The Mystery of Recruiting
by Lauren Lundgren and Tina Osinski
Lauren Lundgren is the founder of Infoco,
Inc., the first virtual nationwide recruiting service, and Tina Osinski
is Project and Marketing Director for Infoco,
Inc. Together they have 38 years experience in market research. You
can find out more about Infoco, Inc. at www.infocousa.com.
We love a good detective novel, so it is no surprise that the sometimes
mysterious nature in which market research operates gives us a similar
kick. As the great Sherlock Holmes poses the endless questions for his
unfortunate sidekick, Watson, it behooves us to do the same in our line
of work: What is the ultimate goal of the ubiquitously mysterious end-client?
Who will benefit from this study? Who ultimately has the means, the motive
and the opportunity to participate?
That Elusive Sponsor
Clearly the sponsor most often needs to remain anonymous to the potential
respondents; however it is extremely beneficial for the recruiting
agencies to have a clear objective stated up front so that they can understand
the goals and the nature of the study. To populate a study well, the recruiter
must be able to determine that the respondent is thoroughly qualified
to give the sort of feedback the study requires, and, there is no better
insurance for that than a clear understanding on the recruiters’
end of the project’s objectives.
To ascertain respondent qualifications, recruiters rely on the screening
document. This usually comes from a study’s sponsor or moderator.
The best screeners cover all the qualifying points in as succinct and
conversational way as is possible. They ask open-ended questions, so potential
respondents are unable to second-guess the right answers. They give clear
directives on terminations and segmentations in as streamlined a format
as possible to ensure that the exact target audience is recruited. In
short, the ideal screeners leave no “shades of grey”; respondents
are either qualified or not. When one combines a well-crafted screener
with a clear outline of the objective, the recruitment firm is then armed
and ready to find the best-suited respondents for the study as efficiently
Features and Benefits
Yes, it’s a hackneyed sales term; however, having now identified
the desired target, it is critical to show potential respondents a demonstrable
benefit to them. They may benefit monetarily if the incentive is high
enough to be worth their time, but if one recruits someone whose primary
interest is money, his input is likely to be less valuable than that of
someone who is genuinely interested in the topic at hand; it guarantees
a lively and cogent discussion of salient points. In order to find such
people, the recruiter must be able to tell potential respondents that
they will be trying out a product or web site that relates to them in
a significant way.
The standard introduction that goes something like, “We’d
like to include your opinions in a very interesting study about technology
products,” does not quite meet that criterion. One needs to say
something along the lines of, “We’re conducting a usability
study for a web site used for researching business entities.” Anyone
who needs to know about corporate demographics to do his job will be immediately
interested in learning about such a tool, and the common sponsor fear
that he’ll “know too much” about the study to give spontaneous
responses pales in comparison to the quality and interest of such a respondent.
Getting Them There
Turning to the matter of who has the means, motive and opportunity to
participate in a study, it is extremely important to consider timing.
Not only does the recruiter need adequate time to contact and recruit
qualified people, (usually a minimum of two weeks) sponsors should be
aware of respondents’ availability. It may be more convenient for
sponsors to conduct their studies during their workday, but how easy is
it for professionals to leave their jobs mid-day to participate in something
only marginally related to their work? It is far better to schedule times
before work, over lunch, and immediately after work, assuming the usability
site is close to major industrial areas. Most especially, if sponsors’
usability labs are out in the boonies, there is no way people will be
able to set aside during business hours the amount of time it takes to
get to and from the lab, on top of the ninety minutes to two hours usually
required for a complete usability. These logistics need to be considered.
Even when studies are scheduled appropriately, sponsors need to be aware
that emergencies arise, and even the most committed respondent may have
to cancel at the last minute. To cover that contingency, it is advisable
when doing individual in-depth interviews to plan for more time slots
than are needed and/or to have “floaters” scheduled. Floaters
are people who are recruited to come in and wait for two to three hours
to fill in if a scheduled respondent fails to show up. They should be
paid proportionately to the amount of time they’re being asked to
devote to assuring a fully populated study.
It is worthwhile to mention that money matters, despite the perspective
that the most desirable respondents attend from enthusiasm. A reasonable
incentive demonstrates respect for the respondent, because it acknowledges
the value of his expertise and time, so again in the interest of garnering
truly useful information, study sponsors are well advised to budget for
reasonable incentives. The old adage “You get what you pay for”
holds true in the mysterious world of market research, where inadequate
incentives equal inadequate show rates and respondent participation. It
is far worth it to budget the extra amount per respondent to ensure your
desired number of completes. Sponsors should be able to rely on their
contracted recruitment firm to advise them on the going incentive rates
in the individual markets.
Armed with a clear and complete understanding of a study’s objectives,
a targeted screener, an appropriate schedule, and reasonable incentives,
a good recruiter will be able to hunt down and schedule exactly
the people sponsors desire to solve the mystery of the marketplace. And
isn’t that one of the most compelling unsolved mysteries of all?