UX Research Participant Recruiting 101

By Nhan Vu
March 06, 2020
UX Research Participant Recruiting 101


       Recruiting the right participants for your study is just as important as the questions you ask. Determining your target user base, sending out study invitations, scheduling participants, and choosing the right incentives are just a few of the steps you need to take to make sure your study stays on track. I am a former UX research participant recruiter at Google and currently recruit participants here at Key Lime. Here are some tips I’ve gathered to get you started on recruiting the right participants for your studies.

Creating a screener form

1. Don’t make screeners too long.
Longer screeners have a higher abandonment rate. To increase the response rate, only include enough questions to properly screen for the participant profiles you are looking for. Remember that you can always ask more questions during the actual study itself.

Sending out invitation emails

1. Avoid sounding like spam.
Avoid using template text. You can start with a template, but try to customize your invitation text to reflect your current study without giving away too much. Participants are less likely to respond if they sense that the invite is not genuine.

2. Avoid spam filters.
Limit your batch invitation emails to 50 email addresses or less. The more email addresses you include on the invite the higher the chances that your email gets flagged as spam.

3. ALWAYS BCC email addresses.
Double and triple check before sending out your email that you didn’t accidentally put your email addresses in the ‘To’ or ‘CC’ field. Exposing participant emails is a violation of privacy, and you run the risk of legal backlash.

4. Be clear and concise.
Only put necessary information (e.g. study date, time, location, length) and a brief description in the invite emails. Long, super-detailed emails can deter some people from reading through and wanting to participate.

5. Send invites early.
Don’t wait until the week before the study to send out invites. If you want to be safe, try sending out invites two weeks prior to the study. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time, but giving yourself some buffer time will help make scheduling easier in case of any cancellations or rescheduling.

Screening participants

1. Avoid participants who are just in it for the incentives.
If you have the luxury of time, I suggest getting on a brief phone call with participants to gauge their interest and fit for the study. If they spend a disproportionate amount of time asking about the incentives or talking about what they would buy with the money, chances are they might just be in it for the incentives and might not provide you with good feedback.

2. Don't judge people by their personality type.
The people who say the most don’t always necessarily give the best feedback. The inverse is also true. Just because someone is quiet or shy on the phone doesn’t mean they aren’t good candidates. Try to gauge based on their interest in the study and how responsive they are to your emails and calls.

Scheduling participants

1. Schedule over the phone.
If time permits, schedule participants over the phone and send study details in a followup email. Participants are less likely to cancel if they can put a voice to your name. Also can help clear up any questions either side may have prior to the study.

2. Male sure participants install any software or apps needed BEFORE the session.
For studies that require participants to install software on their computer or phone to participate, send them reminders to install the software in advance. This gives you time to help them troubleshoot. The worst-case scenario is that the participant shows up and you have to cancel the study because the software doesn’t work. Now, you’re out some time and incentive money.

3. Send reminder emails.
A quick reminder email to participants 24-48 hours before their scheduled time helps reduce the cancellation rate. Participants appreciate the reminder. Sometimes, a conflict arises in their schedule and they forget to reach out. The reminder email can prompt them to reach out to reschedule or cancel, which at least gives you a bit of time to find a replacement.

4. Give yourself a break in between sessions.
If time permits, allow 15-30 minutes in between sessions for buffer time and as a mental break. Sometimes sessions run over their allotted time. You don’t want to cut into another participant’s scheduled time slot. Any researcher who has done a full day of back-to-back sessions knows how grueling that experience is. Give yourself a short break to mentally recenter yourself, especially after a tough session. And to use the restroom!


READ MORE: 3 Tips for Working with a Recruitment AgencyThe Role of Body Language in User ResearchParticipant Recruitment: What Not to Do, Incorporating a UX Strategy into Your Business

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