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UX Research Recruiting Tips from 19 UX Experts [+ Checklist]

UX Research Recruiting Tips from 19 UX Experts [+ Checklist]
UXtweak Team
•  12.04.2024
Discover a list of expert UX recruiting tips to make recruiting easier, more effective and avoid falling into a trap of some of the most common recruiting mistakes.

Recruiting the right participant is arguably the hardest part of UX research. And, as research shows, most UX professionals have do deal with it on a monthly basis, some even weekly. 

We decided to collect some actionable tips and strategies for overcoming some of the biggest recruiting struggles, with a goal to share expertise and make recruiting participants easier and more efficient.

For that, we’ve reached out to selected UX experts (Stephanie Walter, Debbie Levitt, Cory Lebson, Michele Ronsen, Larry Marine, Nikki Anderson-Stanier, Caitlin D. Sullivan, Aneta Kmiecik, Tina Ličková, Ben Levin, Rianne van de Rijt, Sajani Lokuge and Ki Aguero) and distributed a survey in the UX community to reach a wider audience of UX professionals. 

We’ve asked them to share their go-to recruiting tips and strategies to combat common recruiting struggles.

Below you’ll find a list of research recruiting tips full of expert advice on 9 different areas of research recruiting:

  1. Screening 
  2. Targeting the Right Participants
  3. Recruitment Strategies
  4. Minimizing No-shows and Cancellations
  5. Handling Challenging Interviews
  6. Fraud Prevention and Dealing with the Scammers
  7. Optimizing Study Conditions & Processes
  8. Effective Communication and Relationship Building
  9. Compensation & Incentives

Grab your 8-step recruiting checklist ✅ at the end of this article!

💡UXtweak's Note

The tips you’re about to read were collected as a part of Research Recruities 🏆, a project aimed to highlight and collect data about arguably the hardest part of research – recruiting participants. 

We were seeking recruiting stories, funny, relatable, strange, and full of struggle to share them with the UX community. Apart from that we ran a survey, aiming to gather some statistics about research recruiting, the way UX professionals approach it, and the biggest recruiting mistakes.

➡️ Read Best Research Recruiting Stories 

➡️ Check out the Research Recruities Survey Results

This article brings together the best qualitative insight we’ve collected during Research Recruities 🏆 and is meant to give you practical tips for dealing with the most common recruiting struggles. 

ux research recruiting tips

1. Screening 

According to our survey, improper screening of participants is the most common mistake in research recruiting. Failure to conduct effective screening can lead to recruiting a sample that is not representative of your target user group and, overall, ending up with irrelevant results and wasted resources. 

If the participants are simply not the right people to give you feedback because they are not who will actually use your service or product, it doesn’t really matter how perfect your research is.

When your research success is at stake, it’s important to take your time and craft a thorough screening process, that will help to guard the integrity of your research. 

A good screener is: 

  • Designed to avoid obvious answers, preventing dishonest responses
  • Specific and crafted with attention to details that you’ll need the participants to provide
  • Includes diverse response options
  • Sensitive to the emotional impact of questions, especially on sensitive topics
  • Verifies participant honesty with follow-up questions and checks
  • And most importantly: Doesn’t give the smallest hint of what kind of participants you’re looking for.

Taking care of all that seems like a lot of work. However, with the right screening strategy, it can be possible. Let’s take a look at the expert screening tips we’ve collected and learn from them how to put together a good screener.

How to prepare for effective screening?

First things first, just like the research study itself, screeners should be tested. Andreea Dalia Lazar, Ph.D., emphasizes the importance of testing the screener and manually reviewing the participants until you’re confident with the effectiveness of your screening process. 

If possible, test before launching to a wider audience, peer-review and opt for manual reviewing of the participants before getting the confidence that the screening process works as it should.

Andreea Dalia Lazar, Senior UX Researcher
Andreea Dalia Lazar, Senior UX Researcher

Nikki Anderson, Founder @ User Research Academy, elaborates on this idea, stressing the necessity of a detailed screener. She explains, that sometimes in order to achieve that you may need to make the screener a bit longer.

Think through every piece of information you need from the participant and craft that into a screener question - it might mean the screener is a bit longer (try not to go more than seven questions) but it will enable you to get the right people for your study!

Nikki Anderson, Founder @ User Research Academy
Nikki Anderson, Founder @ User Research Academy

Sensitive screening practices

Screening isn’t just about logistical details, it’s also about handling sensitive topics with care

Stéphanie Walter, UX Researcher and Inclusive Product Designer in Enterprise UX, recommends approaching those with a good amount of preparation and empathy, acknowledging that some topics may be triggering and it’s important to know how to work with those when crafting your screeners.

Most of the time, screener questions are trivial, to be honest. But, in certain case, depending on the study, they can bring sadness, bring back some bad memories or become triggering for participants or potential participants.

I learned that it’s important to acknowledge that, with the team, when working on sensitive topics. To get a little bit more prepared, to what might happen. You will never write a screener you can 100% follow. But, we can try to bring more empathy in there.

Stéphanie Walter, UX Researcher and Inclusive Product Designer in Enterprise UX
Stéphanie Walter, UX Researcher and Inclusive Product Designer in Enterprise UX

Screening for honesty

Ensuring participant honesty is a critical aspect of the screening process. The goal of a good screener is to filter out fake participants and ensure that no one is there to skew your study results. 

There is a number of strategies you can use to check the honesty of your respondents. Here are a couple of tips from Parker Sorensen, Associate Director of Conversion Optimization, on crafting screening questions that avoid leading participants to ‘correct’ answers.

When writing screener questions, write them in a way that the participant cannot guess what would get them into the test. Reason: sometimes participants lie to get into the test and get the incentive, so we want to avoid this.

Example, don't ask 'are you planning to buy a car in the next year?'. Participants can guess that you are most likely filtering out people not interested in buying a car in the next year. I have had tests where I can tell people faked their way through a screener just to get into the test, and it muddies the test results.

Instead, ask something like 'What of the following are you planning to do in the next year?' with around 10 possible choices, such as buy a house, buy a car, start school, go on a vacation, start a business, and include a none of the above option. Make none of the above filter the person out, and make all options except the one you care about (buy a car) optional, and the buy a car option required.

This way, there is no way to guess what you are asking for, so participants have to be genuine.

Parker Sorensen, Associate Director of Conversion Optimization / UX Research
Parker Sorensen, Associate Director of Conversion Optimization / UX Research

By offering a range of options without obvious cues, you ensure that participants’ responses reflect their true circumstances or intentions. 

Another Respondent 75 recommends adding a layer of verification, suggesting including decoy options in the screener. By incorporating fake brands or answer options, you can immediately identify dishonest participants. 

Add fake brands, company names, and stores to a list of recently shopped at, when screening for specific shopping behaviors. Or add fake names of tools or services when asking if users have the experience you need. If they select this, you know they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about ALREADY. That’s an easy one.

Another is to call the participant after the initial screener and ask 2-3 questions to verify their most critical responses and ensure they weren’t misrepresenting themselves.

Respondent 75, UX Researcher, 2-5 years of experience
Respondent 75, UX Researcher, 2-5 years of experience

Screening for attention

Screening for attention is a great way to ensure that participants are genuinely engaged and provide reliable data, helping to prevent fraudulent participants from skewing the results. 

It usually involves crafting a simple question but in a way that someone who is rushing through the screeners may not be able to answer correctly.

Here’s a good example of one:


2. Targeting the right participants

Mastering the art of targeting is crucial to obtaining valid research results. However, according to our research, false targeting is also the most detrimental mistake when it comes to research recruiting. 

This section delves into expert recommendations on how to hone in on the ideal participants, emphasizing the importance of context, task relevance, and experiential diversity in participant selection.

Understanding Participant Contexts

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience, emphasizes the power of teamwork in getting your participant criteria just right. It’s like putting together a puzzle with your customers or team members to figure out who you really need to talk to. This way, you’re all set up to tackle any bumps in the road when looking for the right people.

Collaborate with customers to refine the participant criteria and set clear expectations regarding the timeline and potential challenges in identifying participants.

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience
Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience

Ben Levin, UX Research and Design Strategist, emphasizes the value of grasping the broader context of your participants’ lives. It’s about getting a holistic view of their environment, which can reveal deeper insights into their interactions with the product. This kind of broader perspective can significantly inform your research direction and outcomes.

Know your surrounds. At the time I was not well versed in the economic backdrop of the neighborhoods surrounding our office space, but they were at the time quite economically underserved.

And particularly doing research in Financial Services, it’s easy to have a blind spot about that. Know your audience and understand their environment; that’s not just helpful for product design, it applies to the research process too.

Ben Levin, UX Research and Design Strategist
Ben Levin, UX Research and Design Strategist

Focusing on task and experience levels

Larry Marine, veteran UX researcher and author, recommends thinking about what people are doing with your product or what they know, not just who they are. 

He suggests that fresh insights often come from unexpected sources, like those unfamiliar or even unsatisfied with your product. Finding these unique voices might require extra effort but can offer invaluable perspectives.

Avoid the demographics and focus on the user tasks and the knowledge and experience levels for those tasks. Avoid recruiting existing customers (unless they are your target market) because they have already drunk the Kool Aid and are too familiar with your current product.

The best users are people who have never seen your product and people who have seen it, but didn’t like it. Unfortunately, those are also the hardest to find or recruit.

Larry Marine, veteran UX researcher and author
Larry Marine, veteran UX researcher and author

3. Recruitment strategies

One of the biggest challenges out there, especially when it comes to B2B recruitment, is to find the right participants and recruit enough people. Based on the qualitative data we’ve collected, researchers seem to be often struggling to recruit niche audiences for their studies, especially when dealing with tight deadlines. 

This often leads to them having to settle for a smaller sample, looking for similar audiences, or using convenience sampling as their saving grace, which is not always representative.

Here’s a list of tips we’ve collected from UX experts to help overcome this issue and prevent under-recruiting from happening:

Using various recruitment methods

The most common and effective advice here is to start diversifying your recruitment channels. In addition to that, Aneta Kmiecik, Senior UX Designer, suggests integrating screener surveys within apps and leveraging interactions with customer success teams.

In B2B it’s common to have challenges with recruitment and not get statistically significant results. Try different methods to recruit users - from talking with the customer success team, sending e-mails, to publishing a screener survey inside the app to searching for participants in your closest network.

It’s important to use various methods for recruiting users. I often find it effective to recruit users in the context, e.g. in the app, when they are done with the tasks that are related to my research goal.

To add to this, I’d say that using your stakeholders can also be helpful, especially when we deal with enterprise clients. And if you’re really struggling with recruiting your user group, try to use proxy - find similar people.

Better this than nothing! Last but not least, plan long term and try to build systems if your organization is new to user research. This will pay off 🙂And enjoy the process!

Aneta Kmiecik, Senior UX Designer
Aneta Kmiecik, Senior UX Designer

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience, also recommends tapping into local communities, tailored to your target demographic to broaden your reach:

Connect with local communities, forums, and social media groups specific to the target audience and provide referral bonuses.

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience
Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience

Building your own pool of participants

Another great tip, from a Product Discovery expert, Caitlin Sullivan, is to build your own pool of potential participants by leveraging referrals:  

Ask every participant you find who is a really good fit if they know someone who might be up for joining your research. It can make recruiting the right kind of people much faster!

Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert
Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert

This can be a great strategy to accelerate your recruitment process and lead to high-quality candidates who may otherwise be hard to reach.

Documenting recruitment experiences

Last but definitely not least, a strategic advice from a UX research leader Ki Aguero, to document your recruitment journey:

If you’re experimenting with a new method of recruitment, document your steps! One of my team members has tried three or four avenues of recruiting users, with various success. Participant quality has varied, and she’s learning that what works for one project doesn’t mean it’ll work for all of them.

By documenting the steps and outcomes of different recruitment routes, another team member is able to understand the tradeoffs of different techniques and follow in your footsteps with minimal hand-holding. Great for a newer, less-established team that needs to be efficient with their time.

Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader
Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader

Documenting what methods were effective or fell short provides great insights for future projects. This can also help in refining your strategies over time and guiding other team members. 

ux research recruiting tips

4. Minimizing no-shows and cancellations

No-shows and cancelations are another problem that significantly disrupts the research process and leads to a bunch of wasted resources, as well as the lack of actionable insights. When out of 5 recruited participants, only 3 show up, the collected data may not be enough to draw accurate conclusions.

However, no-shows are possible to prevent if you plan the study strategically and get yourself a good plan B, in case something like this happens. Here’s what experts suggest:


One strategy you can choose to combat no-shows is ensuring you have a couple of “back-ups”, and recruit 1-2 (for qualitative research) or 10% (for quantitative research) more participants than you need. The reality is, that most often not all the participants will complete the study or even show up. This type of proactive planning will help you maintain a desired sample size. 

The recruiting stories we’ve collected are also a great example that studies don’t always go as planned and in some cases, you’ll even need to exclude certain participants from the analysis. Everything can happen, so it’s always great to have a backup.

Who you recruit is a make or break element, but many studies will have 1 or 2 people who are not great. Sometimes they have to be thrown out of the data. It’s best to recruit a few more than you need to account for no shows, cancellations, and people who don’t end up in the final set of data.

Debbie Levitt, MBA, Lead UX Research and CXO
Debbie Levitt, MBA, Lead UX Research and CXO

Sending Reminders and Confirmation to the Participants

Another way to minimize no-shows is to create a series of confirmations for the participants. 

This isn’t merely about sending out reminders; it’s about establishing a consistent and reassuring communication channel that keeps participants engaged and informed, thereby reducing the likelihood of no-shows.

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience, highlights:

When scheduling interviews, include multiple layers of confirmation and reminders, such as emails and text messages, to minimize no-shows.

Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience
Respondent 42, ResearchOps Specialist, 5-10 years of experience

Scheduling with Buffer Time

Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert brings a different perspective to the table, focusing on the logistical aspect of scheduling. By integrating buffer time between sessions, researchers can accommodate unexpected delays or extended discussions, ensuring that the research schedule remains flexible and adaptive to real-world variables.

Don’t try to be too efficient when booking in sessions - it’s better to leave enough time in between user sessions to leave space for unexpectedly long conversations, and for the space to refocus after each one if someone has led you completely off plan!

Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert
Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert

5. Handling challenging interviews

Diving into interviews, especially in UX research, can sometimes feel like navigating a river – you never know when you’ll hit a rapid or a smooth stretch. Research is a people’s business, humans are unpredictable, and sometimes interviews will go completely off script. 

That’s why being prepared for those unpredictable moments can really make a difference in the quality of insights you gather. 

Let’s walk through some expert advice on how to gracefully handle those curveballs during interviews, ensuring you stay on course and keep the conversation insightful and genuine.

Maintaining a Human Touch

Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert, empathizes the importance of staying human and relatable during interviews. It’s not just about following a script; it’s about creating a connection with the participant. 

When the unexpected happens, and you need to pivot, doing so with a touch of empathy and understanding can turn a potentially tricky situation into a moment of genuine insight.

Being more “human”, and feeling less pressured to sound like a “scientist” in moments where a participant throws you off-plan can help.

I’ve many times reminded myself that it’s completely okay to say something like, 'James, I’m so sorry to do this, but I have to switch topics with you to get a few more answers or my client will kill me!', I recommend finding a few ways of guiding someone like that in the worst case scenarios that feel natural for you.

Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert
Caitlin Sullivan, Product Discovery and User Research Expert

Pilot Testing your Studies

Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer, introduces the concept of pilot tests as a crucial step in your interview prep. Think of these as your research rehearsals; they’re your chance to fine-tune your approach, ensuring you’re fully equipped to navigate the actual interviews. 

I always run a couple of Pilot test studies, even with recruiting participants. This way you can catch major issues if there are any early on in your study, without having sent the study to too many participants. This way you are able to make changes to reach a more suitable participant audience.

Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer
Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer

By identifying potential issues early on, you’re not just troubleshooting; you’re enhancing the overall resilience and effectiveness of your research strategy.

6. Optimizing study conditions and processes

Another crucial aspect is setting the stage for your study. It is about more than just preparing questions, but optimizing every aspect of the study environment, process, and instructions to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

This amount of preparation can help to enhance both your and the participant’s comfort and ensure that nothing is left behind. 

Let’s delve into some expert strategies for creating optimal study conditions that can lead to more insightful research outcomes.

Creating the Right Environment

Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer, emphasizes the importance of flexibility and authenticity in setting up your research environment. She highlights the importance of adapting to the realities of your participants’ lives and, where possible, integrating the natural settings they operate in. 

Be flexible with scheduling to accommodate participants' real-world constraints. This could involve conducting interviews during unconventional hours or in unique environments. Whenever possible, aim for research sessions in authentic workspaces. This provides a richer context for understanding user behaviors and challenges.

Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer
Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer

Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer, points out how crucial the specifics of the environment can be, even down to the lighting. 

Fine-tuning these details, will help you ensure that participants are comfortable and can interact with your study material in the most effective way, ultimately enhancing the quality of the collected insights.

Sometimes it can be good to outline the surroundings in which the participant should best complete the study, for example, for our study the tool needed a well lit surrounding. After running a couple of pilot sessions we changed our instructions for participants to check if they were taking the study from a well lit room.

Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer
Rianne van de Rijt, UX Researcher & Designer

Streamlining the Research Process

A UX research leader Ki Aguero also recommends mapping out every stage of the participant’s journey, to ensure nothing is overlooked and the processes are running smoothly, especially in longitudinal tests.

For complex studies like longitudinal tests, I’ve sometimes found it helpful to 'storyboard' all the touchpoints a participant will go through. 'Screeners > NDA > Reminder message > Intro session > Self-guided diary entries' - you get the idea.

This has been helpful for crafting the right set of screeners/intro materials so they start the study off on the right foot, and it’s made it easier to remember all the things I should include in follow-up messages.

Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader
Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader

ux research recruiting tips

7. Fraud prevention and data integrity

Fake participants, scammers, and even bots have been bothering research teams more and more over the years. Those are the people who are training to game the screeners and enter your study, even though most often they are not representative of your target user base. 

Fraudulent participants are only there for incentives and don’t provide any relevant insights, which can significantly skew the results of your study. With the rise of AI, this issue is becoming even more critical. 

It’s important to be aware of such people and build a fortress of screening strategies to keep the imposters away. Luckily, over the years, seasoned UX experts have come up with a bunch of those. 

Let’s delve into the world of fraud prevention and see what they recommend!

Using Fraud Prevention Strategies

Here’s the work-in-progress list of fraud prevention and detection wisdom from Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach: 

1️⃣ Tip #1: Do not allow participants to schedule study sessions directly once they’ve qualified through the screener.

Teams of scammers will sometimes re-take screeners until they’ve 'passed,' then use those answers to qualify under other additional identities, or share the answers with other scammers. Inviting participants to schedule their sessions takes longer, yet it offers additional benefits.

It enables a secondary screening process, provides a chance to confirm the accuracy of the contact information they've provided, and allows you to cross-reference responses to identify potential duplicates among the screeners.

Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach
Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach

2️⃣ Tip #2: Protect your own PII. 

Create and use a separate email address that does not include your full name and can be deleted after the study. (An example would be ProductResearch@companyname.com or Maryann@companyname.com) This can protect your identity and limit future questions or harassment.

Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach
Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach

3️⃣ Tip #3 Begin your session with what seems like small talk but verifies location. 

“(The local weather, sports teams, pop culture, etc.) Then reconfirm your study’s must-have criteria by asking your core screening questions again. Pay attention to whether they provide the same responses they submitted in their initial screener.”

(The local weather, sports teams, pop culture, etc.) Then reconfirm your study's must-have criteria by asking your core screening questions again. Pay attention to whether they provide the same responses they submitted in their initial screener.

Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach
Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach

Michele also emphasizes a very important thing for us all to understand when it comes to dealing with fake participants.

Screening is always going to be a ‘dance’ between vetting participants just thoroughly enough, asking TOO MUCH and potentially scaring someone away, or negatively impacting your study data.

Understanding that some fraudulent behavior is driven by desperation in poor economies highlights the need for a compassionate yet vigilant approach in research screening processes.

Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach
Michele Ronsen, Author, Researcher, Educator, Founder, UX Coach

Leveraging Tricks for Ensuring Participant Honesty

A UX research leader Ki Aguero, introduces another ingenious tactic to counter dishonesty: the “fear of god” question meant to be reminding participants of the seriousness of their involvement and weeding out those who might be tempted to misrepresent themselves.

If you can’t pre-screen participants to confirm they’re being honest, I sometimes include a 'fear of God' question. It’s a little reminder of the consequences of misrepresenting themselves.

So at the end of all the other screeners, I’ve got something like, 'For this study, we are seeking ... (whatever attributes). If you do not meet these attributes and proceed with the test, you may ... (be expelled from the panel, have the session cancelled, not be paid for participating). Are you sure you meet these criteria?'.

It’s a great way to let anyone who’s being less than truthful out of your test before they get in there and muck up your data by pretending to be something they’re not.

Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader
Ki Aguero, UX Research & Content Strategy Leader

8. Effective communication and relationship-building

Establishing clear and effective communication, as well as a comfortable environment for the participants is one of the crucial aspects when it comes to recruiting people and conducting interviews. 

This section explores expert advice on how to elevate your communication game and build strong, trust-based relationships with your participants.

Engaging with the participants in an authentic and humanly manner

UX researcher Marc Busch reminds us that at the heart of effective communication is authenticity. Participants are more responsive and open when they feel they’re interacting with a real person, not a faceless entity. Understanding that is so helpful for setting up the right environment for your research studies.

Be authentic. It may sound cliché, but participants prefer interacting with real people, not just brands, organizations, or companies. They want to connect with YOU. And if they're not interested, that’s perfectly fine!

Marc Busch, UX Researcher
Marc Busch, UX Researcher

He also highlights the importance of resilience and empathy in recruitment, acknowledging the diverse perspectives and responses you might encounter, and maintaining a positive, open-minded approach:

Participant Recruitment is a people’s business. You need to connect with people from diverse backgrounds, each with their own opinions and worldviews. It's important to recognize that not everyone shares our enthusiasm for UX research, or even fully understands what exactly we do (after all, it's still a complex field to explain).

Be prepared to happily accept numerous 'no, not interested' responses, even when you believe the opportunity would be mutually beneficial!

Marc Busch, UX Researcher
Marc Busch, UX Researcher

Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer, supports this statement and emphasizes the critical role of relationship building in UX research. 

Establishing rapport with participants is crucial. Invest time in building a connection, especially when dealing with niche or hard-to-reach audiences.

Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer
Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer

Personalizing communication

Adding on the sentiment of personalized interaction, one of our respondents advises treating each participant as an individual, not just another data point and reflecting this in your communication. Lucie Audigier, Lead User Researcher, empathizes the importance of such personalization:

Consider every participant as a person I'm sending only personalized communication. To be greatfull.

Lucie Audigier, Lead User Researcher
Lucie Audigier, Lead User Researcher

9. Compensation & Incentives

Providing fair and timely compensation is the ultimate way to motivate participants to complete your study and retain them for future tests. Incentives are crucial for ​​acknowledging the value of participants’ time and contributions, so they should not be overlooked. 

Here’s what experts have to say when it comes to the topic of fair compensation: 

Ensuring Timely Compensation

One of our respondents sheds the light on the critical importance of punctual payment. Timely compensation not only respects the participants’ time and effort but also fosters a positive relationship, encouraging them to engage in future studies and even become ambassadors for your research through referrals. They also recommend establishing a dedicated team of ResearchOps to oversee the entire recruitment and compensation process.

Compensate in time! This is something my company is currently struggling with, but what I've found (from my past company) is that when we pay the participants on time, they are more willing to participate again and even refer their network to us for future studies.

Have a Research Operations team to manage the recruitment (from recruiting, screening, tracking participation, payment) - it is a full time job! Treat them well and appreciate them because recruitment is difficult (it changes with the seasons such as needing to take into account holidays, school schedules if working with academia, etc.).

Be aware of the yearly rhythm to help with recruitment timing (e.g., e.g., if recruiting teachers and students, they are more free in the summer and more available to be interviewed).

Jasmine (Lo) Winata, Research Operations Specialist
Jasmine (Lo) Winata, Research Operations Specialist

Providing Fair and Meaningful Incentives

Another expert, Sajani Lokuge, emphasizes how important it is to offer incentives that resonate with the participants’ interests and needs. When the compensation aligns with what participants value, their engagement and investment in the study deepen, leading to more authentic and insightful contributions.

Offer incentives that align with the participants' needs or interests. It could be something related to their work, making the participation more meaningful for them.

Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer
Sajani Lokuge, senior UX designer

Monetary incentives, including gift cards or vouchers, are considered to be the most effective and popular out there. However it’s important to calculate the right amount of money for each specific type of study. In some cases, offering too much can lead to biased responses, while offering too little can result in participants rushing through the study trying to save their time.

When in doubt, we recommend using tools like User Research Incentives Calculator by User Interviews to help make sure that your incentives are fair. Based on the type of your study, the research method and the study duration, the tool will create a customized suggestion on the amount of monetary compensation you should provide.

✅ Grab your 8-step UX Recruiting Checklist!

We made a handy checklist based on the tips above to help you nail your next recruiting! It is designed to be your ultimate companion through every phase of the recruitment process + has a handy screening worksheet inside!

📥 Grab a Google Docs copy   📄 Download in PDF

We prepared the checklist for you also in Google Sheets and Figma. Grab one that fits you the best.

What’s next?

That was it for our list of research recruiting tips. This article was filled with valuable insights from industry experts, and we sincerely hope that these tips will help make your next recruiting effort smoother and more effective.

To make it even easier for you, grab this research recruiting checklist with all the tips you need to check out to ensure a smooth recruiting process. 

➡️ If you haven’t already, dive into the world of recruiting stories in this Research Recruities collection: Hilarious & Strange: UXR Participant Recruiting Stories that You Need to Hear

➡️  Tap into the Research Recruities Survey Results, discover the stats about the most common research recruiting mistakes and tips to overcome them!

And of course, check out UXtweak! 🐝

We offer multiple ways to make the recruiting process easier for you, including a 155M+ User Panel with quality check, an Own Database feature, which is basically a CRM for managing your participants and inviting them into ANY UXtweak study, and an Onsite Recruiting Widget, that helps to seamlessly recruit your website or app visitors for research studies!

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