Answered: Top Questions For Research Participant Recruitment

Oct 13, 2021 | UX Guide, User Research

User interviews and user tests are a vital and fundamental core of UX design, it provides critical insights in guiding and validating the design process. When it comes to participant recruitment, it’s so important to recruit properly to make the most of user tests and user interviews.

There are a lot of common questions we are asked with regards to participant recruitment in South East Asia, especially because it’s unique for every project and for every company. We have the answers to all the top questions for user tests participant recruitment:

1. How Many Participants/Respondents Is Enough?

This is the number one question that’s most commonly asked, and usually the very first question. In fact, it’s asked so often that we have written another article for how many participants are enough when it comes to usability testing, a very popular type of user testing.

The number of participants to recruit does largely depends on the context of the study. Maybe you’re in the discovery phase and want to gain in-depth insights on your users and their mental models. Perhaps you’ve got a design that needs to be validated, after having already gone through multiple stages of research.

If you’re planning a quick, discovery-based user test such as usability testing, recruiting 5-10 participants is enough. But if you’re conducting a more statistical user test like surveys, ideally you’ll need a lot more survey respondents , at least 60 respondents. For statistically significant data, the more the merrier, about 150 survey respondents or more.

Aside from the consideration above, the budget is also a huge factor that determines how many participants can be recruited. You can also consider doing the user tests in stages, so instead of testing with 15 participants all at once, you could test with 5, make changes and test again, iterating through the process.

2. Should We Provide an Incentive?

Yes. Incentives are a strong driving motivator for participants to show up. If participants don’t have an incentive to do the user test, there is a significant likelihood that they may be a no-show.

Bear in mind, incentives are not the same as travel reimbursement costs. Incentives, whether monetary or not, are rewards for their time that play a huge role in motivating participants to take part in the user tests.

This leads us to the next question.

3. What Incentive Should We Provide?

Cash is king, monetary incentive is simple, fuss-free and definitely enticing enough to be a driving motivator for participants. It’s essential to make it worth their time.

How much? This depends on who you are recruiting. If you are engaging a participant recruitment agency, they will be able to tell you what a suitable incentive is depending on the recruitment criteria.

If you are recruiting respondents on your own, consider the respondents’ background. You will need to compensate higher earners such as doctors, executives, etc with a much larger incentive compared to students.

In addition, if you require respondents to travel quite a distance, consider providing them with travel reimbursement to make it easier for respondents to commute to you.

There are occasions where monetary incentives aren’t suitable, perhaps it’s the company policy. In which case, you could consider gift-cards or gift-hampers, or vouchers that participants can utilise.

4. Should We Engage a Participant Recruitment Agency or Specialist?

If you don’t have an existing list of customers or an existing list of potential participants to recruit from, it makes sense to engage a participant recruitment agency.

There is a temptation to recruit any of our friends or family that is willing to help, and it would be a suitable solution if they fit in the recruitment criteria. But if they don’t, their insights will not fit the mental models of your actual users or target audience.

It’s vital to recruit the right people, and if we can’t recruit them by ourselves, it would be a wise decision to engage a recruitment agency. After all, that is what they specialize in!

Furthermore, recruitment specialists or recruitment agencies will take care of the entire recruitment process, doing the screeners, making the calls, and making sure that participants show up.

5. Are All Participant Recruitment Agencies The Same?

Each recruitment agency/specialist has its own panel of respondents, some may have millions of respondents spread across the world that will be very helpful for international surveys.

But if you’re looking for something much more specific, like orthopedic specialists, these respondents are much harder to come by. Some participant recruitment agencies specialize in finding hard-to-find respondents compared to having millions of respondents worldwide. These agencies will cost more but it’s justified due to the quality and background of the respondents.

6. If We Can Recruit Customers, Do They Need To Be Active Users?

Not necessarily. In fact, valuable insights can derive from customers who are no longer active, because we can gain an understanding of why they stopped using the product.

Looking at the context of the study will help you decide. Are you exploring pain points? Then recruiting inactive customers will help to shine a light on their pain points and why they left.

Perhaps you’re testing a new feature? Recruiting active users will provide more relevant insights seeing as they have been using the product long enough.

7. Should We Recruit Through Pop-Ups?

Asking people whether they want to participate in user testing using pop-ups on your website may work depending on a couple of factors.

Firstly, we need to get a green light to implement it into the website and will need IT’s help to do so. Oftentimes, this is a barrier because it poses a significant risk of interrupting the user journey.

Secondly, we need to make sure that the pop-up doesn’t interrupt or annoy website users.

To really answer this question on whether we should recruit through pop-ups, we need to consider:

  • Where should the pop-up appear?
  • Will it be interrupting the visitor?
  • If it will be an interruption, is it worth it? Or would it be better to send an email?

Whether it’s a viable participant recruitment approach depends on the traffic and the visitors’ mindset, it may also take longer to compile sufficient participants but it can yield great insights.

8. Should We Recruit Through Social Media?

Social media is very popular in Asia (including China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan just to name a few), it’s one of the main ways that businesses communicate with their users.

Whether to recruit via social media depends on the context of the study, a mass social media participant recruitment would work especially well for surveys. It could also be an opportunity for users to sign up as a potential participant but it runs a risk of putting off users if they aren’t selected.

Social media participant recruitment could be a quick way to recruit and at a low cost but a strategy is needed to make the most of it.

9. How Do We Avoid Cheaters?

There is a possibility of coming across ‘professional participants’ that pose as the targeted audience in order to earn easy money. Albeit a small chance, it is an unfortunate possibility.

Make sure you screen the testers properly and consider conducting a telephone screener to double-check. Furthermore, it’s helpful to explicitly state that those cheating will not receive any incentive, which helps in reducing the chances.

10. Should Survey Respondents/Research Participants Be Trained?

Research participants should be a representative sample of your target customers, and so they wouldn’t usually be trained for user tests. Some participant recruitment agencies may train their participants in order to optimize their insights and to provide better quality participants. But as a general rule, participants aren’t usually trained and shouldn’t be put through training as it will distract them from the study, be it for usability tests, in-depth interviews, or even focus groups.

Instead, make sure that the introductory message and instructions are very clear so that participants understand what they are meant to do. It’s also helpful to have a facilitator for a qualitative research study, such as in usability testing, to encourage testers to think aloud and to dig deeper.

11. How Do We Get A Representative Sample?

There are precautions we can take to ensure that a representative sample is recruited properly. Firstly, to outline specifically what the participant recruitment criteria is and recruit accordingly.

Secondly, create and use a screener to screen through potential respondents in order to shortlist suitable testers.

Thirdly, as an optional precaution, is to go through a telephone call to go through the screener again and verify that respondents are indeed a true representative.

Lastly, to ask key questions to once again verify who they say they are at the start of the study.

12. Should We Have Backup Respondents/Participants?

As a precaution, it’s a good idea to plan for unforeseen circumstances and have backups just in case. In Southeast Asia, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, we have found that the user attendance rate is rarely 100%.

Let’s look at this scenario where the aim is to recruit 15 participants and they have all confirmed, everything is good to do for the user research sessions.

However, one of the participants is unable to make it for their research session. What happens is that a replacement needs to be recruited urgently, and the participant recruitment process takes time. The user research phase gets postponed, and the research analysis is delayed, the project would also incur additional costs.

But, if you have backup respondents on standby, they can jump in to stand in as a replacement. It is a good measure to have backup respondents/participants.

Final Thoughts

We hope we have answered your questions, if you have any more participant recruitment questions for your qualitative or quantitative research study, or like to enquire about participant recruitment service, contact Netizen Experience at or check out for more information.


Related Articles:

Respondent Recruitment Services

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Key Highlights
  • Identify and recruit respondents who precisely match the desired demographic, psychographic, or behavioral criteria
  • Usage of various channels, such as online platforms, social media, and community networks, to reach a wide range of potential respondents
  • Streamlined screening and qualification process that efficiently filters out ineligible respondents
  • Tailored respondent recruitment solutions to meet specific research objectives
  • Quick turnaround times, enabling businesses to gather the required number of participants within their project timelines
  • Commitment to quality by assuring clients of a rigorous quality assurance process with dedicated and experience project managers

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