In the participant recruiting world, we often hear sales, clients, or others say, "this one shouldn't be a tough recruit," with the underlying expectation that the project can be in-field sooner rather than later. This is an honest assumption most of the time, but no offense, these are famous last words we typically ignore in recruiting. Sure, there are technology platforms, online tools, top-notch recruiting firms, and other resources out there that can provide a slew of participants in 2 days or even in 2 hours; however, it is critical to ensure processes are in place to identify, gather, and narrow down that list of potential users to yield a solid sample for your research needs. All this to say, make sure the recruiting process and timeline requirements are part of your overall research plan.
At Usability Sciences, the standard recruiting timeline is two weeks AFTER we have a final screener in hand. In that two weeks, we perform outreach, screen, schedule, confirm, and re-confirm research participants. Have we done it in less than two weeks? Absolutely! Do we recommend more than two weeks for the more difficult or larger samples? Definitely! On average though two weeks is our sweet spot. Below are things we recommend you do BEFORE that two-week window to ensure you schedule the BEST participants.
- Establish research goals, identify your target audience, outline high-level participant requirements, and choose a research method The value of user research is the engagement with your actual end-users, who can answer your research questions. If you are unsure how to define the 'who', we recommend one of our Design Thinking Workshops, which will take you through strategic exercises to guide you in identifying your users. As far as your high-level participant requirements, ensure they align with your overall research goals and objectives. Ask yourself what will qualify or disqualify your ideal participant. Start a list, but don't overdo it and don't make it harder than it needs to be. For example, if the research involves unbranded stimuli, is it necessary for the entire sample to be users of your brand? Most of the time, this is a 'no.' You likely can recruit customers of similar brands who can provide extremely valuable feedback. However, if you need a certain business professional, don't get too hung up on only recruiting those with specific job titles. Think about the job role or tasks they need to have in their day-to-day work routines and use those as main qualifiers versus specific job titles.
- Build a screener document. Either create one internally – or if you've engaged with a partner like Usability Sciences, this is something we will collaborate on and create for you. Ensure it is an iterative process, gathering feedback from all stakeholders involved. I could write an entire blog on screener tips and tricks such as avoiding leading questions, the importance of incorporating open-ended questions, keeping it concise, etc. But again, this topic deserves its own blog post. Ideally, you would have the screener final and ready to go at least 2 weeks before the first day of research.
- Incorporate an incentive strategy that aligns with your audience. Cash is king and it is what we use for 99% of our projects. Let's face it, everyone prefers $100 in cash, versus a $100 gift card or $100' worth of merchandise. Most of our general consumer users receive $100 for an hour of their time. Business professionals, healthcare professionals, and other non-general consumer profiles typically require a bit more, depending on the desired skill set or life experiences needed for the research.
- Build an outreach strategy. Do you have access to the participants yourself? If so, what type of touchpoints will result in the highest number of responses? An email, a phone call, a social media post, a message on your customer/member portal/dashboard, etc.? If you are working with a partner like Usability Sciences, we have an internal database of users and outreach strategies - and we also have partners we work with if the research warrants us to go outside of our database. Of course, social media platforms are valuable when trying to reach large, targeted, or niche audiences, but these outreach strategies warrant planning and it typically takes a little time to generate traffic and interest.
- Have all your ducks in a row BEFORE screening users. This is something that many overlook. The last thing you want to do is tell the user you will have to get back to them once you have set dates, available time slots, remote platform, etc. Ensure you have all your logistics in place before reaching out to potential users and be sure to maximize your time with each user while you have their attention. You will be amazed at how many follow-up voicemails or emails typically take place during the recruiting process, so make sure you can provide all the details to the user in your initial screening call/email, if possible. People are extremely busy and minimizing the number of touchpoints is critical to maintaining efficiency and minimizing user fatigue and frustration.
Good luck with all your recruiting endeavors! If you need any assistance with your recruiting or research, reach out to Usability Sciences and we'd be happy to have a conversation with you to determine if we are a good fit for your research.