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July 10, 2018

  • Last Updated:
  • September 26, 2019

How to Find Quality Participants, Fast

Attract the best quality research participants fast for your UX research study.


I’ve worked at User Interviews for about 3 months now, helping dozens of researchers fill over 250 studies with the participants they need. As a project coordinator, we’re here to help make sure researchers find the best participants for any kind of research study as fast as possible. Along the way I’ve learned that a few tips can make a huge difference in attracting the best quality, most relevant research participants fast.

Proofread your screener survey

Your screener survey is the foundation that either sets your recruit up for success or failure, so it is so important to make sure that it’s tip-top before it reaches the eyes of potential participants. Ask yourself these questions before you publish your screener:

  • Will the participant be able to guess what qualifications I require?

Take a good look at your project title, description, and even the questions themselves. Do they reveal anything about what the “right” answer to your screener questions may be? If so, you can expect candidates to bend the truth in order to increase the likelihood of being selected for your study. It happens.

  • Are there any spelling or grammatical errors?

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how much it can impact a recruit. Think about it—would you feel comfortable applying for a study if you found a few spelling errors in a screener survey? These errors can make you seem less legitimate, scaring applicants away. Their time is valuable too.

  • Will every candidate have answer options available that allow them to respond to each question truthfully?

Read each one of your screener questions out loud to yourself. If you are able to imagine someone responding “Sorry, this question does not apply to me” or “None of the above,” then those should be answer options for your multiple choice questions! If you don’t make these options available, you are forcing the candidate to be untruthful in their response. In some cases, this could even cause a truly unqualified candidate to pass your screener, or a qualified one to fail.

  • Will I be able to verify that this candidate is who they say they are?

This mainly comes into play if your study requires people who are in a certain occupation. The screener is the perfect place to ask for employment verification, whether that be a LinkedIn profile or an image of a paystub or badge. Adding a question along these lines will not only help you verify employment quicker, but will help eliminate some of the less truthful participants who might be scared away when they see that you mean business.

Of course, if you setup your project through User Interviews and let us assist with your recruit, we’ll conduct a prompt quality assurance check to make sure your screener is set up for success and keep you updated on any recommendations or concerns.

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Offer a compelling incentive

Understand the going rate to determine what incentive you’ll be offering your participants. If your incentive is below market rate, it will not only decrease your applicant pool size, but also increase your cancellation/no-show rate. It is always necessary to consider the study type and session length when deciding on the incentive amount, and when applicable, be sure to also consider your audience’s average income and cost of living.

Be prepared with backup participants

It’s inevitable: sometimes things come up and your participants will not be able to hold their commitment. Occasionally they aren’t able to give you a timely heads up. If you want to guarantee your full recruit, you’ll need to anticipate this possibility with every study and make sure you have backup participants on standby. As soon as you’ve filled your schedule, let a few additional candidates know that they’ve qualified for your study and will be on your waitlist in the case of a cancellation.

With User Interviews, we encourage researchers to approve at least 50% more candidates than they need for every project. In the case of a cancellation, our system will automatically notify waitlist candidates so they can claim the new spot right away. I have to say, I think this is one of the biggest reasons we fill over 90% of the projects launched!

Have extra session times available on your schedule

Scheduling and confirming participants on your schedule can sometimes be the most difficult part of the recruitment process. This is only made more difficult if you have exactly 10 session times available for your 10 required participants. Filling those last couple spots becomes significantly easier if you have extra sessions available, allowing the participant to pick the one that’s best for them.

If possible, allow your schedule to be flexible. Have you found a perfect candidate, but your original session times don’t work for them? Being open to the idea of working with the participant to find a time that suitable for everyone can dramatically improve your chances of a full project. Adding extra times to your calendar from the onset means less back and forth later.

When managing your schedule with User Interviews, you’re able to post as many session times as you’d like and we’ll make sure that your schedule is never overbooked.

Don’t procrastinate!

I know, this advice applies to every task in the world, but it is especially important with recruiting! This is because your successful recruit not only depends on your own actions, but the actions of your potential participants. If you post a project 2 days before your study start date, you are giving the candidates a very short time frame to confirm their spot. What if you find the perfect participant, but they didn’t check their email quickly enough? What if they need a day to rearrange other commitments on their calendar? Being extra considerate here will benefit both you and the participant.

That being said, if you’re in a hurry, we can help fill most studies within a few days. It happens.

Following these 5 suggestions will help you get the best quality participants as fast as possible. You’ll have the peace-of-mind that comes with a full study day and contingency plan ahead of time. And you’ll seem like the composed, totally on-top-of-it researcher we’re sure you already are.

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Hana is a Project Coordinator at User Interviews. Watching studies fill brings joy to her heart.

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