What are the Challenges of Cold-Calling Recruitment?

unknown contact calling somones phone

Cold-calling is an old-school market research technique to reach potential participants.

At a first glance, it seems simple enough. You find a contact’s phone number, call them, and recruit them for your project. 

However, as telemarketing and scam calls have increased over time–along with everyone’s annoyance with them–cold-calling has become a challenge for market research recruitment. 

Continue reading this blog to learn more about the challenges of cold-calling recruitment in market research.

Recommended Reading: How to Recruit for Focus Groups in 5 Steps

The Gatekeepers 

The challenge with gatekeepers is in the definition; they are a person who controls access. They are normally the receptionist, secretary, or assistant of the individual or company you are trying to reach.

They are used to turning away sales and marketing calls and make no exceptions for market researchers.

While tips and tricks exist to get beyond them, a gatekeeper's job is to essentially turn us away. Ultimately, there isn’t much benefit to a gatekeeper patching us through. 

There are reasons we provide participants with incentives. First, their time and feedback are valuable and they should be compensated fairly. Secondly, it’s in the name: it’s an incentive to participate in the research project. 

Other than an understanding of the benefits of market research (if we’re lucky!), there really isn’t much incentive for the gatekeeper to give us access to the contact. 

Check out our brief video where we discuss incentives and other recruiting tips: 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Cold-calling recruitment can be challenged by gatekeepers–people like secretaries, assistants, or receptionists. Trained to dismiss any kind of marketing or sales call, getting through them is close to impossible.

Dealing With Skepticism 

Many individuals do not understand market research or why we do it, and many believe it’s too good to be true. 

Paying people for the opinions they normally give for free? Must be a scam. 

When using our market research panel for project invites, we are connecting with individuals who:

  • Recognize the name Drive Research
  • Understand our purpose for contacting them 
  • Have engaged with us on some level in the past 

When utilizing other methods such as social media targeting for market research recruitment, participants are still able to view the Drive Research website, reviews, or conduct their own research into the brand before responding. 

Having an extra layer of credibility makes it easier for us to include them in the research project. 

However, because cold-contacting is their first exposure to Drive Research (and possibly market research in general) there is a higher level of skepticism.  

💡 The Key Takeaway: Recruiting calls for market research can be met with skepticism. Often, people overlook them as too good to be true, therefore adding an extra layer of credibility is important for this sourcing option to be successful. 

It’s Unpredictable 

When utilizing our own in-house panel or targeted social media ads, we are able to calculate estimates. 

These estimates on clicks or conversion rates are a critical tool in determining costs or feasibility. On the other hand, when we are provided a cold-list for research projects, there are many unpredictable factors to consider. 

For instance, a 2020 study from Pew Research found that 8 out of 10 adults don’t answer the phone for numbers they don’t recognize. 

Right out of the gate, we can assume that we won’t even be able to reach 80% of the contacts.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Not surprisingly, many people will not pick up their phone when they see an unfamiliar number pop up. This immediately shuts down the possibility of cold-calling recruitment. 

Quality of the List 

Additionally, the quality of the list is unknown until we are calling. Have you heard of the great resignation? 

Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers as the cultural phenomenon of the "Great Resignation" continues.

As of November of 2021, 4.5 million workers quit their jobs. What that tells us, is that there are 4.5 million contacts on cold lists that are no longer up-to-date.

But that’s only a starting point. We still have to consider additional factors that may remove someone from a position such as a promotion, termination, retirement, and so on.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Whether or not contacts are still employed makes the process difficult. Made even more unpredictable with the Great Resignation, cold-calling recruitment becomes difficult when potential candidates may not be in the same position. 

Are the Contacts Open (Or Allowed) to Do Research?

It’s hard for me to accept, but not everyone enjoys participating in market research. 

Even when someone is an absolute A+ fit for the project, they may just be completely unwilling to participate. 

And if they are willing, certain companies may not allow their employees to participate in market research.

💡 The Key Takeaway: A contact may seem like the ideal participant for a research study, but that doesn’t mean they’ll agree to being one. On top of this, they could be willing, but their company may not allow it.

Mistaken for Sales

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” right? 

In my near-decade of market research recruiting, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many people were shocked that they could be paid for their feedback. 

A lot of them assume that we will end the interviews, focus groups, or surveys with a sales pitch. The bait-and-switch technique of timeshares certainly hasn’t helped. 

This assumption creates frustration for the potential participant who believes we are attempting to mislead them to rope them in. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Pre-existing ideas about market research and sales can contribute to cold-calling recruitment challenges. 

Alternatives to Cold-Calling Recruitiment

That’s an easy one: trust the experts of a qualitative recruiting company like Drive Research! While a cold list may be tempting to use, there are more efficient market research tools to reach your target audience.

Here’s what our qualitative recruiting company does instead:

  • Create targeted social media ads
  • Initiate grassroots campaigns 
  • Use our in-house panel 
  • Utilize our network of trusted panel partners with vetted contacts 

There are many benefits of hiring market research recruitment agencies – one of the best is not having to worry about cold call struggles.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Research recruitment doesn't have to be such a challenge. When you partner with a third-party research team, you’ll have a number of different recruitment methods to choose from. 

Contact Our Qualitative Recruiting Company

Are you receiving low results from cold-calling? Try our methods instead!

Drive Research is a national market research company based in New York. Our team specializes in qualitative recruiting for several methodologies such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, shop-alongs, user experience, and more.

Curious about our market research services? Use the information below to find out more.

  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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