Imagine if your company put a job add in the local paper. Something along the lines of:
Acme Manufacturing is recruiting. We need more people to make and sell stuff with us. All ages and abilities welcome. Just turn up to get a job.
Then imagine they invited you and your colleagues to pluck people out of the local mall and drag them along to the office with you in the morning. Anyone who turned up was automatically hired.
The best people already have jobs. They wouldn't turn up on the promise of a random opening — they'd want to know what it involved, who they would be working with, what their hours would be, and how much they would be paid. They'd want to know what you have to offer that would be worth the switch.
And the ones who did turn up? They would be the ones who are out of work. Maybe they've never had a job before, or maybe they were sacked from their last one. Maybe they're fresh out of college and don't know what they want to do yet. They just need some cash to pay the rent. How many do you think would do a good job? How well would they fit in? And how long would they stick around? I can tell you right now: the losers would hang around forever disrupting your work and making your life a misery; the rare, intelligent guys you get on with would move on as soon as they found something better.
No company could function this way. Not even some surf shack hire company, not even a junk mail postal service. Yet I see guilds making these basic mistakes every week, and I've been in guilds crippled with problems that often, at the root, can be traced back simply to a lack of a decent recruitment strategy.
Think about the guilds you have known. How many members did they have? What proportion of those members were active in guild chat? How many responded to requests for help? How many members regularly took part in guild runs? How many members organised runs themselves? And what were they doing in the guild if not these things?
This is where so-called casual guilds can take a leaf from the books of 'hardcore' guilds. I dislike those terms for exactly this reason — it's not hardcore to be smart about who you want in your guild.
All recruitment, whether it's done with a wink and a nod between friends or conducted on the most professional terms, must follow a basic pattern:
The big idea
Somebody somewhere has to think up the job. "Guild chat is a bit quiet, let's get some more folk in" does not count. It's simply common sense that you should know before you recruit what type of people you want. Are you a pvp guild or a pve one? Are you a raid progression guild? Who are your active players now? Where are the gaps in your class and role profile? When are you most active? You must have a vision for your guild, otherwise you simply can't move forward.
Maybe you have someone in mind, maybe you need to advertise. Either way, someone is going to be approaching someone else. This is why you need to have a good idea about what you want first. If you choose to advertise, be specific about the nature of your guild and the type of person you are looking for. How do you know if someone is good for your guild if you don't know what you're looking for? How do they know you are right for them if they can't see how they'll fit in? Maybe you can't get enough across in trade spam, so set up a website or wiki where you can expand on the basics.
For top-end raiding guilds this may well be a formal written application; for more relaxed guilds it could just be a few whispered lines. This is where you ask the important questions like what spec are you, what do you hope to get out the guild, and when are you usually online? They're going to have questions too, of course, and it will save a lot of trouble if you answer them up front. At the least, make sure they understand what you expect of them, whether they be in terms of raid attendance or simply following basic guild rules. And again, it isn't 'hardcore' to probe a bit deeper — if you are looking for a main tank, you are allowed to ask what experience they have; if you are progressing through T5, it's only sensible to ask about their gear. This is also your chance to get to know the player, however superficially, to gague how they might fit in your guild. And I hope it goes without saying at this point, but you are allowed to turn them down if they don't match your criteria or you don't think they will fit in. This is one of the biggest problems with 'casual' guilds — they think it's elitist to turn people down. Let me put your mind at rest: it's not.
Or sometimes, tests. This is where you make sure you get what you want in your member. There's always a test, even if they don't know it, even if it's just an officer keeping an eye on the new member for a few weeks. Be clear of your intentions from the start — you can put them through a trial run or two if you need specific skill and experience, or you can simply set a probationary period to see how they settle down. The important thing is the new recruit is aware of the rules from the beginning.
Of course, recruitment isn't the only factor in a company's, or guild's, success or failure. But it's a critical one, and critical to get right.
If all you want from a guild is a big roster and a clever name above your head, feel free to ignore me. But if you've ever found yourself struggling to fill a raid spot, or wondering why half your guild is in warsong gulch when you wanted to run ZA, I strongly recommend you examine your recruitment and see if any of this applies to you.