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Recruiting professionals for qualitative research can be challenging.

Many sources and platforms are available in the market for recruiting qualitative-research participants. And, recently, we've noticed a surge in the number of "source-it-yourself" platforms, which businesses use to self-recruit.

However, that approach can be risky. A recent interaction with a prospective client raised a pertinent question: How do we verify the authenticity of participants and ensure they are genuine in their responses and they have relevant experience for the study at hand?

This article will share some effective tips for recruiting high-quality technology professionals for qualitative research.

The Challenges of Recruiting for Evolving Tech Roles

Recruitment challenges in technology-related research extend beyond the rising popularity of source-it-yourself platforms.

Technology professionals are constantly evolving, and their roles and responsibilities are becoming more complex. That creates "hybrid" roles that blend functions between IT and Business, often presenting a recruiting challenge.

One example is the emergence of "citizen developers." Asking citizen developers whether they align more with IT or the business can lead to a "well, it depends" response, making sourcing and recruiting even more complicated.

Because of the evolving nature of the tech industry, traditional recruitment methods may not always be sufficient to ensure high-quality and highly qualified participants. Although professional panels and recruiting firms prequalify and verify applicants' profiles, the screener criteria is what drives the key qualifiers. However, even the most expertly crafted screener can require additional follow-up and due diligence.

Effective Tactics for Qualitative Research Candidate Screening

Finding the most eligible candidates for a study can be challenging, but it's not impossible. To requalify the prequalified, implement the following approaches.

1. Online Search

Check the candidate's online presence, company website, and social media to get a better understanding of the candidate before scheduling or interviewing them.

2. Self-Assessment

Use proficiency questions (e.g., skill, expertise), responsibility allocations (e.g., percent of time spent on a given task), and scales such as "more IT or business" or "more strategic or tactical" to assess candidates who don't neatly fit into traditional categories.

3. Role Description

Job titles are a good starting point to target prospective candidates, but titles don't necessarily describe job functions and can vary across organizations and industries.

In addition to asking candidates their title, ask what they do. For example, provide a list of duties and ask them to select their primary responsibilities (or even the top 3).

4. Articulation Questions

Ask questions that require candidates to articulate their responses. For example, instead of just asking "Do you have experience building widgets?" also ask "Describe your most recent or memorable widget-building experience. Please be as detailed as possible."

Articulation questions can also be asked as standalones, or unrelated catchalls, such as "What do you consider to be the best technological innovation of all time, and why?" The goal of such questions is to assess potential candidates' enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and ability and openness to share with detail.

5. Personality Questions

Designed to gauge mindset (e.g., open/closed) and outlook (e.g., bright/grim), personality questions are also useful to create a good, balanced dynamic in a focus group setting.

Take an advertising testing study, for example: You certainly do not want to recruit a roomfull of participants who think all advertising is meaningless. Or, in a concept test, you don't want to recruit people who aren't comfortable with ambiguity.

Personality questions can be general (e.g., "Do you more often see what is right in front of you or what can be imagined?") or specific (e.g., "I am always looking for new or unique technologies to improve things or I like to stick to technologies that are tried and true.")

6. Red Herrings

Including a random and off-topic question is useful for quality purposes. These questions are generally easy to answer—for example, "Select the color green from the list below."

Red herrings can also be used as a cross-check by asking the same question at the beginning and at the end of the screener: e.g., "What industry does your organization operate in?" It is assumed that candidates know the industry they work in no matter how many times they are asked.

Additional Tips

1. Follow up

As soon as you have selected candidates to schedule, reach out to them with the details for participation. Communication should include a summary of the purpose of the research, the time commitment, the honorarium (if applicable), and other online related items:

  • Application (Zoom, Teams, etc.) for the research session
  • Restrictions, such as "must be at desktop/laptop; no mobile or tablet devices"
  • Technology requirements, such as installing plugins or getting permissions to access apps or platforms (sometimes IT approval is required on company devices)

2. Over-recruit

Always have a lengthy list of prequalified candidates to allow for examination, comparison, selection, and elimination. Doing so is useful for identifying potential gaps in the screening criteria and preconceived characteristics of the target audience when targeting a specific participant profile.

And it's always good to have a few candidates on hand as backups to cover for cancellations, no-shows, or technological issues (because it's more cost effective than having to resume recruitment).

Although additional vetting steps are time-intensive, they ultimately ensure the selection of top-tier participants, leading to higher quality research outcomes.

More Resources on How to Conduct Qualitative Research

Recruiting Executives and Industry Experts for Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research: Even More Important in the Age of Big Data

Market Research for B2B Marketing Success: Jim Longo on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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How to Recruit Top-Notch Tech Pros for Qualitative Research

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image of Jennifer Nolan

Jennifer Nolan is the insights manager at KS&R, a marketing research and strategic consultancy firm. She has 20+ years of experience in market research and has managed several qualitative and quantitative projects for technology clients at KS&R.

LinkedIn: Jennifer Nolan