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3 Pitfalls of DIY Recruiting

By Fieldwork on September 9, 2020

If 2020 were a word we might choose DISRUPTION. Lives were disrupted. Travel was disrupted. Work was disrupted. Even your favorite meal at your favorite local cafe was disrupted.

With so much disruption, things  inevitably start to change.  For research firms the question was not, “Will we do market research?” but instead, “What will the market research of the future look like?”

From lockdown to now socially distanced, face-to-face research took the largest hit. Numerous focus groups were paused or went online. We’re seeing the shift back to the focus group facilities with our most recent in-house national poll showing over 87% indicated they were ready to return to participating in-person as long as safety protocols were in place. Even with many now embracing the research space with social distancing in place, some teams and processes have shifted. With tighter budgets, many departments were asked to do more with less in an uncertain time.

Some research firms have considered trying a DIY approach to qualitative research participant recruiting. What is not immediately obvious is the deep expertise involved in successfully recruiting for qualitative research studies.

While it is understandable that companies may look to cut corners to get research completed either on time, or with a reduced budget, making the cuts to details in recruiting can have an exponential impact on the quality of insights gained. There are significant potential pitfalls that should be considered when considering a DIY approach to recruiting.

Pitfall #1: Project Changes

When moderators or insights teams take on the responsibility of the recruiting for a project it can often seem straightforward at the beginning. The reality is that outside factors may lead to a change in timeline and other project logistics. For example, discovering the device being tested will not ship in time, a shift in a moderator’s schedule or even a nuance of how the study iterates can create the need to adjust scheduled meetings. The time involved in rescheduling vetted qualitative research participants can be hefty - oftentimes more time than the team has to spare. Occasionally, respondents are not available for the new dates or simply lack the flexibility to recommit and the need to find new recruits to replace already vetted and confirmed participants arise. It's important to find a robust team with systems in place to deal with any obstacles and respond in a quick, streamlined manner.

Pitfall #2: Limited Respondent Pool

Meeting specific criteria becomes difficult when using a finite panel of respondents. Once the panel is exhausted, you don’t have other ways to recruit, so you are forced to loosen criteria or quotas. 

Especially in qualitative research where participant numbers may be low, it may sound simple to find and recruit the few participants needed:

  • 8 patients for medical device testing
  • 12 people in a focus group
  • 30 people for a mock jury

A pre-screening or pre-qualification piece can be created with targeting of an online ad, but often DIY teams may run into problems trying to reach enough people to arrive at the desired final number of respondents. For example, 100 patients might need to be contacted in order to find 10 who qualify and only 2 of those are available or willing to participate in the research. Most DIY approaches are new as the recruiter and therefore do not have a carefully maintained database to draw from to deliver a pre-screened group for potentially excellent fits to new studies.

Starting from scratch in terms of population can be daunting and pre-screening for basic demographics is time-consuming. Working from a vetted database makes the process not only much easier, but also serves as its own quality control when past participation history can be taken into account before a participant is even solicited for a screener.

Pitfall #3: Digital Recruiting for Digital Involvement

When recruiting for qualitative projects to take place online, digital recruiting seems like a perfect fit. The truth is quite the opposite. When recruiting for qualitative studies to take place online, the process is actually longer. Besides the standard 4-steps, online qualitative respondents also need to be vetted for their:

  • Access to proper technology
  • Level of technical aptitude
  • Commitment to providing an appropriate virtual setting

Professional recruiting services for respondents who will participate in qualitative studies online require necessary tech checks to be done in advance of final confirmation of respondent qualification. Verification of this fitness along with tech checks adds a layer of complexity which ensures a smooth event focused on insights and not logistics.


The marketing research industry has seen disruption and more is likely to come. As we flex our system to help our respondents and clients navigate, quality remains the focus - quality in experience and quality in outcome. When firms are committed to that end, the imperative of recruiting highly vetted and prepared research respondents cannot be overstated. Great participants are engaged and provide quality feedback that translates into quality insights.

Our one point of contact for your approach means we can fine-tune logistics and create the right environment for your project. What we’ve learned over the years and with our wide range of experience through this pandemic at all 15 Fieldwork facilities is what we bring to make each study a success. Focus on the research. We'll do the rest. 

Ready to talk to a Fieldworker about your next research project? Contact us today! 


Learn more about Fieldwork's commitment to keeping our team, clients and participants safe as we return to in-person research.

Return to In-Person Research


Topics: Market Research Services Market Research Recruitment

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