8 Tips Learned From a Lifetime of Qualitative Recruiting

April 22, 2019

The key to any research – whether qualitative or quantitative – is finding the right participants. That’s the only way you’re going to get the information you need from your research project. It’s also why the marketing research industry as a whole is so concerned about maintaining strong response rates! Today, unfortunately, it’s no easy task to maintain strong response rates because participants are busier than ever and more concerned about data privacy and confidentiality. That’s especially true for qualitative research, which often requires a longer time investment, a higher commitment, and a need for more personal information to be divulged from the participant in order to complete the project.

Recruiting is more art than science, from finding the qualified participant to making an instant connection to gaining the participant’s trust and confidence. That can’t be learned by reading a blog, of course. However, there are some things you can do to give yourself an advantage in recruiting or to help you get the most out of the recruiters you hire to complete the task.

Before we get to our specific tips, there are some general guidelines you should consider. First, what qualitative technique will you be using? Asking a respondent to travel to a focus group is a different request than asking them to do an online in-depth interview. Asking permission to come into someone’s home is still another challenge. Using a webcam to participate in an interview or focus group may also be challenging for some participants (although it’s getting less so every day!). Consider your methodology and the incentive amount you’re offering, so that you can tailor your recruiting instructions accordingly.

Here are our tips:

  1. Relationships may help. If possible, recruit your participants from an existing panel or a facility’s database. Because those respondents have a longer-term relationship with the recruiting company, they may have more of a foundation of trust with the recruiter, and that can facilitate participation. (Make sure your vendor allows you to recontact your participants on your own for the follow up research, as some sample providers may not.) If you can’t use a panel or an existing database, plan on a longer recruiting period to allow time for building sufficient confidence and trust with participants.
  2. Remember that timing is everything. Attempting to schedule too far in advance or with too short notice will give recruiters headaches. Without enough notice, many potential participants will be booked up. Too far in advance, and they may not know their schedules and be unwilling to commit to participation, or they may forget. And this goes triple for B2B participants! If you’re recruiting to phone in-depth interviews from a web survey, don’t wait too long or they won’t remember responding to the survey. Finding that recruitment timing sweet spot will make the job go much more smoothly.
  3. Scheduling the recruit. Everyone’s time is valuable, and everyone has too little time. That goes for participants, recruiters, and moderators, so it’s important to have all possible dates from the moderator programmed in the screener ahead of time. You could also use a calendar type of question to show dates within a certain range. Be sure to “hide” the expired dates so participants cannot sign up for dates that have passed. And if you’re recruiting online for in- depth interviews, try to get a few alternative time slots from every participant – just in case! Finally, don’t forget to send calendar invitations to everyone to make sure appointments stay coordinated. This will go a long way.
  4. Share information completely. When it comes to information about participants, the more, the merrier. Make sure your recruiters have the information they need by providing accurate and complete lists. Make sure your recruiters give your moderator the information they need for contacting the participant. Give participants the information they might need in order to reschedule or get additional information. Make sure everyone understands who is in what time zone. Nothing makes an in-depth-interview participant less likely to continue than being called in the middle of the night because someone forgot to give the moderator the time zone!
  5. Stay in touch. In the time between scheduling and conducting the interview, it’s important to remind participants of their appointments. You should confirm their participation by phone or email a minimum of 24 hours before their appointment. If there is a longer time lapse, you might also send additional information or “teasers” to keep the respondent engaged and more likely to participate.
  6. Ask for referrals. This is especially important if your recruit is challenging (e.g., people who own retired racing greyhounds or people who use a certain woodworking tool). Even if the person you’re communicating with does not qualify for the project, they might know someone else who will. This works especially well with B2B recruits, physicians, and high-net-worth individuals. You might have to give an additional referral fee to make this successful.
  7. Get social. Social media is so prevalent in our daily lives, it makes perfect sense to leverage it for recruiting qualitative participants. Especially for B2B, LinkedIn lets you easily find people in a particular industry, company, or profession. Leverage your website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to reach people who are already following you. Even a direct email to individuals on these accounts might yield a valuable respondent.
  8. Be culturally aware. Especially for international research projects, be sensitive to the norms of the local culture and adjust your approach accordingly. Some cultures do not welcome “cold” introductions, so you would do better to use a referral recruit. Other cultures have certain formalities about communication (especially between men and women) that you should keep in mind.

Securing the participation of an optimal participant will ensure that you get the most out of your qualitative research project. By using these tips and working with experienced recruiters, sample providers, and moderators, you can avoid participation pitfalls.

Need Qualitative participants? We can help! Symmetric has been completing traditional qualitative projects with their online panel for over 20 years. Contact us to learn what else we know about recruiting!