7 Mistakes Market Research Recruiters Make (& How to Avoid Them)

a man looking at a computer who made a msitake

Recruiting research participants can be challenging. 

While I’ve always said there’s no single way to find participants willing to be part of market research recruitment (we’ll get into that later), there are definitely things that you can be doing wrong. 

This blog outlines some common mistakes I’ve witnessed recruiters make, and how to avoid them.

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Participants for Qualitative Research

Mistake #1: Lying To or Misleading the Participant 

Look, I’ve been there and I get it. As a recruiter, you’re battling against factors that you probably had no role in. 

You have a long recruitment screener, a longer interview, low incentive, and a deadline fast approaching. If you tell the participant they’ll get $5 for 45 minutes of their time, they’ll probably say no. 

However, if you bend the truth and tell them $5 for about a half-hour, maybe you can grab a few completes. No harm done. They won’t even notice, right? 


Recruitment sets the tone for the entire participant experience. By tweaking the truth, you’ve just shown the participant how little they matter to you. 

Know what you get back? Angry participants with high drop-off rates or bad data quality because they’re rushing through now that they realize you’ve lied to them. 

This participant will likely never trust a market researcher, especially one within your company again. 

Be upfront and honest about the requirements and time commitments of the project. Personally, I prefer to give them the higher end of the time estimate. 

In the worst case, they take that amount of time to complete the interview and they were expecting it. In the best case, I have a happy participant who spent less time than expected and is pleased with their experience. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for low incentives. I believe research participants should be compensated fairly for their time. 

However, in these cases, it is always best to be up-front and honest. They may say no, but at least you’ll have a chance to recruit them for the next one! 

💡 The Key Takeaway: No one likes discovering they were lied to, and that includes market research recruits. When working in recruitment for market research, it’s essential to be transparent. Lying reflects poorly on your company and can deter future participants from working with you. 

Mistake #2: Leading the Participant

Survey writing is an art in market research participant recruitment, and some screeners are easier to get through than others. 

The individual who wrote the screener likely knows how you ask the question is extremely important.

Stick to the script when screening participants, and read the questions exactly as they appear. I’ve seen multiple “tricks” when screening participants and all of them can have major implications for data quality. 

Let me give you an example.

You’re conducting a product taste test on potato chips and are looking for individuals who have both purchased and consumed potato chips in the last 6 months. 

You, the recruiter, think that shouldn’t matter because the product either tastes good or it doesn’t. You just want warm bodies in chairs to eat the chips and answer the questions. 

Who really cares if they buy it or not? Plus, if they’ve eaten it, they probably purchased it, you’ve already asked if they do the grocery shopping for their household. 

The screener question is...

Which of the following products have you purchased and consumed in the past 6 months?

  1. Chips
  2. Pretzels 
  3. Chocolate
  4. Popcorn
  5. Trail mix
  6. None of the above 

However, when screening the participant you say: 

“In the last 6 months, have you had….” and begin going down the list. The participant says yes, they’ve had chips in the last 6 months, you put them on the project, and all is good in the world. 

Again, wrong! 

What you didn’t know is the participant doesn’t normally eat chips, and they don’t ever buy them. 

Perhaps they went to an event and snacked on a few. They get into the survey and begin providing responses like “this is not a product for me,” “I definitely wouldn’t buy them,” and so on. 

Now imagine all participants in the project are in the same boat. This could have major implications on the product, all because a screener question wasn’t read verbatim. 

How we ask a question can bias feedback, purposely or not. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: As we touched on earlier, market research recruitment has no room for dishonesty. Not far off, it’s also key to ensure the questions asked are not leading the participants to answer in a specific manner. 

Mistake #3: Taking Rejection to the Heart

When working on an intercept project, someone once told me I was a “beggar with a clipboard.” 


Maybe they’re right, but know what else I was? Playing a major role in a billion-dollar company’s new product - that is now on the market.

Market research is underappreciated, flat out. 

Not everyone can handle rejection, but every single person you ask isn’t going to participate. In fact, it’s something I bring up in all of my hiring interviews. 

The most successful recruiters learn to let the rejection roll right off their backs.

Take each “no” in stride, thank the contact, and wish them a great day. I can’t even begin to count how many people have eventually participated because I was still friendly and polite when they initially rejected me. 

Get yourself out of the mindset that participants owe you anything. They don’t. We should be grateful for every response we receive. They are taking time out of their day to help us out.

If you are obviously frustrated or upset at being told no, it’s not only unlikely that they will come back, but it’ll impact your ability to get other recruits. No one wants to participate in a project with a cranky stranger. 

If you’re beginning to become frustrated with the rejection, take a short break, a few deep breaths, and remind yourself that every no you receive is one step closer to a yes.  

💡 The Key Takeaway: Market research participant recruitment can involve a hefty dose of rejection. In order to gain recruits, you have to be able to shrug off angsty comments. 

Mistake #4: Expecting Participants To Come To You

When it comes to market research recruitment, we are hunters, not farmers. No matter how enticing your project is, if you aren’t getting the word out, no one will participate. 

Whether it’s approaching people for intercept surveys or placing re-screening phone calls, take a proactive approach. 

Don’t stand by and expect participants to spread the word on your behalf. Actively approach everyone who may qualify, or actively dial through your list. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: You gotta get out there, plain and simple. Although this may feel uncomfortable, it’s the only way you’ll recruit–and it’ll get easier the more you push yourself. 

Mistake #5: Refusing to Change your Approach 

With nearly 10 years in the market research recruitment industry, all of them involving recruitment, I still need to tweak my approach based on the audience. 

Our qualitative recruitment company finds that different approaches work for different personality types. 

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me you’ve probably realized I’m pretty loud, and that works for me when intercepting. I’m able to be loud enough to get enough detail out to catch people’s attention. 

However, I’ve seen the opposite work, too. 

I once had an employee who hardly spoke above a whisper, and that worked! People would stop and come closer to hear what he was saying, and from there he was able to recruit them. 

The same goes for online pre-screeners or re-screening phone calls. If you’re receiving a large number of initial refusals, don’t be afraid to make changes to the introduction.

An upbeat and friendly introduction may work well with some audiences, while others may prefer a more professional and to-the-point approach. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Flexibility is key in market research recruitment. Keep tabs on how you’re approaching participants–you may need to tweak this in order to get more. 

Mistake #6: Falling Into “The Flow” 

If you’ve read my blog on market research participant red flags to look for in qualitative recruiting, you know this topic isn’t new to me.

With the nature of our work, it can be easy to fall into the flow of just asking questions and recording responses. 

However, you should do your best to avoid this. By just falling into the flow, you may be missing major red flags from participants that indicate that you should not put them on the research project. 

When recruiting, we should always be listening for any indicators that responses are: 

  • Dishonest 
  • Over-exaggerated 
  • Illogical 

We should also be attempting to gauge how likely it is that participants will follow through with the project. 

Do they seem unsure about being able to complete a task by the deadline? Are they less than happy after finding out that a focus group will take 60-minutes? 

All of these should be things you’re listening for as you’re working through a screening questionnaire. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Whether it’s quantitative or qualitative research recruitment, it’s essential you don’t let things slide with the responses you receive. Keeping an eagle eye on the answers that come in can nip mistakes in the bud. 

Mistake #7: Placing Bad Participants on Projects

“A bad participant is better than no participant at all,” right? 

You guessed it…wrong again! 

The word “bad” here is subject to interpretation. What I mean by bad are participants who don’t care about providing honest, valuable feedback. 

Maybe they don’t take research seriously or think it’s a big deal–again, we’re underappreciated! Or maybe, they’re just looking for a quick buck with the lowest amount of effort possible. 

If you have any thought, whatsoever, that the participant may not be a great fit for the research, do not put them on the project. 

Even if you’re recruiting 100, don’t think it’s “no big deal” to sneak an obvious bad fit in. In the end, the moderator probably won’t remember much about the slam dunk participants you provided. However, they will remember that really bad one. 

If you’re struggling to fill specific quotas or to find participants in general, there are many solutions: 

  • Changing your targeting 
  • Increasing your budget 
  • Revisiting the qualifications 
  • A new approach 

The list goes on. 

Bad data quality is not only as useful as no participants at all, but it’ll also upset your client and reflect poorly on you and your company. Remember, the participants you provide are a direct reflection of yourself and your work. 

For more tips and tricks watch our quick video on qualitative recruiting.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Wait until the right participants come along, don’t just throw anyone on who agrees to the project at hand. 

Contact Our Qualitative Recruitment Firm

Our thorough approach to the recruitment process consists of an online pre-screener, re-screening phone call, and thorough confirmations. This allows us to avoid mistakes traditional “first come, first serve” firms make. 

Based in New York, Drive Research is a market research company. Our team cares as much about the participant as the client, leading to an overall better experience for you and your brand. 

Interested in conducting a recruitment project with our full-service market research company? 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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