Researchers Want Better Participants: Research on Recruitment 2018

By Hugh Carling

Read the full Research on Recruitment 2018 report

Research on Recruitment 2018 showed that participant quality is the main challenge facing the research industry today. A finding supported last week when it was revealed that ‘accessing quality and representative sample’ was the single biggest challenge mentioned in the GRIT survey 2017 Q3-Q4.

Many of the researchers in the Research on Recruitment 2018 study had personally experienced negative issues with recruitment for qualitative research. We heard about repeat participants, unrepresentative participants, and even worse, people lying to get through screening. The researchers found these experiences professionally embarrassing, particularly when the truth was revealed in front of clients, such as:

  • The bald man in a shampoo discussion group
  • The participant who asked when they would be doing a personification exercise
  • The woman with a cushion under her jumper pretending to be pregnant

With so many suppliers available, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s fundamental flaws in the traditional database recruitment process which are creating so many negative experiences for researchers. The research industry needs to improve the way recruitment works to ensure we’re talking to authentic, representative consumers.

Researchers Want Better Participants

Ensuring that participants closely match the recruitment specifications was the main concern for researchers in our survey. 97% also stated that high quality recruitment is vital for good qualitative research. Ultimately, if recruitment is not effective the credibility and integrity of the research is compromised. It’s clear from the study that researchers want better participants than they’re currently receiving. Researchers said they would pay more for participants who:

  • Accurately fit their specifications
  • Are more reliable and motivated
  • Are less likely to be repeat participants

Professional Participants Are a Problem

Most researchers saw professional participants as a problem in qualitative research. Half of the researchers surveyed have seen repeat participants in different research projects in the last year. More than half believe too many participants lie to get recruited and that some recruiters encourage participants to lie.

It’s Time to Tackle the Problem at Source

We’ve all heard horror stories of recruitment failures – it is a long-standing problem within the research industry. Participant quality is repeatedly raised in industry surveys, researcher discussion forums and at market research conferences. There are great industry initiatives, such as GRBN’s Participant Engagement Initiative, to improve the user experience and I have no doubt these will help with engagement in research. But it’s time to tackle the problem of participant quality at source – we can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting something different to happen. Rather than just returning to the same tired participants in the same stale databases, we need to embrace the social age to recruit fresh participants on-demand, based on real, not claimed behaviour.

It will be interesting to see how adoption of new technologies changes these experiences over time. We look forward to reporting again on this subject in Research on Recruitment 2019.

Hugh Carling, Co-founder, Liveminds

Research on Recruitment 2018

Liveminds commissioned SketchBook Consulting to carry out research benchmarking the views of qualitative researchers on the state of research participant recruitment. The aim of this research was to recognise and understand the challenges faced by researchers, to explore opportunities for improving recruitment methods within the industry, and to improve Liveminds Behavioural Recruitment service.

Click here to download the full report.

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