Molly Turner-Lammers

Vice President,
Fieldwork Seattle

As a company that has specialized in recruiting for over 35 years, Fieldwork has implemented dramatic changes in recruiting methods. As in most industries, technology has made a big difference in our operations, giving us new ways to reach the ever-more-specific targets our clients need as respondents. However, qualitative research is still about quality and nothing can replace some trusted quality-control methods in making sure clients get engaged, articulate respondents who really are who they say they are. We would like to give you some insight into what we do and what we have learned over the years, how we are changing and what that means to you. The more you know about what’s actually happening in the recruiting room, the more you can rest easy that you are going to get the quality insights you need. 

The permissioned database is still the most important element to good recruiting but only if it’s healthy.

Many of our recruits require us to go beyond our database but it’s an essential starting point. Opt-in databases today are not just a random collection of names, contact information and basic demographics. They are sophisticated pieces of software that allow us to track an array of specific information from medical profiles to buying preferences to political attitudes. A healthy database is not just large and information-rich, however. A truly healthy database is updated and cleaned constantly.

Pro tip: Don’t just ask, “How many MS patients are in your database?” Ask, “How many MS patients have valid contact information and how many can you recruit in your experience?” 

The future: Fieldwork is constantly making major improvements to our database technology to keep up with security and to streamline administration so our recruiters can focus on the personal side of recruiting that ensures high quality and show-rates. 

The most important factor in medical recruiting is experience.

Medical specialists don’t respond to Facebook posts. In fact, medical specialists are hard to get in front of, period. Successful medical recruiting requires persistence plus a willingness to try everything from scouring LinkedIn to hand-delivering information. An effective recruiter needs to build trust. That means a deep understanding of each specialty as well as the medical community as a whole. It means knowing great referral resources and the best time to set interviews per specialty. In a nutshell, it’s about experience. A recruiting team that has been doing medical research for a long time is essential. Central-location recruiting teams, like Fieldwork’s NRC in Chicago, can help find those low-incidence specialists and patients that may not be feasible to recruit all in one market.  

Pro tip: Experienced medical recruiters should have a very good idea of recruiting feasibility in their market. If they don’t have any sense of whether it’s possible or if they tell you they absolutely can do it even though they haven’t done it before, get another opinion.

Pro tip: Web-based groups and interviews can help you reach those low-incidence targets without having to fly all over the country. Your recruiter should be able to offer those options. 

The future: Medical recruiting may require the “shotgun” method for some time to come but medical communities are like small towns, word gets around. Fieldwork has increasingly become a recognizable name in medical communities across the country through multiple channels of outreach.  

Pre-screening (online forms sent to respondents) is an awesome way to improve efficiency, with limits.

Customized e-mail campaigns and pre-screening were game-changers for us. Suddenly we had a way to semi-automatically weed out those who were drastically non-qualified. We amplified our reach while keeping the same quality recruiting processes in place, like screening and re-screening via phone for quality assurance. Additionally, respondents can answer at their leisure, allowing us to be less invasive. Initially, response rate was very high but soon it started to slow down. We learned that sending pre-screen links too often or sending forms that were too long was frustrating. So we made some adjustments and put in some protocols. Now we encourage respondents to call us if they would prefer to be screened exclusively over the phone and we keep the pre-screen short. This means that not all screeners are good candidates for pre-screening. Screeners where there are one or two big qualifiers are best. Those that require multiple series of questions to determine qualifications or that have complicated skip patterns don’t work best with these protocols. 

Pro tip: If you need to reach a lot of people, keep your screener short and simple. 

The future: Pre-screening will likely continue to be an important tool for recruiting but how we get the pre-screen out is evolving. With the rise in popularity of non-e-mail types of communications, especially among young people, Fieldwork is doing more to track how different audiences prefer to get information and utilizing other ways of reaching out, such as texting, social media and instant messaging. 

Social media is messy and complicated – and totally worth it. 

Each platform is different, with ever-changing rules and advertising options. Using social media requires vigilance to spot liars and friends getting into the same study. And while it has drawn an ever-bigger section of the population, it still doesn’t reach some demographics. But nothing has the potential to create buzz for your study (and for the market research industry as a whole) as social media. At Fieldwork, we have made tremendous strides implementing social media tools and we will continue to test ways of using social media for recruiting. We have learned that certain words and phrases get shared more. We have learned that a picture can double responses. We have learned what types of studies are not suited to social media. (Hint: it’s not necessarily what you would guess.) 

Pro tip: Trust your recruiter to come up with a catchy social media headline that will get attention and engagement without compromising your research goals. 

The future: Difficult to predict, but Fieldwork is working with social media specialists to stay on top of this ever-changing opportunity. 

Outreach methods need constant reevaluation, often on a per-project basis.

While we are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest electronic outreach methods (ex. topic-specific blogs), we have seen our share of electronic methods that have faded or turned unreliable (ex. Craigslist). We have also circled back to some very traditional methods with surprising results (ex. posting flyers). Bottom line is, your recruiter needs to be able to think outside the box and find the right recruiting methods for your project. 

Other things that we have learned over the years that you should know: 

  • There’s no substitute for recruiting via phone. Technology efficiencies will not weed out the inarticulate, irritated and lucky guessers. Make sure your recruiter isn’t cutting corners on quality. 
  • The money matters. Respondents who feel they are being fairly compensated don’t get grumpy about multiple calls, long screeners or not qualifying multiple times. When they qualify, they come in engaged and excited. Trust your recruiter when they approach you with a suggestion on a fair incentive. 
  • Repeat respondents can be good. People who have experience as a respondent tend to be more reliable. They also understand that the process is not one of seeking positive points of view but rather honest opinions based on real-world experiences. Often, they become ambassadors for the industry. In today’s hyper-connected, review-everything world, that’s important for us all. 
  • The recruiting process can provide research insights. Occasionally we learn something unexpected during the recruiting process. It may even be different than what was found in another market. Researchers who are open to learning from that and retooling the recruit accordingly ultimately get better insights. 

It’s our aim to make the recruiting process as transparent as possible so you can feel good about trusting Fieldwork as your recruiting partner. We welcome your questions or comments. Reach out to me at mollyl@fieldwork.com or our VP of Corporate Services Aryn O’Donnell at aryno@fieldwork.com.