Recruitment Perspectives

A Good Respondent Is Hard to Find

Today’s recruiters, field managers, researchers, and clients seem to agree on one thing: the right respondents are getting harder to find for B2B qualitative research. In the second installment of our Recruitment Perspectives blog series, CEO Bonnie Dibling, field manager Cori Bussetti, lead healthcare researcher Nancy Miller; and technology moderator Chris Dethloff talk about the challenges in recruiting quality participants as well as ideas for addressing those barriers.

The Question
What are the current challenges in recruiting respondents and how do you get around them?

As people get busier and more reluctant to make the time or share their personal information, recruiting the right respondents is getting harder. This requires recruiters to be more creative and resourceful in their tactics, screeners, and relationship-building.

CEO Perspective
“There’s been a culture shift in recruiting, where now we have to work around the respondents and their schedules. We have to come to them.” — Bonnie Dibling, CEO

Recruiting is definitely getting harder. Here’s an example. We tried to do an in-person focus group with small to mid-sized business owners. We reached out to eight different recruiting firms who each told us, “that’s never going to happen.”

Part of the issue is that people in B2B are busy and don’t have time to meet in person. And finding a time that works for all of them to show up as a group is nearly impossible. There’s been a culture shift in recruiting, where now we have to work the research around the respondents and their schedules — instead of the other way around. Now we have to come to them.

We’ve adapted to this, especially with remote interviews and focus groups. And with healthcare and technology, one-on-one interviews often work best online anyway. One other solution is to build your own panel of professionals you can turn to. That requires building relationships.

Another big challenge I see, especially for B2C and CPG research, is with recruiting Gen Z. I mean, how are you going to get a Gen Z’er to show up for a focus group? They don’t answer phones, they don’t do email, they don’t even respond to texts anymore. Social media may be the best avenue for them.

I also think in general that people are just tired of sharing. They’ve put it all out there online, with companies grabbing up all their data. They want privacy now. That desire for privacy may start to bleed into recruiting for qual research, making it harder to find people who are wary of oversharing and just want to be left alone.

So how do we address this? One way is to pay respondents more for their time. And to make the focus group or interview more fun, interesting, and engaging for them.

Field Manager Perspective
“For our recruitment needs, we’re often looking for respondents with specific or specialized experiences or knowledge. Often, these types of respondents aren’t listed in the usual databases. So we have to get creative.” — Cori Bussetti, Field Manager

I do think there is some respondent fatigue happening. People get asked to share their opinions and feedback so much these days, with online surveys and on social media. Asking them to participate in a focus study or interview is just one more ask of their time and attention.

For our recruitment needs, we’re often looking for respondents with specific or specialized experiences or knowledge. Often, these types of respondents aren’t listed in the usual databases. For technology recruitments, people’s job titles are always changing so it can be a challenge to recruit based on that alone. On the healthcare side, recruiting patients in particular can be challenging because of the physical and emotional barriers that might exist.

So we do have to get creative. For example, we’ll build relationships with patient advocacy groups who can help us find specific types of patients. Or we’ll work directly with physicians and healthcare providers to expand our patient pool.

When it comes to those very rare and hard-to-find recruits, that’s where the screener is really important. Screeners need to be extremely specific and succinct in some cases, and more open-ended in others — depending on what kind of respondents you’re looking for. Our recruiting partners are also collecting more data points for potential respondents in their databases, which also helps us make sure we’re recruiting the right person.

Healthcare Research Moderator Perspective
“People who work in healthcare are extraordinarily busy. You’ve got to show them the value of their participation, and why it will be worth their time and effort.” — Nancy Miller, Healthcare Research Moderator

For healthcare, I’d say one of the biggest challenges in recruiting respondents today is that people who work in healthcare are extraordinarily busy. Most health systems are facing severe staffing shortages, patient overload, and 12-hour workdays, which makes time even more scarce and valuable.

So it’s become important to recruit people who are very engaged in the subject you want them to talk about, who have a vested interest in it, and who want to contribute rather than just sit on the sidelines. The topic has to be intriguing and relevant to them. Make it clear to these respondents that their participation will have a direct and meaningful impact on the subject, and will matter. For doctors, let them know that their participation can help improve their own patients’ care and lives. We’ve got to show them the value, and why it will be worth their time and effort.

Another challenge comes when we’re looking for respondents with a particular combination of healthcare expertise and specialization. Many times, that includes finding respondents who wear many different hats and have multiple titles. That’s when the screener is super critical, and making sure we’re asking the right questions to identify the right people.

A hefty honorarium doesn’t hurt, either.

Tech Moderator Perspective
“We’re not looking for specific job titles but for specific knowledge and experience. To find those people, we do open-ended and custom recruiting.” — Chris Dethloff, Technology Research Moderator

Recruiting people in tech is particularly hard because we’re not looking for specific titles but for knowledge — usually knowledge with using a specific type of technology. So we can’t just recruit based on the job title on their business cards.

To find that specific knowledge we’re looking for, we use a lot of open-ended recruiting rather than a typical 10-question screener that can be interpreted or misinterpreted many different ways. So, for example, we’ll ask the recruit to describe what their job is, or to describe their areas of specialization in technology. Then we assess their responses to determine whether they have the knowledge and experience we’re looking for.

It used to be we could rely on databases and lists of well-respected, professionally vetted respondents put together by recruiters. But these days, people are wary of sharing their information and being included on lists like these, so that makes it more challenging as well. The recruitment pools have definitely gotten smaller.

In response to this, we rely on custom recruits to find the right personal. That could be looking at companies’ org charts and finding people who look like they might be the right fit on social media, reaching out to them there. It’s more about building and nurturing these relationships, which takes more time but ultimately leads to a better quality of respondent who fits the parameters of the study.