As a guild, what should we be doing when it comes to looking at new players coming in? We discuss the different factors that should assessed for all potential applicants along with processes once a player’s trial period is over.

In this episode we discuss…

  • The interview stage
  • Factors in a recruit’s trial
  • Securing feedback from your officers and your guild
  • End of trial

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The transcript has been edited for clarity and grammar.

Matt: Welcome to the Guildmasters Podcast, the companion show to the Guildmasters blog for both players new to leadership and veterans who want to brush up on their skills. My name is Matt Low, but everyone knows me as Matticus, and as always, here is the premise. Every week, we tackle one problem or one challenge related to in-game leadership. We’ll offer you points of consideration and possible solutions. Now before we get started, I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for listening and subscribing to the podcast! Speaking of which! Good news, we’re now officially available on iTunes and Stitcher, so if you’re looking for more ways to subscribe, there you go! You can find those links in the podcast post.

Matt: Today we’ve got an excellent guest! He’s a spokesperson for Priceline. He plays a Shaman and throws bolts… of Lightning. He’s sought new life and new civilizations. And he’s boldly gone where no man has gone before! Let’s all give a warm welcome to the man who captained the Enterprise during its four year mission. Mr William Shatner!

Ohhhh, wait, maybe not…

Will: Hi all, happy to be back again and ready to go through some trials….and tribulations for you leaders today.  Is that good enough? Good enough tribble reference?

Matt: Seriously? I set you up, and you go for a tribble reference?

Will: That’s me. That’s me….

Matt: Oh my goodness. All the episodes you could’ve… anyway.

Right! So, today we don’t have a main question or anything to answer, but that’s encouragement for you all to get in some questions to us! But that’s okay, because we wanted to take a look at the recruiting process. Look, it’s no secret right now that guilds are either hemorrhaging or just having an insane time trying to recruit. I average maybe something like one player a week or two weeks. Seriously, recruiting’s like online dating. You might leave messages for maybe 20 prospects on a given day. Of those, maybe 5 actually respond and add you. Of those 5, two of them will go through the application and interview process. We’re not going to cover the application process today because that can be done in a variety of ways.  In fact, we have a blog post on Guildmasters detailing a number of different ways to create and establish applications, and you can find that post in our show notes. Instead, we’re going to do today is assume those players are already  in your guild as trials or recruits or peons or whatever rank you may have. How do we go about ensuring quality players while balancing actual player numbers and applications?

Will: A very big challenge indeed. Our rank for the trials is Queen Butterfly. [Matt: Ours is Nerfherder because we’re going for the Star Wars reference.] Probably the easiest and most quantifiable thing to tackle about this problem is the length of a trial.  What do you do for length of a trial Matt?

Matt: Our trial period typically spans no longer than two weeks. We try to give players as much time as possible to grow into their role and see what they’re capable of. Sometimes, we may cut things short after a week or even a couple of raids because we know this person will be an excellent fit, or maybe we’ve played with them before in the past and it’s just a formality, or maybe there are a couple of red flags that stand out and it’s become too numerous to ignore. After the two week period, we want to ensure that that player is the right kind of player that we’re looking for as a guild, and we also want to make sure that we as a guild are right for them too. we’ll get more in depth into this aspect later in the show.

Will:  I feel like you have to strike a balance.  Too long and people wonder if they’ll ever be a part of your guild.  Too short and you may not have a good sample size.  We currently do about a 2 week trial as well, but if someone is really impressing us and its obvious they fit into the guild, we’ll do it after a week.  Sometimes, we’ve had a trial that people have looked at him after one day and gone, “Yes, we’ve gotta have them.” But you really need that bigger sample size to really see if someone is going to work out, so that’s what we do.

Matt: At least it’s a promising sign though if it’s eliciting that kind of reaction from other players, saying, “Hey, we need this guy right now. Do whatever you can to hold on to him.” Let’s move on for now.

Matt: Now that their first few raids are over, it’s time to start examining and looking at things more closely. Best way to do that? Logs! Lots of tools out there. The most popular one is Warcraft logs, but Ask Mr Robot has been gaining popularity with the ease and way it translates log data. I don’t think it can be as detailed or as specific in some aspects, but it’s great for a broader, general sense of how things are going on. I do really like the little ranking system it has where it shows you where you are relative to other players of your class and item level bracket. Now Will, you were a guest on a podcast not too long ago where you discussed this subject, right?

Will: I was on the Training Dummies episode that will be coming out around March 5th, so it should be out there. This is my favorite subject.  [Matt: We’ll have a link to that show in the show notes as well. Will: For sure.] There is a ton to talk about here but really it comes down to finding out if they are capable of the numbers they say they are…or what you would expect them to do. Can they do what they are supposed to? That’s the basic question here. While I can be a super ultra nerd when it comes to logs, you probably will have to decide just how much time to spend digging.  And that will depend on how you approach raiding.  If you are really looking at being a top echelon guild, you have to get your officers looking and analyzing hardcore.  Dig into uptimes, cooldown usage, damage taken, whatever you need.  If thats not really the style of your guild, then at least take a look that they are competitive in your group.  If they are keeping up with people of similar item level across the fights, you are probably good to go.  I could talk for hours and hours on what to do here but bottom line, take a gander at logs and find out what you need to know about their performance.

Matt: Once you’ve got an idea about their performance, where do you go from there?

Will: Now it’s time to start talking to people. It’s time to get more eyes on that person that you’re trialing. I would like to mention to involve your officers and let them know that you need some certain information about that trial. If you want the healing officers to watch their HPS, or the ranged officer to see if person A dies to mechanics, do whatever you can to gather that from multiple angles.

Matt: Fair enough. Likewise, with me, I have my melee and ranged officers assign recruits to specific jobs or positions, just to kinda stress them out a little bit and see if it’s something they can pull off. Great example: putting hunters or other classes on the belt team during Siegecrafter. Will, I’m sure you’re a fan of this. [Will: No more hunters. No more belts!] There is a boss fight in Blackrock which is literally four giant belts. Aside from that, an alternative is putting players on a boat team during the Iron Maidens encounter. I think interrupt rotations are a great one for rogues or other melee classes. A great one would be Oregorger. You want to expose them to a variety of situations where you know that, if they can excel in these kinds of situations, then they will have what it takes to do what’s necessary on progression bosses later down the line, when things become even more hectic.

Will:  For sure.  I know I’ve been guilty in the past of just trying to ease people in. [Matt: No no no, just throw them into the deep end]  I felt it might be scary for people coming in to see the group fail or people get pissed off or whatever in the raid.  Or they might not know the boss at all based on their current progression and you’ll be held back by them.  But lately I’ve realized, that stuff is going to happen regardless. Might as well throw people in there and see what they are made of.  And if they get to see people getting frustrated with wiping to something dumb, no big deal, its a part of raiding.  Better to let them get the full breadth of your guild’s experience rather than try to sugarcoat it all and make people think you down bosses just by looking at them.  Do what you need to do here and get trials in on all raid nights if it makes sense.  See what they are capable of, trial by fire!

Matt: So, moving on. Outside of officers, now you want to talk about public opinion for a second. It’s not unheard of to ask around your raid and see how they feel or what they think of players that have come in. I do find that many players are a little shy or aren’t as forthcoming. But my feeling has been that your veterans appreciate you when you approach them for an opinion, even if it’s just “What do you think of this guy that came in?” Questions you want to ask are what they think of a player, how they’re playing, if there’s any thing strong about them, or anything they ought to improve upon. Sometimes a new player comes in rocking a talent or does something different that ends up being highly effective. In most cases though, maybe that doesn’t actually happen and it’s not the case. Either way, you want to get extra eyes on that player, extra opinions and see what they’re lacking and where they happen to excel.

Will: And this can usually be done at the end of one of the raid nights where you have the trial in there.  Have the trial leave your voice server or guild chat and just ask people what they thought.  You will get a wide variety of information here so take it all with a grain of salt.  Someone might point something interesting out about the person, but you might just get general useless “they seemed nice” or “they did ok.” That’s not really going to help you evaluate this person, but at least you don’t have any big warning bells going off because something weird happened with the trial. You’ll get a wide variety here, but take it in with all the other info you’re gathering along the way.

Matt: You don’t want to just rely on one or two people’s gospel in terms of their thoughts. If someone says something like “They seem nice” or “They did OK”, at least you know that they didn’t do really bad or they’re someone toxic or negative, for now. That’s something, a process of elimination. At the very worst, you know that much.

Matt: Moving on.  What about their attitude and behaviour, Will? Shouldn’t that have an impact on their long term signing?

Will:  Yes, indeed. Sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling about whether this person is going to fit in or not.  Certainly you’ve heard from a lot of people but you yourself as the leader can tell whether that person was quiet, seemed nervous or, alternatively,were they obnoxious or in Teamspeak or Vent.  Maybe they told a rude joke that was really awkward and no one really responded to it.  Maybe they were fantastic on farm content but really struggled to adjust to mechanics they’ve never seen.  It all comes down to assembling all of that info and deciding whether this is someone you want to spend your guild’s time and effort on.

Matt: Yeah, and those are all solid points. When you’re recruiting a new player, there’s two things to note, there’s actually two sides to the player that you’ve picked up.: One, you’re going to see them at their most relaxed which means how they’ll behave and play during farm content. Are they super bored? Are they gonna find ways to remain engaged? The other side of the equation is, you get to see them at their worst (or best, depending on what you’re doing). You want to see how they function under pressure during progression bosses. Can they handle the 200 wipes on a new boss, like Blackhand? Speaking of which, I heard that Blackhand took something like 600 pulls on Mythic for Method and company. Good grief. [Will: Not looking forward to that one] What you want to know is if these recruits going to bail or give up and get extremely frustrated? How do they handle adversity? These are all important questions that have to be answered. If someone can’t handle that kind of grind and you’re a progression raiding guild, that needs to be identified and addressed. They either need to get on the same page with everyone else, or find a new guild that’s more their speed.

Will: That sorta brings us to the final point here. When you’re at the end of the trial, what do you do to wrap it all up?

Matt: Here’s the scenario: It’s the end of their two-week trial, and you’ve got the player on Mumble, or in a tell or whatever it is. This is an important step that many guilds commonly overlook. The temptation here is to almost always say yes unless there are glaring red flags everywhere. And this is largely because of the difficulty in recruiting. Not everyone has the luxury of constant people applying to get into their guild. It’s just reality. Many players tend to want to apply upward or go into guilds that are more progressed than theirs. Talent flows up in this case. The fear, though, is that you have to put up with a suboptimal player for attendance reasons and you don’t have a choice, you have to let them in. Now, the advent of flexible raiding has solved that, so you don’t need 25 players or 10 players exactly to go raiding. You can go under to 22 or 19 or whatever if you don’t have the requisite numbers. Obviously you can’t pull that off in Mythic. But, if you’re a Mythic raiding guild, chances are you can play around that.     At the end of the two week period, I’ll pull a player aside along with my officers and we’ll go over their performance. The first thing I’ll do is ask them how they think they’ve performed. Where did they play well? Where did they feel they were weak? Is there anything they think they can do better in? And then we’ll tell them how we feel. We’ll reaffirm their beliefs and add on our thoughts to it. At the end of the day, one of three things will happen: It’s a yes! Congratulations, welcome to the guild! You are now in the starting lineup for heroic or mythic. Two: It’s a conditional yes, meaning you are in the lineup. You may not be starting on progression for a while, or the more difficult bosses, but you’re definitely going to be coming in for at least the farm stuff until we get you up to snuff. Usually this is reserved for players with a positive attitude but they’re lacking in certain areas like their gear is too low or their gameplay needs improvement and we want to see more from them. Sometimes, I save this for that guy in guild who has a crappy connection or a crappy computer and says, “Just give me a chance because at the end of the week I’m gonna get my paycheck and I’m gonna upgrade my video card and get more ram.” It’s kinda worked out in the past, so it’s something to revisit, but it’s not unheard of. [Will: Worth a shot] Exactly. Just throw a flyer on them. It’s not going to kill you right now, right? So why not? Lastly, the third and final option is the denial. The big N. O. Usually because their attitude didn’t mesh in or it would be a waste of time for them or for us. Look, I don’t want to be brutal, but in my case, my guild, we’re not here to train players completely new to the game on how to play their rotation. There’s other guilds that can do that, but we’re not one of those. We’re not the ones that will tell you, “Ok, this is the step-by-step presses you have to hit to get optimal rotation on your mage.” No, that is absolutely not us. We assume that players have a basic understanding of their class and are familiar with their role and what they need to do on bosses. We can always adjust after the fact, but that’s essentially the gist of it. We do ultimately give them the option after the conversation because if the new player in question doesn’t feel that it’s a right fit for them to join our guild, then it’s irrelevant what we think. It’s always a two-way street with us. We want them, but they also have to want to join us.

Will: Oh yeah, and I’m glad you mentioned all this end-of-trial stuff, because that’s something we don’t currently do in my guild, and it’s probably something we could do better on finding the right fits. It sorta just happens, “Well, did we think he was good? Yeah, ok, here he is.” And We’re done.

Will:  I do have a small story with respect to the whole player wanting to be in the guild as well, from the other side of this process, from me applying out to looking for guilds.  About a year and a half ago, or so, I was looking for a guild and applied to several.  I got a trial from a guild that was on my server that was raiding approximately the same hours with the same progression, so it was starting to be a good fit, I was happy there. I went through their farm night and the group seemed to be joking around a lot with each other, ya know, giving each other crap for dying on Spoils of Pandaria or something, but the bosses were falling over so it was not a big deal.  We got to Paragons Heroic in Siege, before Mythic was out.   We wiped once to not enough ranged stacking in the Aimed Shot mechanic.  All of a sudden, the raid leader erupts talking about how the ranged were all terrible and we should just delete the game and go play Hello Kitty Adventures.  This wasn’t just him joking around. It was like “No, seriously you are all terrible, blah blah blah.” [Matt: I make that joke about myself all the time. I miss a cooldown and I’m like “OMG I quit. I’m gonna go re-roll in Club Penguin.”] This was accompanied by many expletives and repetitions about how bad us ranged were. After one mess-up on a mechanic. So, there were some other indications other than just that.  At the end of the night, the officers took me aside for this kind of review of the trial and definitely wanted to invite me into the guild right away.  I basically had to graciously decline given what I saw happen when stuff went wrong in the raid.  In the end, the raid group just did what it always did and had their standard operating procedures, and that was just how it was going to go in that raid group, but that wasn’t the right fit for me.

Matt: It sounds like that group was a really hardcore, focused guild, where that kind of atmosphere is right for certain individuals, but not for you, right?

So my story is going to be a little awkward. In this case, the setting is Dragon Soul…I think. I’m not sure now. It could’ve been Firelands. It was around that time period. We had this mage that applied and we took him in. We were just trying him out as normal. He seemed, this is going to sound cliche, he seemed decent and played ok.

Now, back then, we’ll take any mage we can get. We’ll take the player that doesn’t suck because this was during a period of the progression where it was deep in that tier, and a lot of players had dropped out because Firelands was not their thing. Firelands was not my personal favorite tier either, so I could kind of understand the feelings of despair and depression and oh my god this place sucks.

Even though he played well-ish, and didn’t die much, mechanically speaking he was sound. DPS-wise he was a little behind, but we could explain that away as being a gearing issue, because he was definitely behind some of our players at the time.

So, this is where it got awkward. I did my usual rounds. I polled a couple players about what they thought of the guy, and all that sort of thing. The feedback I got back from the men in the guild was “Yeah, he’s ok. Nothing stands out to me. Nothing major.” But the women in the guild had a different story. They’re like, “The kind of messages this guy is telling me… it’s awkward, and some of it is inappropriate. I don’t know this guy well enough yet to have those kinds of conversations with him and it’s making me uncomfortable.”

It was definitely something that occurred more than a small sample size of one person. It was numerous people. So, I had to make a decision here. Ok, on the one hand, mechanically speaking, he did well. On the other hand, he is apparently…..I don’t want to say harassing, because I don’t think it got to that point. But, I could tell that if left unchecked it could have gotten worse. So, I basically had two choices. I could warn the guy off, and tell him “Hey, you’re going to back off. I’ve gotten complaints about you. You should never say things like that again, not for a long time, or to someone else outside the guild.” Or two: we just outright decline his trial and say it’s a no. [Will: So what happened then?] I had to take a good, stark look at our roster now. The question I asked myself was, “If I remove this guy, and eject him and fail him from his trial, can we still function as a guild?” Thankfully, yes, we had enough players. I think we had 25 players and two or three extras on the side that were ok and willing to come in and rotate out on bosses. It’s not like we needed the player….we weren’t desperate. So I made that call. I didn’t want to deal with this later on, and I’d rather just cut it off right now. I told him, “Hey, look, thanks for trying out with us. I appreciate what you’ve done. I don’t think this is going to work out for us, we’re going to go in a different direction. I’m sorry. Good luck with your search. We will not be asking you to remain with us in the guild as we progress into Cataclysm.” Pretty straightforward, pretty professional, standard P.R. speak.

The dude goes silent for a second, and then he says, “But what about my wife? I have kids!” I was speechless. I don’t see how that’s relevant. What does that have to depend on me for? That’s totally not my problem. I didn’t actually say that to him, but I said, “I’m sure they’re going to be ok.” [Will: Well done.] Because really, I didn’t know what else I could do. It was just so bizarre to me. Anyway, that’s my awkward recruit story. I’ve got a ton more, but I’ll save those for future shows.


Okay, we’re about to reach the end of our show here so let’s recap!

  1. Have a trial length. And then make a decision at the end of it.
  2. Logs and player evaluation. It’s not enough for them to be here all the time they need to actually be at the level you need them to be at.
  3. Involve the officers and have them keep an eye on the new recruits.
  4. Poll the rest of the raid
  5. Check for the “fit”. Make sure they fit in and gel with the rest of the team.
  6. Hold an end of trial conversation. Either they’re in or they’re out, or anything in between is up to you.


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If you’re on Twitter, you can follow us @GuildmastersOrg and you can follow the hosts. Matt can be found @Matticus and Wil can be followed @GitErRaid. If you’re interested in the show notes for the episode or want to drop a comment, head on the Guildmasters website at You can also find the video and accompanying slides there as well. See you next time!