Recruitment of respondents for CX project

We like to talk about our design processes and share our knowledge. We talk about tools, the way we use them, the effects of our actions. We explain differences, nuances and sometimes complicated issues. And what about the recruitment of respondents?

Very often, in Q&A sessions, there are questions about basic things. One of such questions that came up after our webinar on design research was about respondent recruitment. Participants wanted to know how does recruitment work, where do we find them, how do we vet them? Simply put, what does it all look like in practice?

I would like to answer these questions today.

How are respondents recruited?

There are several ways to do this, below are the ones we use most often in our project activities.

Recruitment questionnaire

A so called screener. It is a set of questions verifying if a person meets the requirements we set with the client at the beginning of the project. And these requirements are various: demographic (gender, age, education, income) and also behavioral.

I must admit that the second one is much more important in project processes, because it focuses on the task that the client has or had to perform. Recruiting respondents by behavioral characteristics allows us to check whether they have experienced our service, and how often they use it. We can also find out what type of customer he/she is: a frequent user, or maybe one who uses the service occasionally?

Let's imagine a situation in which we recruit respondents only by demographic variables. At a dyad (i.e., a researcher interviewing two people) there are two 30-year-old women, with college educations. From a large city, earning similar money. Both shop at store X and are single. On the surface, we have two very similar respondents.

We can also find out what type of customer he/she is: a frequent user, or maybe one who uses the service occasionally?

But only seemingly.

At the recruitment stage we did not ask about the purpose of their visit to the store X, we did not ask for how many people they shop for, at what time of the day, on what days of the week. During the interview, it turns out that seemingly demographically similar women lead completely different lifestyles, have different needs, expectations, problems and approaches.

This is why it is so important to design recruitment forms in a thoughtful way - but it would be worth writing a separate text about this.

Let's get back to recruiting respondents and surveys.

We can prepare such forms and send them, for example, in social media. We can upload such a survey to a specialized recruitment panel, send a link to the survey to our database (or customer database).

As you can see, there are many ways to conduct a recruitment survey, and the choice of method depends on factors such as time, budget and the type of respondent we are looking for.

Unfortunately, not all respondents will want to fill out the survey, or answer the recruiter's questions. And then what?

Recruiting respondents on social media

Since we have a large network of contacts and reach, we often create posts on LinkedIn or/and Facebook with a CTA (Call to action prompt button) that contains information about who we are looking for in the project. We verify the applicants against the established requirements (usually during a telephone conversation) and in this way we gather participants for a project study.

This approach works well if we need to find experts, people on higher positions. Reaching them through an online survey can be difficult, and thanks to CTA such people can decide on their own whether they want to volunteer to take part in the research.

Recruitment agency

However, we don't always have the time or resources to recruit respondents ourselves. In such situations, we outsource recruitment to an external company. The agency adjusts the method of recruitment of respondents to our expectations. Recruitment can be conducted on a panel (where candidates fill out a questionnaire), can be done by phone, e-mail or text message.

Here it is important to clearly define at the outset the criteria by which we want to seek respondents and a well-prepared recruitment screener, which I mentioned earlier, is of particular importance. Often recruitment agencies want to take shortcuts and close the recruitment process quickly. Then it turns out that the respondents do not fully meet our requirements. That is why it is important to develop a screener together with the agency, to double-check the respondents, to have the courage to reject the wrong respondent, and sometimes to stop the interview when it turns out that the person on the other side is not the one we expected.

What else is worth knowing about recruitment?

You already know the ways we recruit respondents.

But that is not all! I have prepared for you answers to other frequently asked questions in the area of recruiting respondents for research.

How do we verify respondents?

Sometimes this verification has two or even three levels. The first is the screener, which I have written about above. The second is an interview with the candidate respondent, to verify and confirm that this is the person we were really looking for. The third level, is follow-up questions already during the survey. Usually asked at the beginning to make sure that the recruitment went well.

Do we pay respondents?

Usually yes. The amounts depend on the length of the interview and its type, and the difficulty in recruiting a particular type of respondent. For group interviews, which are longer and require more involvement, we pay more. For individual interviews slightly less. Rates for experts are governed by their own rules and can reach up to several hundred PLN for an hour-long interview.

How long do the interviews take?

It depends. If we conduct an individual interview, it takes about an hour. A lot depends on how much the respondent has to say and how detailed they are in their answers. There are people who go through the scenario in an hour, there are those who take 1.5 hours, and there are those who answer briefly, concisely and to the point and the interview lasts 40 minutes.

How do you prepare for a study?

As researchers, we need to have an interview script prepared. Divided into thematic blocks, starting with a soft introduction aimed at establishing rapport and relaxing the respondent. The interview situation can be stressful, not only for the interviewer. Then we move on to more specific questions from the scope that the project survey covers.

It is important to listen carefully, and therefore not to take notes. We should try to focus as much as possible on what the respondent is saying and record the conversation so that we can listen to it later and make notes or have it transcribed.

If the survey involves any exercises, you should have all the charts and stationery ready.

How to prepare for an online interview?

If the interview is done online, then there is much more to prepare. First, you need to do a technical session, e.g. on zoom or skype, whether his/her microphone and camera work, whether he/she has appropriate conditions for the interview.

All this is done in order to be able to focus on the interview and not on organizational and technical issues during the actual research. However, even if we have taken care of the technical session and checked whether our respondent knows how to use the online tools, it is a good idea to have an additional technical person secured during the online session (especially the group session). This allows us researchers to focus on the survey rather than troubleshooting technical issues.

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