QRCA Field Research Provides Top Recruiting Tips

Below are the top “Dozen Dos,” emerging from the QRCA Field Committee study for recruiting desired respondents.

Below are the top “Dozen Dos,” emerging from the QRCA Field Committee study for recruiting desired respondents.


What do qualitative consultants and their end clients do that either encourages or discourages respondent cooperation in their studies? The QRCA Field Committee decided to turn to the experts on the frontline -- fieldwork service recruiters -- for their insights. Committee members conducted qualitative research (10 focus groups) with recruiters for consumer and business-to-business in five markets; some held the sessions within their own organizations.

Recruiting is more difficult today, recruiters said, because of factors like highly pressured lifestyles, tougher policies against employee participation at many companies, difficulty reaching cellphones and respondents' distracted attention during screening. The recession makes the lure of incentives greater – but can attract the kinds of people not highly desired in studies.

Here are the top "Dozen Dos," emerging from the QRCA Field Committee study for recruiting desired respondents. While it's not always possible to follow these guidelines, clients and QRCs can be aware that it often takes more time and money to ignore them.

1.  Be realistic about specifications – overly narrow respondent requirements make recruiting far more difficult.

2.  Collaborate – turn to the facility project manager for advice on recruiting, incentives, screeners, scheduling and other conditions in their market.

3.  Communicate purpose – talk with the facility managers about the types of respondents desired for the study, rather than just sending a document.

4. Engage respondents in screener introductions – attract their interest from the start about the study topic/purpose, avoiding boring/generic explanations.

5.  Reveal the sponsor of the study when using a client list – this is important in winning respondents' trust about how the field service got their name and contact information, and it rarely biases a study.

6.  Keep screener questionnaires short – under 10 minutes at most, just with questions needed for recruitment and respondent selection rather than broader information (they're not reliable surveys anyway).

7.  Outwit cheater/repeater gamers – use open-ended or "do not read list" questions for security and other key questions so they can't figure out what you're looking for.  (Security questions ask about occupations of respondents and their family, friends, in order to screen out those who work for the client's competition or who might be too knowledgeable about a category.)

8.  Put terminate questions early in the screener – don't waste the recruiters' and respondents' time (exceptions include sensitive questions like income.)

9.  Avoid using segmentation algorithms – they complicate recruiting, annoy respondents, significantly increase costs and often don't even work well.

10.  Keep homework in perspective – be realistic about how much time your respondent target has and offer incentives in line with the request.11.  Fit the respondents' schedule – accommodate their lifestyle (mothers of young children at 3 p.m., for example, is not a good idea!).

12.  Stay in touch – get back to project managers quickly to answer their questions, approve respondents on hold, etc.


QRCA member companies who volunteered to conduct this study included Lohs Research Group; Opinions Unlimited; Meadowlands and New York Consumer Centers; Shugoll Research; Trotta Associates and Smith Research. Transcripts were contributed by Transcription Services Inc., Mark Hampton Transcripts, MCC Field and Transcription.


Judy Langer is a member of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). Visit their website at www.QRCA.org.

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