6 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Qualitative Recruitment Firm

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One critical step when conducting qualitative research is determining how you will locate the participant. 

For many brands, this may mean hiring a market research firm that offers qualitative recruitment

Unsure how to determine which market research firm to choose for your qualitative research project? This blog outlines the 6 factors to consider when choosing a qualitative research recruiter. 

Do they have a plan to reach those participants? 

There’s an old sales saying that many market research recruiters use - we are hunters, not farmers. 

What I’m getting at with that quote is you cannot just simply wait for the participants to come to you. 

There should be an action plan in place to locate this participant. And not only that - the qualitative recruitment firm you hire should be thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead.

What options do they have for targeting? If one panel or platform doesn’t work, what backup options do they have? 

It may seem self-explanatory that a recruiter would consider this before bidding on a project. Unfortunately for many, that’s not always the case. 

I couldn’t even begin to count how many last-minute recruitment requests we receive from clients exactly in the opposing situation. 

They went with a vendor who bid on their project with no real plan to reach their audience, and they are now at the tail-end of their deadline with recruits remaining, and now need to seek additional help. 

Do they have any experience recruiting your target audience?

Experience recruiting a similar audience likely means they have at least an idea of how to best reach your target audience. 

This is a great starting point when deciding how to locate your target audience. However, experience isn’t everything. 

Something I have learned throughout my career is that even the most minimal change in criteria can have major implications on reaching your target audience. 

With that being said, it is important to make sure their only plan to reach potential participants is going off of what has worked previously (remember the #1 factor! They should have a plan A, B, C, D, etc.) 

In market research, we recruit many different participants from all walks of life, so it’s understandable that a recruiter may not have experience with your target audience - as long as they have an action plan in place!  

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Participants for Qualitative Research

How fast are they bidding? 

In the proposal stage, research projects require, well, research! There are many estimates our research firm runs to ensure we have sufficient reach for the target participant. 

We also look into the criteria to ensure our incidence rate (IR) is reasonable when all factors are considered. 

Each requirement or quota in a research project narrows down your feasibility. Recruiters should take into account each and every factor in their pre-bidding research before submitting costs on a project. 

As I mentioned before, research is full of surprises and this doesn’t mean that issues won’t arise - but firms should at least understand the audience and what is expected of them before bidding. 

There are several factors that impact the feasibility of market research, so those that are responding immediately with costs are likely not looking into your audience as much as you would hope. 

Are they asking questions? 

To my point above, each and every aspect of a project impacts the overall feasibility. 

There are many factors we need to cover before understanding if and how we can reach a target audience. To name a few: 

  • Qualifications 
  • The topic of the research 
  • The type of research being conducted (in-depth interviews, focus groups, online diaries, in-home usage tests, etc.) 
  • Is it in-person, or can it be completed virtually? 
    • If virtual, the platform and registration process
  • Total time commitment
  • Participant requirements 
  • Timeline

If the research firm that you’ve sent a request to isn’t covering - at the very least - some of this information, that should serve as a red flag. 

This could once again mean that the firm is bidding on every request they receive, with the plan to figure it out after winning the project. 

This is not only unrealistic in the grand scheme of recruitment - but sets your project up for failure. 

What does their recruitment process look like? 

There are many formats of market research recruitment, and some audiences require a unique recruitment strategy. 

However, firms that only utilize list-purchasing followed by cold-calling, or an entirely automated recruitment process will likely have a lower participant quality than a firm with a more “hands-on” approach. 

Understanding how the recruitment process vets your potential research participant before they are in front of you during an interview, focus group, etc is important. 

If it is an automated, self-schedule process, how did they confirm that the participant fully qualifies, and is engaged and able to provide thoughtful responses? 

Cold-calling is a tricky and often unpredictable process.

This may require a more hands-on approach than an automated platform, but cold-calling often results in a first come, first fill approach. 

The recruitment approach that is the most hands-on will likely lead to the highest quality participant. 

For example, at Drive Research we have a very thorough and systematic approach to qualitative recruitment. This includes: 

  • Interested respondents complete an online pre-screening questionnaire 
  • Our team picks the “best of the best” from a large pool of pre-qualified participants
  • We conduct re-screening phone calls where we confirm core qualification criteria and ensure the participant is engaged and thoughtful in their responses
  • And lastly, a multi-step confirmation process all before a moderator ever meets the participant 

This high-touch recruitment process keeps the participant engaged, and allows vetting through multiple checkpoints. 

Recommended Reading: What are the Challenges of Cold-Calling Recruitment?

What additional services do they provide? 

We get it, research takes time. The most valuable market research partner is one who can manage multiple aspects of the study for you to take it off of your plate! 

The more hands-on the vendor is able to be throughout the project, the higher the quality of your end result should be. 

Not to mention, by having experience in multiple different aspects of the research project, the recruiter is more understanding of what you’re looking for in the end result. 

Even if you don’t need additional services at the time, a full-service market research firm will be more knowledgeable. 

Thinking of Hiring a Qualitative Recruitment Partner? Contact Drive Research! 

Picking a partner for your market research project can be difficult, but everything following that decision could run much more smoothly if the right vendor is chosen. 

At Drive Research, we care about finding the right participants for our clients - not just filling a recruit. 

Between our systematic hands-on approach to recruitment and our team of experienced recruiters, we know exactly what steps to take to find high-quality, engaged participants. 

As a full-service market research firm, Drive Research is here to help with as much (or as little) as you need us to - use the information below to contact us!

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Ashley Reynolds

With nearly 10 years of experience in market research, Ashley has worked on countless quantitative and qualitative research studies. As a Fieldwork Manager at Drive Research, she’s involved in every stage of the project, especially recruitment.

Learn more about Ashley, here.

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Qualitative Recruiting