Qualitative Recruiting in 2023: Current Trends and Challenges

recruitment and people

Goodbye, 2022!

As with most types of market research, qualitative recruiting has certainly evolved over the last few years, and 2023 will be no exception. 

To help brands and fellow market research recruiters prepare, this blog outlines the qualitative recruiting trends, challenges, and best practices to watch for in 2023. 

2023 Qualitative Recruiting Trends

#1. Research is Going Virtual

This is a qualitative recruiting trend that has been taking over for years, but one that was especially exasperated post-pandemic.

Not only is it harder to get people to travel for research, but they’ve become much more comfortable with using online meeting spaces such as Zoom or Google Meet. 

Here are just a few reasons to start reshaping your market research for the digital world.

Higher show-rates 

When recruiting for market research, it is helpful to follow a streamlined and systematic approach.

Take for example the steps Drive Research uses when sourcing and scheduling people for focus groups, IDIs, mobile diaries, and more.

  • Personalized re-screening/scheduling calls
  • Confirmation emails with a required yes response
  • Calendar invites we ask to be accepted
  • Live reminder calls the day before with best efforts to reach participants live on the phone
  • Reminder text ahead of the research engagement

qualitative recruitment process by drive research

For more context on our recruitment process, read our Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Participants for Market Research

Despite our efforts, people forget about their appointments. When this happens, it’s much easier to have someone open a laptop and log in to an online focus group than drive across town to a facility. 

Not to mention, virtual research allows you to forget about traffic, flat tires, or anything else that can go wrong when asking participants to participate in person. 

Participants are more comfortable, leading to higher-quality feedback 

It’s no secret - we’re all more comfortable in our own homes.

When participants are at ease, they are more engaged and provide higher-quality feedback. 

Traveling to an unfamiliar location, navigating traffic, parking, directions, etc. can be nerve-wracking and these feelings can carry over to the interview.

Therefore, online qualitative market research studies help to avoid all of these potential issues.

Easier to recruit 

When research is hosted on-site, you are limited to a reasonable travel radius surrounding that location.

Not to mention, you need to account for additional travel time and/or someone’s ability to travel. 

Even if your research is limited to a specific market or even zip code(s), choosing to host research virtually will mean more qualified participants to choose from. 

woman in an online focus group

Virtual qualitative research is more cost-effective

If you’re wondering how much a focus group costs, the answer can truly vary.

However, there are costs eliminated right out of the gate by choosing to conduct research virtually. 

When choosing to conduct research virtually, you eliminate many costs such as travel, facility rental, additional on-site hosting staff, and so on. 

Not to mention, many virtual meeting spaces can be used free of charge. Zoom even offers free transcription. 

#2. Influencer Marketing 

Influencers have changed the marketing game, and they’re here to stay. 

With companies that utilize influencer marketing expecting to rise to 83% by 2025, now is the time to understand this audience. 

It’s not enough to simply engage an influencer, you need to understand your target audience. 

influencer marketing usage statistic

Recently, Drive Research surveyed 100+ influencers to understand what brand partnerships look like from their perspective. 

While this survey data is great, many brands and platforms are taking a deeper dive into this audience by recruiting social media influencers for market research.

In fact, our qualitative recruiting company has seen a steady increase in these influencer research studies over the last few years - so much so that we even have our own in-house influencer panel. 

From micro to macro content creators, we have lists of influencers ready and willing to participate in research.

Not to mention, they’re usually fantastic participants, too! 

Recommended reading: 5 Tips for Conducting Market Research with Content Creators

#3. More Inclusivity

This goes beyond just qualitative recruiting, but a 2023 market research trend in general.

American culture is evolving, thus research needs to evolve with it. In fact, research by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that a majority of the U.S. population will be nonwhite by the year 2050.

When thinking about your target audience for common forms of qualitative market research, try thinking outside of the box. 

Here are a few tips from our market research team.

  • Set quotas (but not too many!) to ensure you’re allowing all groups the chance to be heard.
  • When applicable, focus less on demographics and more on other qualifiers when determining who is applicable for your study.
  • Ensure that you allow participants to accurately identify who they are. Make sure your demographic questions are exhaustive and include an option for everyone

#4. No More Cold-Calling

No more may be a bit of a reach, and I’m not saying it’s completely going away, but it’s dying. 

There are many challenges in cold-calling recruitment and its unpredictability is only making it harder.

For context, 80% of Americans do not answer their phone for numbers they don’t know. 

stat on people not answering the phone

Why bother with a time-intensive method that yields low results? There are better options like using a market research panel with vetted, engaged participants or targeted social media ads to reach research participants. 

Recommended Reading: [Ultimate Guide] How to Use Social Media to Find Research Participants

2023 Qualitative Recruiting Challenges

#1. More Cheaters 

A “cheater” is someone who’s only in it for the cash.

They can lie about who they are, where they’re from, the products/services they use, or their interests. 

With the influx of automated programs that rely on first-come-first-serve self-scheduling, it’s easier than ever for professional survey takers to “fake it ‘till they make it” to the reward. 

Not to mention, with so much of research and surveys going online, they have programs that will do the cheating for them, and it’s harder to spot the market research participant red flags

#2. In-Person Research

It’s no secret, nearly everyone has become used to virtual solutions in this post-COVID world. 

Now that we’ve spent the last 3-years finding these virtual solutions, engaging participants for in-person work has become more challenging than ever. 

As in-person facilities have closed or have begun adapting to virtual research themselves, there has been less focus on building local lists, and more outreach to national panelists. 

drive research coffee mug

How to Overcome Qualitative Recruiting Challenges in 2023

1. Choose virtual whenever possible 

I’m sure you get the point by now, but it’s a cost-effective method that leads to higher show rates, engagement, and recruiting success. Why not? 

2. Stay away from automated recruitment 

Show rates suffer and you’re more likely to have lower-quality participants.

When conducting research virtually, it’s especially important to ensure that you have a high-quality participant on the other end. 

Recommended Reading: Reasons to Not Use Automated Market Research Recruitment

2023 Qualitative recruiting best practices 

#1. Have a thorough recruitment process 

Don’t rely on first come first serve.

Fully vet all research participants through a multi-step process to ensure they’re truthful in their responses and engaged in the study. 

#2. Utilize re-screening phone calls 

Not only are re-screening phone calls a necessary step to validate a participant’s response, but they also help you build a mini-relationship with participants which leads to better engagement and higher show rates

#3. Don’t only look for red flags - find green flags too 

Qualifying for a research study is the bare minimum. In addition to having an ear out for any red flags, they should look for green flags too. 

For more context here are 5 Characteristics to Look for When Recruiting Market Research Participants

Contact Us for Qualitative Recruiting Services

Drive Research is a national market research company located in New York. Our team has the knowledge and tools to quickly find quality participants for your qualitative research, cost-effectively.

Interested in receiving a proposal or estimate for a qualitative recruitment project? Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  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