This week’s blog is the first of a multi-part series addressing the challenges the qualitative research industry faces in the recruitment of highly qualified respondents. Part two will appear next week.
A few weeks ago we had a breakfast meeting with a longtime colleague/friend of INGATHER who operates qualitative facilities elsewhere and who was in town for business. A cooperative friendship that goes back many years opens the door for honest communication. The topic of recruiting came up and our colleague/friend mentioned he has begun to offer discounts to clients who let his staff write their screeners for incoming qualitative projects. We found this to be an interesting and reasonable take on the state of facility recruiting. Over the past 5 years or so, the process of recruiting has changed substantially in both good and challenging (business euphemism for “not so good”) ways. One of the more relevant questions facing qualitative research is, “Are highly detailed screeners choking off the recruiting funnel?” At INGATHER we believe so. Why?
The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” isn’t really applicable anymore in the recruiting field. It’s more like, “a lot of good in, not as good as it could be out.” Technology has provided facilities and their recruiting departments an abundance of benefits. Software, apps and devices have enhanced and in some instances transformed the methodologies and processes of delivering the highest quality participants for qualitative research studies. These ever improving software and hardware solutions available to us have had a huge impact, not to mention online and mobile devices and the plethora of social media sites in the hands of millennials and experienced texters has stimulated the quantity of available respondents for consideration and processing. We can blast emails. We can blast texts. We can sort and refine to attract the most qualified candidates. As Bonnie Raitt sings in Blender Blues, we “can whip, chop and puree” our databases. At the same time, but not necessarily inter-related, as facilities abilities to recruit potential participants has increased, client changes in their practices, requirements and needs have sometimes decreased the final cut of qualified people. How’s this possible? You would think both would increase concomitantly. But in reality it’s actually counter intuitive. As clients have become more discerning in their target respondents for qualitative studies in many cases they unknowingly reduce what comes out of the recruitment funnel. What once was an industry of three and four page screeners has “evolved” (my glass half-full perspective) into some exceeding 30 pages in length. What used to be a five to eight minute phone call has “evolved” into an average of 18 minutes per with some extending exceeding 30 minutes and even 40 minutes of screen time. And while phone recruiting and the prospect of a handsome incentive helps keep prospects engaged significantly longer on the phone due to the real-time, real-person interaction, the dropout rate for online screening plunges much more quickly. A proponent of shorter screeners Roddy Knowles, of Research Now, suggests keeping screeners to a handful of questions that can be completed in a few minutes, at least in theory. In practice some ten-question screeners have several sub questions making them 25 or 40 questions.
What this means: occasionally a client will include so many criteria with TERMINATIONs that they exclude highly qualified respondents. A bogus example, though to the point, is the qualifier on page 20 of the screener asking the color of the respondent’s eyes. The screener is looking for respondents with one blue and one green eye. If not, “TERMINATE.” Seriously? What’s the point of some of the qualifiers? With the abundance of potential recruits at the start of the process, too many “questionable” qualifiers can whittle the final incidence down. We’ve seen many studies at INGATHER with incidences as low as five percent. When extensive profiles requested or required by clients are in play facilities the result is increased fees to clients to cover the additional costs of recruiting. Add to this the element of tight recruiting schedules and the client may end up with a less than ideal participant at the table.
I’ve always felt comfortable asking my clients, “What do you want?” And then I ask, “What do you need?” They are two very different questions and require two different answers. From there we can assist in structuring the “scouting” process that best meets their most critical needs. In the qualitative arena we serve our client’s needs far better focusing on what their real needs are because that’s just what we do. Focus.
Next Week’s Topic: Are Algorithms Choking Recruiting?