5 Ways to Recruit Better

We’ve all sat in back rooms where a client has become frustrated because the woman in front of the mirror “doesn’t look like our customer”.  This is usually followed by a frenetic scrutinizing of the recruiting grids and a resigned harumph that it is too late to do anything now.  (Unless you try the  hateful trick of pretending she has a phone call to remove her from the session).

Here are 5 Things to do to make sure you have a better recruit:

  1. Write a better screener.  Don’t just use the one you wrote last time and change the date.  Really look at your questions and see if each of them really contributes to the bigger picture of the person you are trying to find.  Get down to the fewest number of questions possible.
  2. Don’t recruit clones. The goal is to get women in the room who have similar habits (usually distinguished by whether or not they use or don’t use your product) but who have different lives and stories to tell.  (Naturally the exception is if you are holding affinity groups where the goal is to understand the dynamic among women and their like minded friends).  If you recruit all of the women to be too much alike you will undoubtedly find that they react similarly to things that you share with them.  If they react negatively to your idea, you are likely to blame Group Think but the screener should be blamed for recruiting too many similar women (or the idea should be blamed for just being wrong).
  3. Don’t call during dinner or pre-bedtime hours. Timing is everything.  Ask your recruiter’s call center to think carefully about the times they choose for calling potential respondents.  I can guarantee that if you are trying to recruit mothers of toddlers they will not answer their phones while they are eating and definitely not during the mayhem of putting her children to bed.  If she does answer the phone, she will most definitely be distracted and impatient.  Also if your topic is particularly intimate make sure that your callers are women not men so that she will feel less embarassed to answer honestly.
  4. Assign provocative written homework. If you think that your research subject is particularly complex or creative then you need to make sure that you have women in the room who can quickly grasp and respond to ideas.  At the end of our screeners, we assign a short, written homework assignment so that we can make sure that we get women who will be  up to the task.  Don’t make it some fantasy question like those usually used for articulation screens but rather make it something relevant to your project.  Set a short deadline (must submit withing 48 hours of being invited) and carefully review what you receive.  If they don’t get it, dismiss and re-recruit.  This will also help you avoid recruiting clones (see #2)
  5. When in doubt, ask for a phone call. If you review someone’s homework and you are still on the fence, ask the recruiter if you (or your moderator) can call them for a quick phone conversation.  You can probe them on their homework assignment or on some of the screening criteria. These calls take almost no time and are good practice for all of us.

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by Mary Lou Quinlan

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