If your need for user research participants is growing faster than you can find qualified candidates, one solution is to hire a full-time UX research coordinator (sometimes also known as a UX research participant recruiter) who can manage the recruitment process from start to finish.
A UX research coordinator’s job description includes determining what candidate pools your business should recruit research participants from based on the specifications they get from researchers. It also includes screening potential participants by phone, email, and/or survey to make sure they’re a good fit for the study, as well as weeding out any “professional” study participants who are only in it for the incentive.
Once they’ve collected a group of high-quality research participants, they schedule research sessions for these participants and communicate with them about logistical details throughout the research process. They also manage the distribution of incentives and keep track of research participant information in a database.
While hiring a full-time coordinator may make sense for businesses with large user experience research operations, it’s far from the only approach for handling research participant recruitment. In fact, there are three alternatives to hiring someone in house:
- DIY research recruitment
- Working with a participant recruitment agency
- Signing up for a user research recruitment platform such as User Interviews.
In this article, we cover key considerations for each of these methods of research participant recruitment to give you a better idea which option is right for you.
Note: Looking for a specific audience to participate in your user research? User Interviews offers a complete platform for finding and managing participants. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. Find your first three participants for free.
Should You Hire a Full-Time UX Research Coordinator?
Budget is a big factor when considering adding a full-time UX research participant recruiter or coordinator to your UX research team. Expected annual salaries for full-time coordinators may vary depending on location; as with most roles, expect to pay more for coordinators based in big cities such as San Francisco and New York vs. other parts of the United States.
According to the salary comparison website Paysa, salaries for full-time UX research coordinators typically range between $53,319 and $112,352, which means hiring a full-time coordinator may only be an option for larger companies with a consistent, ongoing need for research recruiting.
The hiring, onboarding, and training process can also take a long time. The average hiring process in the United States takes 23.8 days, according to Glassdoor. And BambooHR reports that most HR professionals recommend an onboarding time of three months or more for the best employee retention. If you have immediate research needs, you’ll probably need to turn to another recruitment approach, at least in the interim.
Also, many of the tasks full-time coordinators perform can be completed through other less expensive, faster methods. User recruitment platforms such as User Interviews, for example, take care of the bulk of a full-time coordinator’s duties, including:
- Identifying candidates
- Screening participants
- Scheduling participants
- Managing incentives
- Logging participant information.
UX research coordinators do, however, perform some tasks for businesses that other recruitment options won’t. For example, UX research coordinators may support the research operations team in other ways, such as helping moderate research studies, taking notes, and creating transcriptions. They may also develop and document research recruitment systems and processes for the company. Coordinating team logistics like staff meetings and team building events could be part of their duties as well.
In addition, they may bridge the communication gap between customers and company teams, working closely with sales, customer success and product operations teams, researchers, product managers, and designers.
It’s important to note that for some businesses, especially those with large research ops, you may need multiple approaches for recruiting participants. That may mean hiring a full-time coordinator and using a user recruitment platform like User Interviews to meet all your recruitment needs.
Would DIY User Research Participant Recruitment Work for You?
As you probably know, recruiting participants for UX research is a long and complex process. If you want good results, you have to target the right audience, screen participants, manage incentives, and create a sustainable plan for continuously recruiting enough participants for all of your research needs (which can vary significantly depending on what you need to do — market research or discovery research, for example, would usually require more participants than usability research).
Choosing the right recruitment channels and methods for each study is particularly challenging for DIY recruiters. There are so many options: social media, Craigslist, live intercepts on your website, manual Google and LinkedIn searches — the list goes on. If you don’t choose the right recruitment channels and methods, you may not find any suitable participants. If you rely on the same channels too often, you’ll run the risk of burning out participants.
If you need participants in a highly niche area, recruitment is even harder. The narrower the niche, the smaller the potential participant pool and the more hours and manual legwork it takes to find the right people.
And of course, once you’ve recruited participants for your study, you still have to guide them through the research process, distribute incentives, and log data. There’s also the possibility that some of the participants you recruit initially won’t be helpful, and you’ll have to go back to square one and find replacements.
This option will likely suck up too much of your research team’s time to be worthwhile. And our guess is that you prefer your user experience researchers, and other people who do research, to spend their time directly on research projects and research project management rather than administrative tasks related to user recruitment.
Despite the many downsides of taking a DIY approach to research participant recruitment, there is one benefit: You’re not paying extra money for it. Of course, if it consumes all of your UX researcher's time, that's an expense, because they’re not able to get as much research done. Whether that expense is worth it to you will depend on how efficient your user researcher is at participant recruitment and how much research you need them to do.
That said, DIY recruiting can also make sense if you’re hoping to do user testing with your own customers. As long as you can navigate the red tape around communicating with them (and have a large enough customer base to pull it off), then the only major difficulty is settling on a way to keep track of participants.
Should You Hire a Participant Recruitment Agency?
Working with a participant recruitment agency isn’t cheap. The exact cost varies from agency to agency and from project to project, but agencies tend to take a very hands-on, manual approach to recruiting research participants, and they charge accordingly.
Depending on your research needs, the level of service agencies offer (and the resulting price) may be excessive. You may even end up paying for services you don’t need.
For example, with agencies, you often pay to recruit participants who never take part in your research. That’s because agencies may recruit some participants who are the wrong fit for your study. They’ll also recruit back-up participants for those who drop out or don’t work out. Most of these participants will never take part in your research, but you could be charged for them anyway, depending on the agency’s recruitment and billing model.
If you have urgent research needs, you’ll also want to consider the amount of time it takes to work with an agency. Finding the right agency is time consuming, and so is onboarding. If your goal is to find research participants as soon as possible, an agency likely isn’t the best choice. And remember, working with an agency requires a lot of calls, emails, and meetings, so it’s still going to have some impact on your researchers’ overall bandwidth.
Another factor to consider before working with an agency is that you’re not in control of the screening process. The agency is going to take the criteria that you provide at the onboarding meeting and find participants for you. You won’t have much say in which participants get chosen. Unfortunately, that means there’s a higher likelihood of research participant mismatches. The participants they select may only match 70 or 80% of your qualifiers, which could be fine for some research (such as usability testing) but not fine for other research (such as gauging receptivity to a new product).
All that said, a lot of agencies are good at what they do. And there are certainly times when hiring a participant recruitment agency is necessary for your study. If you're doing research outside of the U.S. or Canada, for example, hiring an agency may be your best option. You can hire an agency in the country you’re doing research in, because they’ll speak the language and understand the nuances of the market better.
If you’re doing research in highly niched markets, you may also want to hire a specialized agency to find participants. Finding research participants in narrow or highly specialized niches can require the type of manual, time-consuming legwork that agencies excel at.
Lastly, if you prefer a very hands-on, team approach to an autonomous one, agencies are likely a good fit for you. Working with agencies involves a lot of meetings, emails, phone calls, and collaboration. Depending on your work style, you may prefer that. Although, many of the researchers we’ve spoken to prefer a higher level of autonomy, as long as they have the ability to seek help when they need it through one of our dedicated project coordinators.
Could User Interviews Be a Good Fit for You?
User Interviews is a research recruitment platform that allows you to streamline your research recruiting. We have a large, existing pool of participants — over 300,000 as of the time of this publication — that you can search and pull from, as well as scheduling, messaging, and payment features.
As we mentioned above, there are a few occasions when using a user research recruitment platform may not work (conducting an international study, for example).
But in most cases, User Interviews is the best alternative for a variety of reasons. (Yes, we’re biased.)
First, it’s more affordable than hiring an in-house recruiter or agency. We offer two payment models:
- For teams with occasional recruiting needs, we offer Pay As You Go Pricing, which costs $30 per completed test/interview for participants who are consumers and $70 per completed test/interview for participants who are professionals.
- For teams with ongoing recruiting needs, we offer Research Hub Unlimited, which offers monthly plans starting at $300.
User Interviews also offers faster results than other options. We already have over 300,000 professionals and consumers to pull from, so you can find user research participants quickly. In fact, it only takes a median time of two hours to match you with your first study participant.
We go to great lengths to make sure the participants you find are high quality as well. You can use screeners to target participants by profession, geography, and demographics. But more importantly, you can go beyond simple demographic data and use screeners to target participants by behavior. You also have the option to verify participants' Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for extra quality control.
Once you’re matched with participants, you get to decide whether to accept or reject their applications. If you reject them, you won’t be charged for the match. Our algorithm (built on previous participant reviews, no-shows, activity, and other signals) reduces the amount of professional testers and no-shows as well. Our no-show rates are lower than 10%, and our fill rates range between 80 and over 100%.
Beyond simply recruiting participants, User Interviews also streamlines other aspects of the recruitment process. It syncs calendars and allows you to schedule participants with ease. It processes incentive payments and issues 1099s. It allows you to set up customized reminder messages. And it acts as a CRM for managing participant data and keeping track of relationships.
Before hiring an in-house UX research coordinator or UX research participant recruiter, take a closer look at all of your participant recruitment options to ensure you choose the right approach for your budget, time constraints, and research needs. There are quicker, more affordable ways to accomplish many of the same recruitment tasks, including using our research recruitment platform, User Interviews.
Ready to give User Interviews a try? Find your first three participants for free.