Applicants: To Kick or To Teach?

Matticus started a thread at PlusHeal a few months ago and it’s had me thinking ever since. When someone applies to your guild, do you question their knowledge, or do you teach them? He described the question as a philosophical debate occurring in his guild that had evolved into the following:

An application is sent in for applicants to demonstrate their knowledge of their class and their contributions. I should not have to point out obvious incorrect gemming choices, specs, or how their playstyle is. That’s not what this stage is for. It’s like taking an exam and having the teacher provide you with all the answers. The purpose of the application then is from an evaluatory standpoint. The guild wants to know what the applicants know and what they believe in so they can either upvote them into the guild or downvote them into oblivion.

However, there are those who believe that there is nothing wrong helping a player solidify their knowledge of the game and their class by telling them exactly how they should be gemming, what they should be speccing along with additional resource sites to examine. The belief is we should help everyone that applies regardless of whether or not they get in.

There have been some interesting responses to the question, from both sides of the fence. I never responded, because I couldn’t quite decide where I feel. My gut reaction remains, “It’s not my job to teach you how to play. You applied for a position, you get in on your current knowledge/ability/bubbly personality.” But even as I thought about typing that, I realized, it’s not always true!

On a seemingly unrelated note, I was running a low level dungeon with my warrior over the weekend. I tend to think I’m a bit old-fashioned since I feel obligated to turn the mobs so that their backs face the group. I’ve found that this apparently confuses a lot of melee who are used to being responsible for trudging around the mob before they can start wailing away on it. However, within a few pulls, most players get into the swing of it, and honestly, I feel that it makes melee feel less pressured to pass up looting corpses if they’re so inclined since they are presented a row of unprotected backs as they run to catch up. (Now I am really starting to digress).

So, Wailing Caverns with my warrior, my friendly neighborhood mage, a warlock, rogue and some kind of heal-y person. I do my rotate routine. About pull 4 I notice that the rogue still hasn’t figured out that he’s standing on top of me. The first boss, he’s standing on top of me. As we’re on our way to the second boss, I’m starting to actually get aggravated. What is wrong with this person?

Me: [Name], if you stand behind the mobs, you’ll do more damage.

Rogue: Oh. Why is that? Do I miss less?

Me: Yep.

Rogue: Oh wow, my damage is much higher. Thanks.

Apparently our fine roguish friend didn’t realize that mobs wouldn’t parry if he was behind them. Although plenty of basic DPS guides are available and explain these points in simple detail, frankly, there’s a lot of information out there. At under level 20, did I really expect a new melee character to intuitively understand that? Well… it depends. For a reroll of a raiding character, yes. For a new character, or a reroll of a leveling character, it’s a toss up.

Although it’s been a long time since I bothered to offer any advice to another player (it generally is construed as rude and blows up in your face), I felt really awesome after helping that little guy. Like monumentally awesome. Made my whole night in fact. I doubt that rogue will remember my name past the dungeon run. I honestly don’t remember his name either. But I helped a player understand a basic mechanic, it only took 2 seconds of my time, and frankly, everyone who runs a dungeon with that fella will benefit from a simple pointer.

Now, to bring this back up to an 85 character applying to a progression oriented raiding guild. I don’t look at an application and think “what can I teach this person today!” In all honesty, I don’t look to teach anything at all to applicants. I expect them to be experts and ready to raid at a high level of skill. There’s plenty of times that I’ve seen applications that were questionable in terms of talents, gems or enchants.

If you’re like me, your first reaction is something along the lines of:

  • They have a basic misunderstanding about their class.
  • They don’t review their character regularly enough to update gems/enchants to match reforge decisions.
  • They’re relying on an outside source for decision making about gear/talents that don’t match up. (which is basically a basic misunderstanding, but can just be information overload).
What I decide to do next depends a lot on the application. If someone has taken minimal time to submit an application, not answered section (or done the dreaded Yes/No/Not Applicable business) then I just write them off. I’m not going to take more time reviewing an application than an applicant put into it. Period.
But what about those really good applications, the ones where someone obviously put a lot of time and effort into putting their best foot forward? As much as I enjoy  lecturing teaching, I still don’t tell anyone what they should do. Instead, I ask questions. I want the applicant to explain to me why they made the choices that they have. I’ve found the initial response to the query being the biggest decider in whether or not I like an applicant.
  • This site said so.
I find this the most annoying and least helpful information you could possibly give me. Not only do you not think about the advice/information given at said site, you don’t keep up to date with the information if I’m questioning you about it. Even EJ will rarely tell you what to do about every decision to be made to your stats, and will generally give you a set of guidelines for making the best choices based on your situation. It also tells me you don’t think it’s worth your time to think through an appropriate response, and you end up in the lazy pile.
  • I think….
These can be enlightening about the thought processes of your applicant, but rarely do they make you happy with the results. This is a player who doesn’t do a lot of outside research, and relies on their own intuition, target dummy practice, and winging it. There are exceptions, but they’re rare. I generally will refer these players to an outside resource, because at least they’re thinking and likely just need more data!
  • According to…. so I did…
Personally, these are my favorites. They take the information that’s widely available and make the choices that they feel are best for their situation. I may not agree with those choices, but I’m more likely to understand them. 
Of course, you always get the applicant who takes every question as a personal crusade to scrub their character to an inch of it’s life. While it’d be nice if they thought to do that before applying, I can’t say that I’m totally against players who make an effort to meet more rigorous standards. It honestly depends on how the applicant responds as to whether I’m in favor of trashing or saving said applicant.
  • You said…. so I did….
These piss me off. Like nerd-rage supreme. When I’m looking at an applicant, I’m looking for someone who is able to review their own character, and make their own decisions. While you might have taken my advice this time around, I’m not going to be looking over your shoulder every second to see whether you properly integrated that piece of gear you got last week. If you are only changing things around because I noted it, I think you’re doing it wrong.
  • You said…. I looked at…. I decided to do…..
I get that sometimes you choose to change things based on what guild members have said during an application. Sometimes our questions prompt you to question your own decisions, and you want to let us know you changed. However, let us know that you based the decision on personal motivation over attempting to make us happy so we’ll let you in. Class changes and stat priorities are fluid. Sometimes people get behind. But I’m much rather see that someone took our prompting as a need to catch up and make their own decisions as opposed to blindly following whatever random guild member tells you. Hey, that person reviewing your application might suck. You never know.
In the end, I think whether I want to just review or teach really depends on whether the applicant is really interested in improving themselves. While anyone can say that’s what they’re interested in, the responses to simple questions can really narrow down those who are honestly making their best effort to learn and excel in their class, and for them, I’d be happy to provide them information until they cried for mercy (regardless of whether they joined the guild or not!)

11 thoughts on “Applicants: To Kick or To Teach?

  1. Interesting. In my situation, I generally don’t have the luxury of being overly picky about gear or experience, but I do like to make sure people are thinking and working on their gear (not blindly following sites or chasing socket bonuses, but making sure their choices make sense for what they currently have). I have come across some crazy choices (int gems as an enhancement shammy, stam gems as a hunter, really?). Getting the chance to see how someone responds to constructive criticism now rather than later is good.

    I’ve been thinking of changing our application process and your post gave me some good ideas. Thanks!

    • I know in your position, teaching is actually more highly prized in that you’re often taking in new/inexperienced raiding players. I’m glad this gave you some help with your application process, because you definitely need to know that players will take advice (and hopefully pain-free!)

  2. I am with you here. My opinion is that if you are joining a progression oriented team, you need to come into it with knowledge and skill suitable to be an asset to that team. After that, you can (and should!) engage in conversation and grow as a player – but you need to come in at a level of competence with your class that mirrors the guild.

    This, of course, is variable depending on the guild and where they are. There are guilds for everyone. But at the end of the day, on a progression team whose goals and focuses are clearly on progression, it is my opinion that you should not need to teach the basic mechanics of the class to a team member.

    • There are guilds for everyone.

      I just wanted to say I love you for saying that :) Having been in different guilds myself, I definitely understand and encourage different types of guilds to examine this for themselves.

  3. The way I look at it, the key attributes to look for in a recruit are the ability to think and to learn. Gear and even knowledge isn’t necessarily crucial, as both are temporary states and both can be acquired before they raid with the guild. What determines, IMO, whether a person will be a long-term asset to a raiding team is whether they’re capable of processing information and synthesizing it into useful results/conclusions. This is absolutely the prime attribute to both doing well in raids and in preparing your gear and talents for raids.

    So, in relation to your post, I think that an applicant review is a time for evaluating their ability to think and learn. After they’ve joined the guild (if they reassured you on that count from their responses and are thus admitted into the guild), then there’s plenty of time to teach them/direct them to resources where they can teach themselves, if they need it. Not every valuable player has to be a raider the moment they join. They just have to, IMO, display that they have the characteristics a good/great raider needs.

    • Yet do you feel that you should spend time teaching non-guild members as well as those you allow into your guild? I’d argue that those making an effort to learn, even in the application process, are worth teaching (or at least directing to resources) even if they don’t make the grade for the guild for other reasons. While I definitely think learning/teaching is a vital and often overlooked skill in applicants, it cannot take the place of actual ability to move your character properly, as much as I’d like to say otherwise. Some players are 100% willing and only 50% able for the level they’d like to attain.

      • I don’t think there’s anything objectionable about helping a non-guildie, including those who don’t get accepted as a recruit. I generally don’t give unsolicited advice, for the reason you mentioned: it’s generally taken as an attack and does more harm than good. However, if the person seems interested in a discussion or in getting a few tips, I’m perfectly happy to talk to them, within the limit of my own knowledge (I’m not going to have much to tell a feral druid beyond pretty obvious things like prioritizing agility). If it’s someone who plays a class I play a lot (like a priest or paladin), I actually love discussing the class, even if the person is not ultimately going to be helping my guild.

        I would say that my personality is of a type that would like to help as much as possible. And I was a guild master of a rather casual, friendly guild at one time, where raiding was what we did, but it wasn’t even slightly “hardcore.” We accepted people pretty liberally and tried to help them become raiders, if they desired, and I spent a lot of time teaching. Currently, I’m part of a slightly more progression-oriented guild and we have somewhat stricter standards. I don’t like the idea of elitism, but I do want the guild to weed out those who just don’t care to try.

        As for the “skill” question, I think that’s tricky to tease out as a separate attribute. I was essentially folding that into “learning.” I don’t feel that WoW has a heavy hand-eye coordination skill aspect as many other combat-oriented games do. I think the main skill in WoW (in the end-game, that is) is awareness, and I believe that awareness can be learned. For some it may take more effort to learn it while it’s natural for others…but I think anyone can achieve the awareness necessary for good raiding. The rest is experience, research and thinking through the processes you use to heal, tank or DPS.

  4. This is a tough one.

    I think that if someone comes into a situation where they admit that they have had some doubts about their current choices and they sort of open themselves up to that kind of feedback I would be inclined to say that I would show them the ropes and give them the help that they need. That means they have taken the first step. They know they’re doing something that may not be working for them, but they’re just not sure. Maybe their needs have changed with different tiers of progression. They’re admitting they want to better themselves and they put themselves out there to get possibly get some help with that.

    I would not want to teach someone who goes into a situation an absolute hot mess and who really believes that what they are doing is the right thing, when they couldn’t be more wrong. Then it becomes less about “teaching” someone and more about “fixing” someone. That’s something I absolutely don’t think we should be doing.

    I agree with you about getting frustrated with certain answers on applications, specifically where people get their information from and such. I’m always the first to ask an applicant why they have specific talents and I will name them. I will ask if they understand why the spells in the suggested top DPS rotation work so well and why people suggest them. I’ll even use it as an opportunity to plug fellow bloggers and say “Feel free to check out ___ & ___ for more information. They are really great resources, too.”

    Again, it may come down to they wanted to know more, but didn’t know where to look. Certain sites do stand out like EJ and Tankspot, but not everyone knows about the Hunters Union or Tree Bark Jacket or Plus Heal. If you can tell that the person is receptive to such things and that they would truly be interested in learning more, I would tell them about those things and consider teaching them where to find additional resources. If you get the feeling they’re sticking with the big name sites just to get the question answered and they have no desire to dig deeper into their class, I wouldn’t go the extra mile to educate them on where to find such things then because they obviously don’t want to learn more.

  5. I teach friends, I don’t teach non-friends. If an app makes a post and tries to be friendly with my guild and is generally a cool person, I might be more inclined to help them out.

    Back in the day we didn’t have a choice; guilds had to teach because recruiting was so, so desperate that you couldn’t ever afford to let a good app get away. When raids were 72-man, there were times where we’d have to take a bad app on purpose (even as a world top-8 guild) as a stopgap until we could recruit someone better, and through teaching them, sometimes they became passable. Guilds lived and died by the old mantra “Clerics are never closed”, and any guild foolish enough to think they ever had enough healers was usually proven wrong. Nowadays information is a lot freer and recruiting standards are a lot higher, so I do think it’s more on the app to come in knowledgeable. My casual guild’s had recruiting closed for over 2 months now, I expect our willingness to teach someone would be quite low.

    Some stuff can’t be taught, though. Especially tank stuff. I can’t put into words how to execute a perfect skate. Even if I could, some secret skills are quite precious, and make people stand out as really good players. Firetrucking is a thing tanks had to learn how to do over a decade ago, and is still a useful skill today even though it isn’t required (I use it to solo a boss in ZA, but that’s hardly important). Concepts like a kickball kite or a turntable shred or a sprintercept or a T-bone elevator hardline or a blackout cleave or a dragon grinder or a wheeling floatover are things I *could* explain, but just knowing how to do them isn’t always enough. There’s an element of experience necessary to pull off the serious tricks, just like I imagine there’s an element of experience necessary to pull off 25k HPS / 41k DPS. I don’t think I could do that right away even if someone tried to teach me what buttons to push.

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