Recruiting respondents: step by step guide, tips and template

Whether you're recruiting respondents for the first time or have started and found out it's trickier than expected, in this article our UX researchers share practical tips, templates and a roadmap to make recruiting respondents easier. That way you can confidently approach respondents for your interview or user test. 


Five pain points in recruiting respondents
The quality of UX research hinges on the respondents you recruit. Unfortunately, recruiting good respondents is not easy. Although you can conduct UX research from respondents who are already customers or users, it is often the respondents who are not customers but do fall within the target group who come up with the most valuable insights.   

And therein lies the problem: How do you recruit respondents who are not yet familiar with your product or service? That is not so easy. Clients that recruit respondents themselves often run into the following issues:

  • Technical issues. Not everyone is comfortable with tools such as Teams, Zoom or Google Meet. Many respondents run into technical issues when participating in a session. Therefore, consider using a tool. 
  • Support questions. Many respondents find it exciting to participate in a survey and like to know in advance where they stand. Therefore, expect questions related to admissions, compensation and the process.
  • No-shows. Unfortunately, participating in a survey is still too often perceived as optional. Paying proper compensation and regular follow-up can significantly reduce the number of no-shows.
  • Poor quality. Nothing is more painful than conducting a user test or interview with someone you have to pull everything out of.
  • Respondent compensation. Both determining respondent compensation and paying it out can involve a lot of administrative work.


Recruiting respondents for qualitative and quantitative UX research
To conduct UX research, you can use both qualitative and quantitative research methods. You can read more about this in our overarching article on UX research.

Recruitment in quantitative research
Characteristics for quantitative research is that the respondent numbers are often higher and one of the goals is to continue recruiting respondents until the results are statistically significant. For recruiting, this has a number of implications:

  • Random selection. Using a specific sampling method, random selection is made within a predetermined target segment.
  • Number of respondents. Numbers of 100 respondents or more are not unusual vaij conducting quantitative research.
  • Tool. There are several tools on the market that simplify quantitative research. Examples include Surveymonkey or Usabilla (UX).

Recruitment in qualitative research
Unlike quantitative research, the goal of qualitative research is to continue recruiting respondents to the point where you collect no or limited new information. Again, this has several implications:  

  • Nonrandom selection. Unlike quantitative research, respondents in qualitative research are not randomly selected. Using a recruitment screener, the researcher determines which respondents fit the profile and then invites them in. Learn more about creating a respondent profile here.
  • Number of respondents. Although the number of respondents needed depends on the methodology, numbers between 5 and 30 respondents are most common. In the case of user testing, five respondents per use case is the guideline.
  • Tool. There are several tools in the market that simplify recruiting respondents for UX research. In Europe, we think - but we are a tad biased - that User Sense is the best option. Recruiting outside of Europe? Then consider User Interviews

Recruiting respondents who may or may not be customers
When companies want to conduct UX research, the first thought is often to recruit respondents from within one's own network. This means inviting friends, family or existing customers to participate. However, sometimes you achieve better research results by inviting respondents who are not yet familiar with the brand.  

When it makes sense to conduct research with your own customers
There are a number of situations in which it makes sense to recruit respondents who are already familiar with your brand or the product you want to test. For example, consider the following situations:

  • When experience with the product you are going to conduct research for is a requirement
  • When you want to investigate how existing features are used by the target audience
  • When you are conducting research for a product that is in very limited use (for example, a custom product developed for one company)

The biggest advantage of conducting research among respondents from your own network is that recruiting respondents will be relatively easy. For example, you can approach your own customers and ask them to participate, possibly in exchange for a gift card.

However, the most common stumbling block is that there is a good chance that you will have to deal with no-shows. Step X of the roadmap tells you how to reduce the chances of no-shows.

When it makes sense to survey with external respondents
Unfortunately, you often cannot avoid recruiting respondents for thorough UX research who are not yet familiar with the product or brand. In the following situations, recruiting respondents or non-users externally is recommended:


  • When you are developing a completely new product
  • When you want to know how people experience the product if they are not yet familiar with it
  • When you want to address new target groups
  • When you want to find out how competitor customers experience your product

The biggest advantage of conducting UX research with non-users is that they go in with an open mind and you gain insight into how first-time users experience the product. As a result, you get more raw and unsubtle feedback. And although it is sometimes confrontational to hear, you can often do the most with that.

Combining is also possible
Conducting research among customers and non-customers does not have to be mutually exclusive. In practice, we often see clients choosing to combine the two.

The cost of recruiting respondents
The cost of recruiting respondents hinges on whether you choose to recruit the respondents yourself or use a respondent agency or platform that provides it.

The cost of recruiting respondents can be broken down into three components:

  • The respondent's fee. To avoid no-shows, paying out a fee is highly recommended. Here you can opt for a gift certificate or the transfer of an amount. Keep in mind that when paying out amounts above €20,- you are required to register the BSN number of the respondent and pass this on to the tax office.
  • Travel reimbursement. Do you conduct research on location? Then it is a good idea to reimburse respondents for travel expenses. Think of an amount per kilometer or a fixed amount per respondent.
  • Recruitment fee. If you outsource the recruiting of respondents it is good to take into account that there is a recruitment fee.
  • The cost per respondent when you recruit them yourself is normally between €15 and €70 per respondent. When you outsource the recruiting of respondents to User Sense, for example, the price ranges from €59 to €90 per respondent. Want to know what it will cost you? Use our calculation tool or receive a customized proposal.

The 7 step plan to recruit respondents
Are you going to start recruiting respondents yourself? With the step-by-step plan below, we save you from the most common mistakes.

1 - Draw up the research objective and choose the methodology
The recruitment stands or falls with the UX research methodology you have chosen to answer main and sub-questions of the study. In the case of qualitative UX research, there are roughly three options:

In-depth interviews. Interviews are often used early on to validate the need or concept.
Moderated user tests. In these 1-on-1 sessions, prototypes can be tested, as well as websites and apps that are already live.
Unmoderated user tests. For testing websites and apps that are already live.
Whereas in-depth interviews and moderated user tests require recruiting respondents who are available at the desired survey times, respondents in unmoderated user tests make the test independently. Learn more about user testing here.

2 - Determine the respondent profile
Have you previously conducted persona research and have a good idea of who the buyer personas are? Then use the buyer personas as a guide for setting up the respondent profiles.

No buyer personas drafted yet? Don't panic. Then use a selection of the criteria groups below to create the respondent profile.

Demographic characteristics (e.g. age, gender and marital status)
Geographic characteristics (e.g., region and place of residence)
Socioeconomic characteristics (e.g., education level, income, occupation)
Psychographic characteristics (e.g., interests, lifestyle and personality)
Behavioral criteria (e.g., experienced Internet user, regularly shops online, et cetera)
Pro tip: Use behavioral criteria to separate the wheat from the chaff in the applications that come in. These often provide more insight than demographic characteristics.

Also determine who should not participate

To ensure that you obtain honest and unsubtle feedback, do well to exclude certain groups from participating. For example:

Anyone who has been involved in the development of the product
Employees of the company itself
Friends or family of employees 
The expert group (UX researchers, designers, CRO specialists and online marketers)
Template for respondent profiles
Are you going to create respondent profiles for the first time? Then use our free fillable template to do so. 

3 - Set up recruitment screener
To determine if respondents fall within the desired respondent profile, ask interested parties to complete a questionnaire. This is also known as the recruitment screener or screener survey.

The purpose of the recruitment screener is to determine who does and does not fit the profile so that you can make a good and spread out selection of respondents. Tips for preparing a recruitment screener:

Time indication. Give interested parties an idea of how long it will take to complete the screener.
Data. Specify why you need this data, how you will handle it and how long it will be kept.
Avoid guiding questions. Try to avoid questions from which the correct answer can be inferred. For example, do not ask, "Do you ever shop at Albert Heijn?" but rather, "At which supermarket do you shop?".
Motivation. Ask about why interested people want to participate in the survey and try to exclude as much as possible the group who want to participate only because of extrinsic reasons.

4 - Align practical details and compensation.
After you have determined the criteria for respondents, it is important to further fine-tune the practical details. This means taking the following into account:

  • Determine the research dates. When determining the survey dates, allow for a 2-3 week lead time for respondent recruitment. Have you determined the dates? Then make sure they are not changed in the interim to avoid having to start a new recruitment campaign. 
  • Determine the session length. Make an estimate of how much time you will need per respondent. Do you find this difficult? Then do a test run with a colleague so you get an indication of how long the session will take in practice. 
  • Plan the time slots. Provide at least 10 minutes of slack between sessions, so you can catch your breath and run out in case of a technical issue.


Paying a fee to the respondent reduces the likelihood of no-shows and creates additional sign-ups. In general, the following rules apply:

  • Respondents with higher incomes require a higher fee
  • Respondents who have to come to location expect a higher fee than when the survey is conducted online
  • Respondents expect a higher fee for longer sessions

5 - Approaching Respondents
Now that you've made the preparations, it's time to actually approach respondents for your interview or user test. There are numerous ways to ensure that as many people as possible fill out the recruitment screener and you can recruit as many respondents as possible. Below we have listed the most common ways.

Recruit respondents yourself
Do you have a tight budget or enough time to recruit respondents yourself? Then you can consider starting a recruitment campaign yourself. You have several possibilities:

Send out a mailing. Do you regularly send out a newsletter? Then you can add a call to persuade people to sign up as respondents. For optimal results it is advisable to clearly communicate the compensation and research data.
Pop-ups on the website. Use a tool such as Hotjar to show pop-ups on the website and ask visitors if they want to participate in the survey.  
Social media. Whereas the above two methods are best suited to recruit customers, you can use social media to recruit respondents who are not yet customers. Consider Facebook, Instragram, TikTok or LinkedIn for B2B target audiences.

Outsource respondent recruitment
Outsourcing the recruitment for your survey can save you a lot of headaches. Therefore, consider using a traditional respondent agency or a party like ... User Sense!

 6 - Timely scheduling and follow-up
It is important to follow up in a timely manner with respondents who have signed up for the survey. This way you avoid respondents losing interest, getting frustrated or scheduling something else in the meantime. We recommend using the following communication schedule:

Response within 48 hours. Let respondents know within 48 hours whether they can participate and send a confirmation e-mail. You can also send any instructions right away. Pro tip: enclosing a calendar invitation reduces the chance of no-shows.
Personal contact before the start. Email or call the respondent a week before the survey starts to answer any questions and re-confirm their availability. Respondents often find it exciting to participate in research. Personal contact before commencement often makes them feel more at ease.
Reminder emails. Email instructions for the survey again 48 hours prior to start and re-confirm the day and time they can participate. Also consider sending the reminder again several hours before the start.

7 - Thank respondents for their participation
Respondents often like to know what happens to their feedback and whether the contribution they made was useful. So be sure to let them know this afterwards, so they walk out the (digital) door with a good feeling.   

Also make sure that, if possible, you transfer the respondent's payment the same day. That way you avoid a lot of questions and ensure even more happy respondents. Do you conduct research for a webshop? Then you can send respondents a gift certificate as an extra reward.

Want to create personas?

Let User Sense help you in doing so or use our database to recruit testers.

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