How to find the one

All you need to know to recruit the right participants for your customer research

Sarah Park
Sep 25, 2015 · 4 min read

As a User Research Coordinator at Salesforce, I recruit people to participate in research programs. The research team regularly gathers feedback from our customers and non-customers to learn about users’ experience with our product. As a recruiter, the challenge is to find the requested number of participants with the desired background, title, expertise, and availability.

Each project starts with collaborating with the researchers to establish the recruiting criteria. Finding the appropriate participants will help produce the most applicable unbiased results. If done right, the participants should represent the target audience and uncover usability issues that the Salesforce users may encounter in real life. Some of these issues are new and some are expected difficulties that are confirmed during research.

Having gone through my fair share of trial and error, I’d like to share some guidance about what you should consider when looking for the perfect candidates for your research.

First, learn the language and the product.

Having at least the basic knowledge of the product you are recruiting for is a must. Although you are given a list of recruiting criteria, the responses you collect from the applicants won’t always fit like a puzzle. For example, a researcher will often add some open-ended questions within the screener to determine the authenticity and articulateness of participants. You will need to interpret the answers and determine their relevance to your research. The more you understand the industry, product, and the language/acronyms spoken by the users, the better judgment you can make.

Use a variety of resources.

Even with a large database to recruit from, I often need to use external sources. Apart from the recruiting criteria, when you also consider the limits on frequency of participation, attendance records, and the participants’ availability, your options may decrease quickly. At Salesforce, I have a great resource, Success Community, which is a virtual social network where an organization can create its own communities within for different purposes to stay connected with its employees and customers. Communities of different interests allows me to reach out to users of specific products. Some other companies may also have internal social networks that could provide referrals for participants.

Research where your users gather virtually to discuss their experiences. You will not only learn more about the product, but will also have a great reference to ask for referrals.

Expect a tough crowd.

You sent out the screener survey and have utilized all your resources to spread the word about your research. Don’t expect to win the popularity contest. When working with a very specific profile, you might need to cast a broad net reaching out to hundreds of people then comb through the responses to find your ideal participants.

Keep the momentum going.

Circumstances matter greatly in recruiting as people juggle multiple priorities in limited time. In particular, the availability of people in Sales, Marketing, or Service roles changes constantly based on their work. Keep the communication flowing. Get that appointment confirmed on their calendar while you are still on their priority list. Expect last-minute cancellations, no-shows, shuffling, or confusion.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

As a recruiter, your ultimate goal is to grow your database of participants for future recruits. Within brief conversations, try to build a relationship with each participant. Provide white glove service to each of the participants. Most of all, be sure to express that their time and participation is truly appreciated.

In summary

Great recruiting is an essential part of user research. A solid research report can help teams feel confident about their designs and also help to resolve internal disagreements.

Recruiting participants may seem repetitive. But because every research calls for its unique recruiting criteria, it’s a new challenge every time. The most rewarding moment for me is when the participant contacts me after the session to tell me how much they enjoyed it and expresses a desire to participate again in the future. It always puts a smile on my face when the user is as excited about what I do as I am.

“I had a great experience yesterday and can’t wait to see the newest features of Salesforce in upcoming releases. Please keep me in mind for future studies, as I enjoy being a part of what’s next when it comes to Salesforce!”

Want to give your feedback?
Sign up to participate in our research in the future
Read more about Salesforce Customer Research program.

Special thanks to Noel Lamb, Miriam Melo, and Jenny Williams

Follow us at @SalesforceUX.
Want to work with us? Contact
Check out the
Salesforce Lightning Design System

Salesforce Experience and Design

A collection of stories, case studies, and ideas from Salesforce design teams

Thanks to Jina Anne and Ian Schoen

Sarah Park

Written by

Salesforce Experience and Design

A collection of stories, case studies, and ideas from Salesforce design teams

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade