Friday, February 14, 2014

The Art of Recruiting for a World of Warcraft Raiding Guild

Back in the earlier days of World of Warcraft, recruitment was hardest for individuals looking for guilds. You needed hard-to-acquire attunements to even step foot inside the raiding instances, first of all. Gear was harder to come by, as your only way of getting geared enough to see the current content was to get geared by farming the prior raiding tier. There was no such thing as battle tags or running instances cross-server. Only top level guilds recorded combat parses (if they did at all) and nobody really streamed the game. Most importantly: with 40 and then 25-man raids being the primary raiding size, there were more raiders than there were raiding spots and guilds. If you weren't already geared and experienced, and ready to raid with the top of the top, it was difficult to stand out when there were so many more players for them to choose from. 

But the game has changed, and with these changes has come an influx of raiders armed with the same gear and similar experience as everyone else, because raiding is more accessible than ever. And because 10-man guilds are so much easier to organize, everyone wants to run their own guild! As a result, it's harder than ever to stand out and attract players to join your guild. Why would they want to join your start-up 10-man guild when they have the gear to join a heroic 25-man guild? Why would they bother joining your guild that is struggling to fill raid spots on a dying server when they can join a thriving guild on a high-pop server? What makes you special? How do you stand out to this huge pool of players?

Branding Your Guild

Like the real world, it's all about about branding and selling yourself. It's not as simple as making a post in the recruitment forums and expecting people to magically fly to your forums in a rush to apply. Everything you and your guildies do and say is a direct reflection of your guild: your recruitment posts, your responses to individual guild-seeking posts, your guild website, and even how you respond to applicants on your forums. These things are their first impressions of your guild, and if none of these things stand out initially, you've lost your chance. 

Who Are You?

People typically want to see two things when they're looking for a guild: that you're organized and get things done, and that you're a culture fit for them.

If you're just starting your guild out, take a minute to figure out what kind of guild you are. How seriously do you plan on raiding? What sort of people does your guild appeal to? What's your catch? What's your culture? Are you more hardcore and chasing competitive ranks? Are you a semi-serious raiding guild who appeals to working professionals who can no longer raid competitively? Are you a bunch of goofballs who want to just want to drunkenly slay internet dragons while singing Build Me Up, Buttercup on Vent? 

Even if you think there's nothing special about your guild, there is! Think of all the laughter and inside jokes your guild has had, and the colorful personalities in it. Think of your goals for the guild and how far everyone is willing to go to achieve them. Think of your history together and your future. If you've been together for a year or more, mention that! If most of your guild is extremely close and on a first-name basis, people want to hear that. If you've had any guild meet-ups, that sounds exciting. All of these things can be used to define and sell your guild, so use them!

Show, Don't Tell

Much like applying for jobs, guild recruitment follows the same philosophy: if you can show rather than tell, always show examples. Saying you're a funny, close-knit group of friends is great, but take it one step further and let them see it for themselves. Make a soundboard that shows how hilarious your guild is during raids, or if someone in your guild is skilled enough, make a YouTube video that leaves them laughing and wanting more of your guild. When you post your progression kill screenshots on your guild front page, post little funny screenshots of things your guildmates have said. Not only is it great for recruitment, but people in your guild begin looking forward to see if their hilarious comments will be featured on the front page, and it ends up becoming great for guild morale.

If you brand yourself as a more serious raiding guild, you should be able to showcase this as well. Make sure your front page and website progression reflect your most recent kills. In your recruitment information, don't just say you want to be competitive. If you've been around for a while, prove it with combat parse and kill ranks. If you haven't, catch their interest by telling them how you plan on achieving your raiding goals as a new guild. People don't always need a track history of success to entice them; if you sell yourself well enough and make them believe in your ability to successfully lead them, they'll give you a chance.

Guild Websites

People don't realize how often guild websites can make or break a potential applicant's decision to apply to your guild. How's your guild website? You do have one, right? If you don't, even if you're just a 10-man guild, get one right now! It's easier than ever to have a nice, flashy, personalized guild website, thanks to hosts like Enjin. You have no excuse. Find someone with graphic skills to make you a nice banner with your guild name and customize your layout. Add the guild logo from your banner on all of your kill screenshots featured on the front page. 

Do you have any stickied posts or menu links that explain your guild's history, goals, raid times, and culture? What about how to apply? If you don't have them, these are necessary! They don't know anything about your guild. They can't read your mind. If they have to log onto the game and add you on battlenet to ask you these questions, then you might lose their interest. Make sure you have information about your guild in an easy-to-find location and make sure it explains all of the basic things they'd want to know about your guild.

Nurture your forum community. Give your guild incentive to post and lead by example by posting as well. A thriving forum community is great for guild-bonding, but it's also great for two other reasons: it's a good example of the guild community and culture from an outsider's perspective and it's a good way to get them more involved in the guild. If you have a guild that actively posts on the forums, that means you can spend less time explaining raid strategies during raids and discuss them on the forums during off-time. You can break down combat parse logs after a night of attempts on a difficult boss, and have everyone contribute into the discussion on how to make your next raiding night better. All of these things make for a smoother running guild, which indirectly helps you recruit more quality people.

The Art of Recruiting

Coming Up with your Recruitment Pitch

Oh, this is the hard part. Here's the thing with pitches for recruitment posts: you have limited text to sell yourself and stand out from the hundreds of other guilds saying the same exact things. What do you say in your pitch? What do people want to hear?

The most important thing to state first is your guild information: your server and server type, faction, raid size progression, raiding times (and time zone!), guild website, loot council, and who to contact. This is an old screenshot from my former guild, but these days, you should also throw in your battle tag in the contact line. It is absolutely crucial to include your battle tag so they can contact you, because they aren't going to hunt you down on your server, register on your forums to PM you, or ask a question on the thread and wait for a response when battle net is just so much more convenient.

The next important thing to mention is your recruitment needs. Often, people are just scanning your forum post to see if your progression, raid times, and recruitment needs all match up, and then they'll either stop reading if they don't, or continue reading once they do. Making this information easier to find makes it easier for them, because if they can't find your recruitment needs because it's at the very bottom of a wall of text, they might just close the tab and not even give you a real chance.

Okay, so what do you say now? You've said the important stuff, and if you raid suitable times and are recruiting their class, what else would they be interested in? This is where the whole "branding your guild" part comes in. This is your time to shine and talk up your guild or leadership abilities. Make them laugh and want more from your guild. Paint a picture of the kind of guild atmosphere you have or cite your past credentials and give them reasons to give your new guild a chance. Know what kind of raider you want to recruit and how to shape your pitch to appeal specifically to them. My guild was more personality-driven, and we wanted to recruit people like us, so we made sure our pitch would appeal to them. It seemed unprofessional to other types, but what counts is that it got us the right kind of recruits and garnered a lot of interest. Knowing your audience and how to sell your guild to them is 75% of recruitment.

And just because we were more than just a few witty quips, we wanted to back up our silly pitch with some serious information about our history and who we were.

Our recruitment pitch worked extremely well. We had very little recruitment turnover, and some of our best members were people who would have never applied to our guild due to raiding times or our progression, but had been too enticed to not join us.

Don't forget the title! The title should mention your faction ([H] or [A] are the general ways to do this), size raid, progression, guild name, and something catchy. You can put something humorous, what classes you're looking to recruit, or your rank if you're competitive. 

Getting Your Name Out There

So, now you have your recruitment pitch, but where do you post it? How do you actually get people to apply to your guild with this wall of text, anyway? This is the tedious part: now you have to go to websites that aren't your guild website to get your name out there, and on top of that, you have to bump your post every once in a while, or it gets lost and nobody will see it. I recommend constantly nagging your guildmates or sticky a forum thread with the link to help you keep these threads bumped. The websites that are absolutely necessary to keep your information updated and bumped are: the official Guild Recruitment forums, your realm forums, and WoW Progress (No bumping here! Just remember to update your recruitment needs on it).

Beyond those three sites, just look for any fan website or community to post your guild pitch on. Tankspot, Elitist Jerks, reddit, MMO Champion, WoW Head, How to Priest, and GuildOx are all reputable sites used.

Can you recruit outside of traditional forum threads? Yes! If you have anyone in your guild who streams, ask them to stream often and put the link to the guild website in their information. If you have any people active on social media or gaming forum communities, it's remarkable how easily you can recruit people just by connecting with other WoW players. I've seen multiple guilds even form because of connections made through blogs and Twitter, and I recruited multiple people I interacted with on Tankspot for my own guild!

You can also recruit the good ol' fashioned way, too. Did you run a normal pug instance on your alt and bond with some of the players in the run? Are you friends with a lot of people on your server? Networking! Make connections wherever you go. Talk to people and invite them to things. Little simple acts like that add up and make people want to apply to your guild. My guild was well known on my server because we were involved in the server community, ran and participated in several events, and generally enjoyed making new friends. I got so many good guild members out of simple networking.

Talking to Potential Applicants

Unfortunately, it's not enough to just have recruitment threads. With the amount of guilds recruiting these days, and how sought after the geared players are, it's not uncommon to see many players posting LFguild threads and ending up with 2-3 pages of people trying to recruit them. In fact, a lot of people never look at the mass of guilds advertising if they have made their own post. How in the world do you stand out when recruiting has suddenly become like trying to message a girl on a dating site? You can respond to the player's post with your guild pitch, but you end up being one of 10-20 guilds vying for their attention, many of which are more progressed than your guild. How do you make them want to apply to your guild?

The first step is to read their entire post, make sure it's a good fit (don't overlook required times!), and then cater your response to their needs. Show them that you took some time to read their post and make them feel special. If you just copy-paste your entire guild spam onto their thread, it looks insincere and they'll probably ignore your post and go with someone who took time to respond to them. It doesn't have to be much. A line or two, maybe a little joke, and then express a desire to talk with them further, leaving your battle tag for them to contact you. Maybe even suggest that you'll add them to battle net (assuming they've posted theirs) and talk with them further. It looks good because it shows that you want them enough to chase them.

After you've successfully added one another to battlenet, greet them with a friendly hello when they aren't busy in an instance. Make brief idle chat and let them determine the pace of the conversation. Open yourself up to interrogation by asking them if they have any questions or concerns about the guild. When you answer, try to remember that you're still selling your guild to them. Remember all the driving points in your recruitment pitch and use them to impress the applicant. Try to turn it into a conversation instead of letting it become a dry Q&A session by engaging them with a friendly question or comment of your own. If the conversation is going really well and you're feeling up to it, offer them a chat in Mumble/Vent, since it's more personal than text and easier to make a good impression on someone. Don't sound bored or disinterested, or you might scare them off. When I was looking for guilds, there were times when I completely lost interest in a guild because the person messaging me made talking to me sound like a chore. But on the flip side, don't be too pushy or aggressive. I know you want to recruit someone now, but repeatedly asking a player if they've made a decision yet is a quick way to get yourself deleted from their friend list. Let people make their decisions at their own pace (within reason, of course), but don't let them forget you. Message them every couple of days to say hello, idly chat, or even offer them spots in your LFR/flex/old content runs. Continuing to show interest after the initial Q&A is a good way to stand out and make a good impression on them.

The Application Process

Yay, They Applied!

Congratulations! All your hard work paid off and someone you were talking to applied to your guild. The balance has shifted in your favor and now you're letting them apply to you. You did the hard part already (selling your guild and catching their interest), and now it's up to your guild to make sure this person is a great fit. The most important thing to remember right now, though, is that this is not a done deal yet. There are a lot of things you can do to scare off an applicant, so the last thing you need to get is cocky.

When they first apply, someone needs to respond within the first 12 hours. It doesn't have to be anything serious. Just a simple greeting and an acknowledgement that you see their application should be good enough. Depending on your application process and guild type, some guilds like to grill applicants on their itemization, talent, and glyph choices, as well as information gleamed from combat parses. This is great, because it tests their knowledge of the game and their actions in a raid, but try to not be condescending, patronizing, or too aggressive. If the applicant feels like he's being attacked or mocked, he'll probably feel like he's backed into a corner and get defensive. Or worse, he might not ever respond and just find another guild that seems nicer. If your guildmates are being too aggressive, step in and privately tell them to watch their tone. Even if this applicant is actually an idiot and you aren't interested in recruiting him after seeing his application, remember that word-of-mouth goes far and if your forums are public, other potential applicants may see how you treated him and lose interest in you. That applicant may not have been a fit for your guild, but what happens when all of these angry applicants tell their friends what a bunch of jerks your guild is? The raiding community is small and well connected; if you build a reputation of being elitist jerks, your reputation will precede you.

Be Honest

Whatever you do, don't ignore them or leave them hanging. If you aren't interested in them, take a quick moment to apologize and tell them that you've filled the spot or they just aren't what you're looking for. If you're taking a while to assess your roster or you're on the fence about someone, keep them updated. If you keep them in the dark and don't respond, they're going to assume you're not interested and probably look somewhere else. I was in a guild that took forever to get back to applicants, and it was frustrating to see all the good applicants we lost due to neglect. It doesn't take much effort. Acknowledge that you see their application and keep them updated.

Being honest ("We're not really sure if we can fit in another warlock in our core right now") is much preferred over being vague and them not knowing where they stand with you. If you have qualms with any part of their application (the combat parses, their lack of experience, them being able to keep up with the other DPS on your roster, etc), be professional and pleasant about it, but tell them as much. Give them a fighting chance to prove that they can compete or improve, but don't let their application sit there for a week while you secretly mull over their worth.

Be Selective, But Not Too Selective

Here's the biggest secret I have about recruitment: don't accept just anyone. Make sure that they're exactly what you're looking for. Make sure their raiding goals align with yours, and that they're a culture and personality fit for your guild. Don't accept any warm body that wants to raid with you or dramatically lower your standards just to fill a raid spot, because once you do, your guild becomes a revolving door. The best thing you can do for your guild is to recruit quality people who genuinely want to be there, because these people will be with you in the long-term. These people are what make your guild successful.

And sometimes, that means recruiting people who aren't quite on the level you're looking for in terms of experience or even skill, but people with good attitudes and a lot potential. Learn to develop an eye for players you can quickly teach to be on the level you want your raiders to be. Yes, you need people who can raid at the level of your guild, and yes, you need someone who has enough gear to help you progress. Most guilds don't want projects because it's a lot of effort and work for no good reason. But every once in a while, you come across someone who is such a good fit in attitude, drive, and personality, that they're worth the effort. If they're willing to make the extra effort to try to get on your level, give them a chance to prove it. Gear and experience can be easily obtained, but good attitudes are harder to come by.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Was a Weight Loss Success Story

One of my weight loss photos.
When we hear about weight loss success stories, we always imagine these glamorous fairy-tale stories of ordinary people who lose weight and suddenly have so much more to offer life. You've seen those images before: the left frame filled with a sad-looking person, slouching over and not making eye contact with the camera, and the right frame is filled with a slimmer figure in better-fitting clothes, standing tall with shoulders back and smiling at the camera. Some of us look at these images and think to ourselves, "They look so happy now. They've accomplished so much now that they've lost weight. Can't I do that too?" We glamorize these people's journeys, turning them into role-models whether they want it or not, and aspire to lose weight so we, too, can discover the magical key to being happy with our lives.

While these pictures are circulating the Internet and thousands to millions of people are viewing, sharing, and commenting on everything from speculation about their personalities to criticism of their bodies, do we stop to think about the actual people in the photos? We assume they were unhappy and unsuccessful in the before photos, and now they're so happy and successful in the after photo. We assume they're so happy and confident in the one picture we see of them, in fact, that we don't stop to wonder if the thousands of negative comments strangers are making about their bodies will ever negatively affect them. By then they're not even real people to us anymore, and have somehow transcended into social celebrity status, where we all have opinions and criticisms about them but they're not allowed to have feelings. 

I Was That Girl

When I embarked on my weight loss journey nearly four years ago, I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into it. I actually didn't loathe my life or my body. I was a bigger girl and wasn't necessarily happy about it, but for the most part, I had accepted it and moved on with enjoying my life. Not surprising, the times I struggled the most were when people pointed out my size in a negative light or when I tried to shop for clothing in trendy, young shops. After a few back-to-back embarrassing social situations regarding my size, though, I finally caved in and decided I would try to lose some weight and change my lifestyle. "Not a lot of weight," I promised myself. "I don't want or need to be skinny! I just want to lose 20 pounds and make healthier choices."

Once I started to lose weight, though, I was running downhill and didn't know how to stop the momentum. It
became my obsession and purpose in life. All I wanted to do was talk and think about my weight loss. At first my efforts were healthy and my obsession just aided in keeping me focused on my goal. But after spending a couple of months dissecting my body in a critical light, I suddenly found more reasons to hate my body. In the words of Cady from Mean Girls, I used to just think there was fat and skinny. Suddenly, specific body parts on me were fat, and I had now programmed my mind to see fat as the enemy. I found myself entertaining destructive thoughts about my body and my progress, and started doing unhealthy things to achieve faster weight loss. I spent my days and nights daydreaming about being skinny, pinching the fat on my body, weighing myself, reading pro-ana forums, and secretly photoshopping my photos to see what I'd look like smaller. I started meticulously counting calories and eating significantly less than a healthy calorie deficit. I had tied my self-worth into my size, and so when I didn't feel thin, I was depressed, socially anxious, and lacking in confidence.

I was in a dark place, and it usually has to get worse before you can admit there's a problem. I was rapidly losing weight, but I was also losing physical strength. Everything made me tired, and if I got up too quickly or moved too fast, I'd see black spots and lose vision for a split second. I stopped hanging out with my friends because I had put on this facade of being this happy, healthy person pursuing healthy weight loss, and if I didn't eat, they'd see the truth. It took fainting at work one day before I saw I was heading down a dangerous path.


I didn't like the direction I was heading, but I still lacked the ability to be honest with people about my struggle, so I decided to make a health and fitness Tumblr to keep me in line. I became Crissfit: a positive, healthy-minded figure who helped girls who were struggling with what I was going through. I didn't know how to help myself, but I figured if I helped others I would eventually be able to believe what I was telling them. I eventually started eating more and lifting heavy weights, and even though I had bad thoughts about my body still, I was on the path of recovery. My blog kept me accountable for my actions, and the small community there kept me positive and open about my journey.

I posted my progress pictures in the small communities I was a part of, getting feedback and compliments from friends. I was proud of my progress because to me, my pictures spoke of not just the physical transformation, but the emotional and mental growth I had experienced in that year of weight loss. At the time, it felt nice being praised for my hard work and seeing my friends recognize how difficult and emotional my journey was. I was delighted when my pictures were reblogged, and when my Tumblr followers numbered 30k, I was giddy with happiness because it meant I was influential! People were listening to me and cared about my story. It gave me the resolve to stay strong and be healthy in both mind and body because so many young women were looking up to me.

But then my pictures started going viral over the Internet, being posted on all sorts of popular social media sites, forums, and meme photo websites. I was getting countless messages from friends, family, co-workers, and old Internet acquaintances, informing me of every place they saw my pictures posted. At first, I read them all; every last comment. I saw literally thousands and thousands of comments from strangers criticizing everything you can imagine about me: the way I was standing, my height, that I was too skinny or still too fat, my pale skin or my red hair, my "fat knees," and my chunky legs. I was told it was a shame my face was still busted, or that I may have lost weight but I was "still a 5 in big cities with actual hot girls." One popular article managed to turn me into nothing but a number, and if the blog post wasn't bad enough, the comments were demeaning and soul-crushing. I had people write lengthy break-downs on every little thing wrong with my face and body, from my nose to my ankles. Ironically enough, posting my weight loss pictures on my blogs to show my friends ended up resulting in irreparable low self-esteem.

And then, at some point, something inside of me broke. Two years of eating well and restricting calorie-dense foods went down the drain and I started binge-eating everything I felt I had missed out on: pizza, chips, soda, and take-out. I told myself it was just a break and that I'd get back on track, but the more I ate, the more I gained. The more I gained, the more emotional I was over my weight gain, and so the more I ate. Before I knew it, I had gained 20 pounds back. 

Dealing with My Weight Gain

At the time, it felt like the end of the world. I was a small-town and internet celebrity for my weight loss, and here I was, gaining all that weight back! I was still getting hundreds of messages a day from people desperate to know how to lose weight or simply congratulating me on my weight loss. People were still sending me links of places my pictures were being posted. It got to the point where seeing those comments or even seeing my own weight loss picture triggered feelings of low self-worth. After all, I had let people base my self-worth entirely on my size, and if I had put on weight again, what was my value? So many sites had reposted my pictures with superficial headlines like "She Fixed It" and many comments had referred to my before photo as repulsive and calling me an "it." If I had put on weight, did that mean I was "broken" again?

I thought I was in a dark place with my disorder before, but I went somewhere deeper and darker. I became a slave to my emotional eating disorder in a way that I never did before. It was like there was another person inside my head, fighting the rational part of my brain for control. Sometimes, the ED voice would win and lock away the rational Criss, leaving me to dwell on destructive thoughts about my body. And then I would starve; literally starve myself for multiple days. I would eat little or no food and drink a surplus of water. I would sometimes take sleeping pills to go to bed early if I thought I'd end up weakening and eating late at night. When I could cope with the hunger pains without having to go to bed, I saw it as a success. In a sick, twisted way, I had begun to see the hunger pains as necessary punishment for the crime of being fat, and when I could withstand the pain without succumbing to eating, I felt strong. I was happiest when I was successful in my fasting. I began to feel the most beautiful when I was hungry and hadn't eaten enough. When I went to bed without eating most of the day, I smiled to myself in pride at being strong enough to overcome my "weakness." I felt weak and easily winded, but the scale was going down dramatically and my waist was becoming so slender, so I had a skip in my step regardless of energy.

But for every few days of extreme restriction and starvation, there was a week or two of extreme binge-eating. I would just be so, so hungry after not allowing myself food that I would eat one thing and just break. I'd crumble and lose my resolve, eating everything in sight. I would eat until I was literally sick and hurting. I welcomed the pain and considered it punishment that I deserved. I saw myself as a fat, disgusting slob, lacking even the most basic control over food, and I felt I deserved the physical pain, emotional wreckage, and shame.

The worst part was that I struggled to acknowledge I had an eating disorder, to others or even to myself. What would people say if they found out the person whose pictures were reposted daily as fitness inspiration was actually struggling with an eating disorder? Furthermore, would they even believe me? Nobody ever seems to believe girls who claim to have an eating disorder unless their BMI is extremely low, and clearly, mine wasn't. Worst of all, what would I do if I admitted it to myself? I knew how to do things right, and admitting that I lacked control over my body and mind would make me feel foolish and unintelligent. All I had ever wanted was to be known for being an influential and intelligent individual; to admit to the world that I had an eating disorder would chance losing all credibility I ever had. I was scared of everyone's judgment and having to cope with all the backlash when people realized the person they idolized as some sort of weight loss wizard and healthy role model was flawed. Human, like the rest of you.


I feel relieved that I am finally at a point in recovery where I can tell everyone the truth of my struggles, and it has also helped to know that I'm not alone. Do you know how many other people known for their weight loss stories have struggled with similar issues? Surprisingly, almost every person I've met who has lost a large amount of weight has recounted experiences that closely mirror my own. Why does that happen? I suspect the unsolicited attention and the pressure of being turned into an internet role model eventually becomes too much for them, and eventually we crash and burn. We let people tie so much of our worth into our weight loss stories that we lose our identities when we aren't the people in the "after" photos anymore. 

I'd be lying if I said I was fully better now, because I'm not. I don't know if I have a happy ending to this story. I still have bad weeks where I restrict too much and then binge in response, but finally admitting that I had an eating disorder helped take a weight off my back. I'm trying to learn how to find a balance between the two extremes, but habits-- especially ones spurred by an emotional disorder-- are hard to break. Mostly, though, I'm trying to find ways to celebrate my self-worth that don't hinge on my weight. After being known solely as Crissfit for so long, it's hard to fully break from that identity, but I'm an intelligent, talented individual with so much more to offer the world than being merely a successful weight loss story. There's so much life has to offer than wasting it worrying about what the scale says.

Oh, and for those thousands of sites who posted my photos with cheap, superficial headers that added false context? I wasn't broken, and so I didn't "fix" anything. I'm not an it; I'm exactly the same person at 130 pounds as I was at 200 pounds. I didn't lose weight because my ex-boyfriend called me fat, my pictures weren't posted in the wrong order, and I'm not a "disgusting animal" in the left picture just because I'm bigger. Whew, that feels better.


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