded by chirping crickets and tumbleweeds. You patiently wait for people to start knocking on your door, but that turns to desperation as you resign yourself to the fact that someone, anyone, is better than an empty guild. Next thing you know, you have a healthy-sized roster, but you're now leading the misfit robots from Wall-E.

Before slipping down the slope of inevitable drama and potential collapse, check out this handy list of dos and don'ts to help you with recruiting.

DO: Get chatty
DON'T: Get spammy

It's good to get your guild's name out there, but a long-winded macro that's spammed every five minutes is not the type of PR that's going help you. Every time you hit it, you're likely to attract at least one person who will respond with a snippy, insulting remark about you, your guild, or your message. And the more often you hit it, the more negative attention you'll attract. You don't want potential members to be embarrassed about being in your guild, so it's wise to get that macro off your hotbar.

DO: Pound the pavement
DON'T: Oversell

It takes work to find good members, especially when you're first starting up a guild. You need to get out there and mingle -- form some pick-up groups, invite unguilded players to your raids if you have room, lend a hand to someone you're passing by who might be a little overwhelmed by mobs. Create the chance encounters that make people remember you and your guild.

But make sure not to oversell your guild. If you find someone who might be a good fit, mention your guild site and contact info but don't push too hard. It's much better to have potential members seek you out, rather than have you yank them in.

DO: Advertise out of game
DON'T: Paint a picture of something you're not

It's always handy to hit up the forums with a recruiting post. Treat it like a resume, though, because recruits are just like employers. You have about 30 seconds to make an impression, so a wall of text isn't going to help your guild, but neither is a dry bullet list. You want to highlight qualities of your guild that will catch people's attention, like playstyle or playtimes. Mention your guild's history too, because people will sometimes look for familiarity and are more likely to seek you out if you've played the same games they have. A nice visual helps, but not if it looks like it was made with a cheap paint program, and certainly not if it takes up 90% of the post. Make sure, though, that your recruiting post is accurate. Avoid posting predictions like "we'll be clearing bleeding edge content in a month," or "we're currently raiding two nights a week, but we'll be raiding six nights a week very soon." These carry a huge potential for drama if you can't deliver on these promises.

DO: Get known for something.
DON'T: Disrupt the gameplay of your potential applicants!

One of the best ways to attract potential members is to do something on your server that gets you known. Public events are certainly one way to get your name out there. I remember a couple of guilds in Vanguard that used to organize server festivals. They'd have fun events like boat races and scavenger hunts for prizes. Even more important, they handed out little starter gifts for newer players, like bags, weapons, armor, or even a small boat here and there. It was great PR for the guild, and it helped them recruit players who were new to the game.

You don't have to hold events to get your name out there, though. Being known for something is just as helpful. In EverQuest, there was a guild called the Poison Dart Frogs, and in order to become a member, you had to master the Froglok language. It seemed like a silly gimmick, but it actually gave them a tactical advantage when raiding, because guilds used to have to communicate in open channels, and since few players knew Froglok, PDF could get a leg up on other guilds that were competing for raid mobs.

Be careful about how you get known, though. Stampeding through an in-game funeral will definitely make you famous, but you're not likely to attract the nicest bunch of people in the world by doing so.

DO: Recruit the player, not the class
DON'T: Invite someone unless he knows what role he'll have in the guild

If you find someone that seems to fit your guild, don't automatically discount him just because he is playing a class that you might not need. It's amazing how often you can go from being overfull in one class to suddenly being short-handed. (Especially with healers!) And even if that doesn't happen, there's a good chance that someone might be willing to switch classes if he really wants to be part of your guild. Make sure to exhaust all options before turning away a player who is a good person but not playing a needed class.

However, make sure be clear with the person, so he knows what role he has in the guild. If you might not be able to take someone along on a raid because of class balance, make sure he knows that before you invite.

DO: Bonus points. Start a blog, youtube site, podcast, etc.
DON'T: Be eager to close recruiting. You won't have it closed long.

Yes, I'm serious. I've gained many new members thanks to my writing and podcasting, and every single one of them has been a fantastic fit. It's a nice opportunity to highlight your love of the game and also showcase your guildmembers at the same time. At last summer's Fan Faire, I met Palarran, leader of the EverQuest guild Rest in Peace, and he told me that his group gains lots of attention from its funny stick figure videos of guild raids and notable moments. Not everyone enjoys making machinima or writing blog entries, but if you do, it's certainly a great recruiting tool.

With all these handy recruiting methods, you might suddenly find yourself overwhelmed with applicants. While I wouldn't say never, I would advise against closing recruiting. Every time I've closed recruitment in the past, I've had to reopen it soon after. You could certainly slow down invites, but any time you close it, it takes a while to start getting the word out when you end up reopening it. That's lost time and potential lost opportunities on applicants who end up going elsewhere.

Two last thoughts. First, never poach from other guilds. There's so much bad blood from poaching that it's not worth it, no matter how good the player you're stealing. Second, be careful with cross-server recruiting. The quality of the players you'll gain really depends on the quality of your guild, because there's a chance that a player transferring over could be damaged goods.

Good luck recruiting, and if you have a handy tip on how to attract good members, make sure to share it below!

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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