In the work I do, we often turn to recruiting facilities to help us find consumers for in-home (ethnographic) interviews, focus groups, or other forms of qualitative research. We utilize the databases of these facilities to help us find consumers who match certain criteria we’re looking to research. I write a screener, which is a list of questions targeted to find these types of consumers, and the facility uses it to call people in their database they think could potentially fit.
Depending upon the project, recruiting can range from extremely simple to almost impossible. In my experience, I’ve managed 3 types of projects: easy projects to recruit, average projects, and very difficult projects to recruit.
The easier projects to recruit often have pretty general criteria that apply to a lot of people. It’s usually looking for people who own a certain product, use a certain product every day, are regularly in situations or activities such as business travel, or other general types of criteria. I consider projects like this to be easy recruits because these people are found pretty quickly, and it allows you to be picky about the people included.
For a project I was working on, our screener called for people who owned their home and had a household income of over $150,000. The 2 markets we were holding the study in were able to complete this recruit in less than a week, and our client could essentially pick and choose who they wanted to be included.
The average projects don’t always allow for that type of flexibility in recruiting. These projects are looking for the same types of consumers as the easier projects, but the requirements are less general. The project could be looking for a specific brand of product or a situation that most people aren’t always in, such as recently making a major purchase or traveling for business at least twice a month. There also could be constraints on the project from the client that hinder the type of recruit you can do. I consider these recruit average because they’re usually what I encounter when I’m recruiting for a project.
The best example I have for this type of project from my experience is one I worked on about a year ago. We were looking for Boomers (ages 55+) who ate applesauce on a regular basis (at least once a week.) This doesn’t sound like that difficult of a recruit, except we were on a shoe-string budget and couldn’t afford a usual recruiting facility. We ended up recruiting 6 local friends and family who met our criteria for half-hour interviews, and ended up getting a lot of great information from them.
Then there are some project who seem to be looking for a needle in a haystack. These projects are the ones that are very difficult to recruit. Not having a budget for recruiting isn’t usually the case; it’s usually extremely limiting criteria for recruiting that make these project difficult. In my experience, most of these projects are medical or pharmaceutical research projects. They can be looking for a person who has a certain disease at a specific stage or is taking a drug for a certain amount of time.
I have experience with the later portion of the statement above. Recently, I was working on a medical packaging research project that was looking for heart disease patients that have been on a certain cardiovascular drug for less than a year. This proved to be extremely difficult, as the recruiting facilities I contacted were having trouble finding people that met this criteria. I ended up contracting with 3 recruiting facilities and still could not complete the recruit.
Having had the applesauce project under my belt, I decided to employ the method I used for that project. I turned to friends and family for help. After a lot of phone calls, emails, and searching, we were able to fill complete the recruit with people referred to us by our friends and family. We actually ended up finding more people than the 3 facilities combine! They ended up being great interviews, and my client was extremely pleased and came back to me for additional projects.
Recruiting for in-home interviews can be interesting. A project can be an easy recruit, and average recruit or a very difficult recruit. Having the right tools to recruit the right people can make or break a project.