Challenges of Recruiting Research Participants & How to Overcome Them

Rushali Singh

It seems simple enough to gather a group of people, ask them a few questions, and use their answers to build a product and enhance an experience. But how can you create a delightful experience with the best results - results that are relevant, useful, and objective - with user research?  

Common recruitment obstacles 

  • Identifying & Recruiting the right users: There are several parameters to consider when recruiting - like location, demographic, ethnicity, technography, etc. It can also be difficult to verify your users background because many participants get involved to earn some money. Even if you do find the perfect participants who check all the boxes, it can be difficult to convince them to take a survey, sit for an interview, or coordinate time zones. But there are ways around this. 

What you can do: 

  1. Use the tools available to optimize your time and energy when searching for participants. Services offered by can help you. 
  2. If you want a participant's undivided attention, offer them an incentive like cash rewards or gift cards from popular e-commerce stores. Participants will invest their time, energy, and knowledge in activities that benefit them as well.
  3. Market yourself and your project accurately and enthusiastically - remembering to always reiterate the importance of your participants' voice in the process. 
  4. Recruitment is also about making connections and network, a good conversation with one participant can lead to similar discussions with other people within their social circle as well. 

  • Coordinating & Managing Schedules: Once users have agreed to participate, finding the right time for everyone to meet can be quite a struggle. With the increasing popularity of remote interviews, some aspects of this can be mitigated but it is still complicated and time consuming to navigate. 

What can you do: 

  1. You’re in luck though! There are several scheduling and calendar apps that can make your life easier. You can also outsource the interview process to companies that specialize in recruiting participants and conducting interviews. Doing so can help you save significant amounts of time and effort to focus on what really matters - the research. 
  2. Preempt technical difficulties like zoom links not working, or buffering during calls. Test your setup with a friend or colleague, take advantage of co-working spaces, and ensure you have the tools you need to make the process seamless.

  • Not Preparing Appropriately: Often, researchers recruit participants and conduct research without a detailed and result-oriented plan of action. This can be harmful to the entire process if you don’t know the type of participants you need or have pre-defined goals or even understand what type of communication works best with participants.

What you can do:

  1. You can navigate this by answering basic questions like what is the objective of this interview? What kind of information are you hoping to get? And what kind of user aligns with the problem you’re trying to solve? Clarity of thought will make finding the right pool of participants and deciding on a research method simpler. 
  2. Understand your participants ability to communicate - do they prefer to write, answer pointed or open questions, are they likely to perform well in a group setting? Always try to assess the situation and be flexible to changing things up when required.

  • Mismanaging Insights: All research is valuable even if the only takeaway is knowing what you don’t need. But research is extensive and varied and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds looking for the information you need. 

  1. Categorizing and organizing interviews, surveys, recordings, and transcriptions is crucial. It’ll make it effortless for you or other team members to peruse whenever necessary. 
  2. It’s equally important to backup data to secure cloud servers or harddrives for safekeeping. 
  3. You can also use team management and document storage platforms like Notion or Coda - these platforms also offer the additional benefit of being able to write, highlight, and analyze information from multiple sources.

These are some of the most common situations you may find yourself in. With a little creativity and foresight you can work around any obstacle and continue to improve upon your research as you go along. If you need a starting point, check out to find the highest quality of participants. 

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