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Nitwit ~ Applications, If you Insist

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avatar Nitwick
Level 23 : Expert Blockhead
Consider this to be an extension of my owner's staffing guide, focusing on a very specific element. It is aimed at server owners, but some of the info could be good for applicants, especially the section near the bottom.

I'll start with this - I don't like how applications for staff are approached in the MC community. There are several issues with them that I will identify in later sections of this article, such as the fact that if you set up a format that implies correct answers, almost everyone is going to pick those correct answers, regardless if they actually work the way they answered or not. I find that a good conversation with a person where you pick up context clues is worth more than that person writing 10 good paragraphs per question that could be utter nonsense. However, I'm not going to change the application "culture" of applying for staff very much, so all I can hope to do is try and see if I can get serious owners and serious applicants to have less headaches from the whole process by making applications more efficient.

I'll start by identifying what simply doesn't work if you're looking for useful information.

Inefficient Application Questions
Anything about Trust
Asking someone how you can trust them is a question that an applicant is simply unfit to answer. Saying "are you trustworthy" is even worse - any dummy looking to be god on a server can say "yes" to that question, and generally they can make a short paragraph that amounts to saying "yes" for how you can trust them as well. You determine if a person is trustworthy or not, based on how they act and who supports them. It's not a question that gives you any information about a person unless they have a strange approach to answering it. If you want to include useful alternates of the question, ask who supports them, and then check up on it and judge accordingly.

Real Name / Full Real Name
This is a rather common question. To those that use it I say: stop. Full real name is unnecessary. Partial real name is not necessary. An IGN and if you insist, a nickname is more than functional enough for communication, and anything beyond that you do not need. Earn that information with trust, don't have people send it freely to a stranger. Even just the first name is not necessary. If the applications are public, there are possible privacy concerns.

Maturity & Age
Age is a popular question, and I believe it is functionally almost worthless. You can debate this, but if you want to, leave a comment and start the discussion there. I'll pose my argument.

Age is difficult to verify, unless you ask for information you have no business asking for (refer to the privacy note above). I know a 14 year old who sounds 17. I've met 12 year olds convincingly pass as 3-4 years older. I've seen individuals like that blow away the competence and mental skills of people twice their age. As an owner, your job is to know who is involved in your project. It's your vision. Talk to them, see how they behave, look into their history where you can find it (you shoot yourself in the foot if you don't look for a record before accepting) and make a judgment on how mature the person is. That is one of the core metrics to seeing beforehand how effective a staff member can be. That leads me to the next part.

You can try to cheat by asking people to rate their maturity or simply state how mature they are. That doesn't work. Immature people will either convincingly lie or prove their immaturity with the rest of the application. This is something you decide for yourself - like the question of trust, an applicant is not in a position to say this in a way that you can accept when looking for quality staff.

Broadly asking about someone's experience may not actually tell you anything. Consider this: Applicant A has been staff on hundreds of servers for thousands of hours, and Applicant B was mod once on a dinky little server. Applicant C states he was helper on Mineplex and owned 10 servers.

Applicant A isn't lying. He has literally been staff for thousands of hours on hundreds of servers. He's been everywhere and seen it all. Here's what you don't read in his application: he spent 9/10ths of the time goofing off and not actually doing anything. He puts off anything besides mind-numbingly simple tasks. By thousands of hours on hundreds of servers, he really means that he spent about 10 hours on each server and 5 of them were spent being afk or otherwise doing nothing of merit. Perhaps he was banned from those servers, trolled its members into quitting, never did anything aside from sloppily execute some staff-level commands. Does Applicant A tell you about any of this? Nope. Does he tell you that none of the servers made it past 10 players at peak times? Nope. Does applicant A mention he knows factions and some trolling essentials commands, but nothing else? Nope, nope, nope. He sucks. But he has thousands of hours of experience sucking!

Applicant B says he was mod once. Short description, nothing else that stands out. This is what he might not be saying. The server had 500 players on average and he was staff there for a year. By all appearances, he's a mediocre applicant with a short application. Except he doesn't write applications, he spends his time actually, you know, moderating, helping players, getting trust. Applicant B would blow your mind with his knowledge if interviewed, but he'll never do that, because his application sucks, he barely has any experience on a server that probably sucked, and if your metric was 'how many servers have you been staff on/how much experience do you have', then you would rightly dismiss him.

Applicant C mentions the names of several servers he's worked on and gives website links. He also states he was a helper on Mineplex and lists various plugins he knows. Fails to mention: the servers were all junky mismanaged pits that he personally drove into oblivion, the sites are dead, Mineplex banned him, he knows the plugins but he's a complete ass to work with.

The above scenarios are somewhat common. They are hypothetical, yes. I am going purely on anecdote, but stay with me here. Experience takes context to be useful information, and many people fail to provide that context. Now, if you ask exactly what people can do and for them to describe those skills, you can far more easily prove them right or wrong; while applicants can still lie, it takes more effort and you are able to tell them they can't do things to your standards far easier than you can tell them they sucked being an admin on a server you've never seen and never will see.

How familiar are you with minecraft servers?
I just found this, and blimey, I had to add it. Perfect example of what not to ask, because it invites a generic useless response along the lines of "well, I've been an admin everywhere, the servers are all dead now though". Granted, that doesn't even properly answer the question, but if you want to be literal, the answer would be perfectly fitting if you just say "very". It doesn't ask you what you did, what you can do, specific skills, anything about useful staff skills. You can passively consume the environments of a thousand minecraft servers and become very familiar without being a good player at all, let alone good staff.

Informative Questions
Generally, a question that asks how something is done instead of what the applicant has done is a better measure of what someone can do. It requires more writing to answer correctly - sure. Someone who legitimately wants to be staff shouldn't be afraid of telling you what they can do and how they do it. It can still be faked, and you may still encounter situations of seeing what they think you want to know, but it's far easier to tear down new recruits you don't like when they can't lend substance to what they stated in applications. If they lie blatantly about what they can do, you'll notice quickly. I won't give example questions; that's up for you to decide what you want to know. If you still want help, comment below or send a PM.

Scenario questions are good, but proofread them and make sure they make sense. Is the question too broad? Does it easily give the answer? There's a very obvious answer when you ask "Your longtime friend wants you to spawn in X item and its against the rules. Would you do it?". On the other hand, if you ask about what an applicant would do if a staff member and a player were accusing each other of hacks and abuse respectively, and neither side has evidence, then you have something interesting. There's more ways to tackle the answer, and you can better see the applicant's process. The answer is not immediately obvious, and that's OK. People can have total opposite answers with different tangents, as long as they tell you what they were doing to get to the answer. Think of a few tricky situations you've been in, if you've been staff before, and use those as the groundwork if you can't easily figure out some questions. Try and switch up the questions once in a while; the harder it is for people to copy off others, the more likely you will see authenticity, or at least original work more often.

General Tips for Owners
  •   Here's a big one that looked like a common issue for a while. Don't make a post that says people should follow x rules if you don't bother to post the rules. To use a real world example, only dummies apply for jobs where most of the contract is conveniently placed on another page that hasn't been given to them nor has been mentioned at all. The risks are far lower in minecraft, but the premise is the same. Don't have people follow rules that you never mention.
  •   Attempting to hire real, coding developers that are dedicated to your server without offering financial compensation places your chances of actually getting one in the hands of luck. Real coders get paid. What you do by expecting them to work for free or trivial in-game rewards (a good dev knows what those are and won't be fooled) is expecting them to use their free time to work for you when they could work for somebody else for money. The same applies to the best builders. If you're going to do this, make it evident that you're putting in legwork of your own and have something to offer, or at least hold enough respect for them to make their time worth it.
  •   If you've opened a set amount of staff positions (you have a cap on how many you let in at a time, right?), don't do the first come first serve thing. Lets say you have two slots of admin you want to fill. If you advertise the rank on PMC and get a good amount of bites, you might have up to 10 applicants, easily. Chances are 5-6 of those are bad picks, 2 more are barely average or have ok apps, and the rest come near the end of the pack with stunning applications. First come first serve dictates you'll take two barely average applicants, at best, who managed to slap out a basic application that just barely meets your requirements. Later on? You have a selection. You do not need staff so quickly that you must do first come, first serve. Really, you don't, and I'd like to hear your argument if you think you can't spend the time to get the best staff you can on the server.
  •   There are usually some steps as a second layer post-application that will further ensure your picks are decent. For regular staff, it's typically an interview. Go over the application with them, ask any and all lingering questions you might have, maybe drill them a bit to ensure they're not "weak" so to speak and have what it takes. For builders, get an actual build test. Screenshots can be faked. Even showing you a build on a server/plot they seem to own can be misleading. Dev ranks should be reserved for people of the upmost competence, and you certainly want to see goods and evidence first. Sometimes it's not even a matter of the dev applicant having the skills you need; it can be a case of "can I stand this guy or not?". I don't care if the applicant coded the Java engine as one of the primary official developers, if he's pissy when asked simple questions or when engaging in conversation on a regular basis, he's a bad worker and a bad candidate. Don't suffer just to get a plugin you could probably live without.
  •   Give every applicant a background check. See previous names and google them. Look in post history, see if they're on other sites, see what they do. Yes, it looks like I'm promoting stalking. Trust me, I've seen real world business owners do worse - I'm not telling you to stalk social media accounts here. Give people a basic look, see who's going to be your representative.
  •   Do note with the above that history can sometimes be misleading. For example, a former username of mine was karmakip, which I acquired before I bothered to look up the name. When I did, I found a nice youtube series about a hacker named karmakip. Oops. No connection, and yet, I had the occasional comment about it for years.
  •   Seriously, ask your gut if an applicant should be staff before making the decision. Know you can trust them, at least to some degree. I have little patience for owners that create staff teams of incompetent staff who are totally and obviously incompetent. If you really can't tell, try and find someone you can trust to make the big decision for you. I find that a leading factor in the failure of new servers and even some larger ones is poorly hiring staff. Be especially weary of people applying for developer ranks. Not all are bad, but some simply don't have the skill to really be more than an admin and some will kill your server the moment they get pissed off.
  •   Watch for filler. When people need to tell you about their soccer sports and spend half a paragraph on that, it means you'll find very little to do with actual skills related to servers.
  •   When the writing looks good, look it up. People will steal writing word for word.
  •   When looking for staff, please tell people what kind of server you're running, at the very least. Explaining what people are applying for might actually boost the quality of the responses.
Tips for Applicants
  •   Check the professionalism of the server you are applying for. If they look good, tell you stuff, present information cleanly, etc, they're probably decent. The contrast is frequent and most of the servers that don't bother with this I know tend to fall apart in weeks. Special warning for Aternos servers. I'm sure the platform is fine, but like server.pro, it's plagued by free servers that usually won't get anywhere. But hey, it's your time.
  •   If possible, know the server you are applying to. If not possible, get as much information as you can, and if you aren't sure about what you are applying for, PM the owner and get that information. Join and especially see who else has been accepted. If the other applicants appear to be good and you think you can work with them, go ahead. If they suck, don't waste your time; it's a pretty good indication that the owner is a bit of a train wreck with staff recruitment. Close connection to above.
  •   Consider rapid promotions/demotions, poorly written apps getting high ranks, and the sight of staff who don't know basic features/can't tell you what the server is if that's been previously stated as warning bells.
  •   Aim low, grow high. A rank you've established by proving you are good at what you do is worth more than simply throwing out an application and instantly getting the rank. Unless you're a "staff hunter", which is another guide entirely that will be coming in a while (it's only been years for me to do that).
  •   Don't be dumb and beg an owner for the rank or poke the owner to check the application, especially on the first day of sending the app. Good owners will deny you; if the owner responds by "giving in", there may be issues in the owner's decision making.
  •   Realistically, I'd say unless you live on Minecraft or at least play an unhealthy amount, limit yourself to at most 3 servers you're staff on, and don't apply for new ranks if you have OP/a position of super-high authority. More servers = less time you can dedicate to any of them = either your playtime will be poor on all of them or be unacceptable on at least one, if not more of them. Dedicate, that's what makes you a valuable member of staff. Refer to Applicant B in sections above this.
  •   If you find the servers you apply to are shutting down frequently, reconsider your applying strategies. But if you like watching crash and burn servers (it can be addicting I admit) then carry on.
  •   Check into the owner. Yes, "stalk" your owner just like the owner should be "stalking" you. Owners with previous records of applying to many servers are often not reliable and not very good (sorry to you gents that fall under this description). If the owner interviews you, make it a two way street (without taking over the interview, that is). Get to know the owner and trust the owner to some extent. There's no point in applying if you can't even trust the owner to manage a server properly. Unless, again, you just like trainwrecks.
  •   Big server rank > new server rank. It's far harder to get a rank on a big server, but it is worth more and it may well teach you more. The more average players there are, the more likely the server will actually last a while (though there will be a larger amount of difficulty associated with getting a position. If you're really a decent applicant, this shouldn't bother you much). I've been staff on literally 1000+ servers. Less than 10 I consider truly valuable. The only reason for my extreme number of server positions is because I've always been a sucker for the underdog and frequently joined servers back in the day to build them up. Look like you know what you're doing and often times, you get OP and sometimes console access within 10 minutes. It was educational and frequently concerning. These days, I am way more picky...
And here we have it, the end of this wall of nitwit. Comment as you will, and I'm especially interested in criticisms about errors and logic, or just different opinions to what I displayed above. I'm a critic, absolutely. It would be sheer hypocrisy for me to be closed to input.

2 Update Logs

An Overhaul : 08/24/2018 4:16:40 pmAug 24th, 2018

Rewrote sections, improved grammar, fixed tone, made everything into a draft I actually kinda like, polished my arguments, etc etc. Basically, it is now 'decent'. Only took me years.

3 replies

12/29/2016 9:26 pm
Level 4 : Apprentice Mage
Nitwick, keep doing what your doing. Your doing great!
12/26/2016 5:51 pm
Level 9 : Apprentice Narwhal
Eloquent and insightful, very well written. Keep up the great work!
12/26/2016 10:38 am
Level 7 : Apprentice Hunter
I enjoy your work. Good job man, Goes into a good depth and direction.

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