At People for Research, we have been getting people involved in research for over 25 years, which means we have a good amount of recruitment experience under our belts. An average month means that we speak to over 150 different clients: this can be anything from providing a quote for a client tender opportunity, advising on the best approach to recruitment for a specific method of research, or actually supporting recruitment for one of our many projects.

We thought it would be useful to compile a list of the questions we get asked most frequently for anyone who is embarking on the journey of finding people to participate in research.

Can you recruit for next week?

Typically, we advise against recruiting short notice for a number of reasons: short notice recruitment projects have an increased rate of people dropping out on the day, participants don’t have notice to arrange time off work, our ability to recruit a diverse mix of people is compromised, etc.

Most experienced recruiters who use robust recruitment and screening methods will ask for two weeks’ lead time, and People for Research are the same. Some projects also require a longer lead time: for example, recruiting senior business professionals who are time-poor and slow to respond or people who are not as confident online, which means they are also likely to be slower to respond and put themselves forward.

What is the best incentive?

We have written blogs about this in the past (click here to read one of them). The recommendation I usually provide is to start by working out what the incentive is based on £1 per one minute of time. For example, a 10-minute tree test = £10, or a 45-minute in-depth interview = £45. If the session is over 60 minutes then the per-minute rate can be reduced.

Loop 11 also provide some insight on the subject of incentives in their Medium post about participant recruitment for user testing.

Can we provide vouchers for our service as the incentive?

We follow the Market Research Society (MRS) Code of Conduct on this subject as they provide advice to organisations providing participants for market research. The MRS advise against offering client goods or services as the incentive to distinguish research from direct marketing.

Also, if you are recruiting non-customers, offering a voucher for your services may not be that appealing and this may impact your/our ability to recruit. It also makes it clear who the research is for and this may bias the research outcome.

How much does it cost to recruit a person for research or usability testing?

Many initial enquiries will ask for a rate card, and although we have rate cards for specific recruitment services such as accessibility or recruitment of professionals, it is not possible to provide a ballpark figure without knowing what type of people are required, as the recruitment fee can vary significantly depending on the criteria.

Take a look at our blog about writing a recruitment brief to find out more on what information is required to provide a quote.

Will I just get unemployed people and students?

People for Research recruit people based on the client recruitment brief and requirements, therefore we will either recruit people based on attitudes, behaviours, or their job role. We aim to recruit a broad mix of people for each project, so it is unlikely that all participants will be the same unless this is what you require.

Being flexible with the time slots and allowing more than two weeks lead time makes it easier for people who work full-time to participate.

How many people should I recruit?

As we are not researchers I typically refer to UX veteran Jakob Nielsen who provides guidance on the subject in his blog ‘how many test users in a usability study?’. The recommendation for usability testing is five, although we are increasingly seeing clients run research with larger groups, typically between 12 – 20 people, over longer periods. This is usually because each round of research we recruit for requires people from multiple user groups, therefore we are asked to recruit a couple of people from each group. We also support projects from discovery through to testing beta versions of websites, apps and online services.

So, I recommend somewhere between 5 – 20 depending on what your budget is and how much time you have. This is a good starting point depending on what you are trying to do. We also recommend over recruiting where possible to protect against people dropping out on the day, as no matter what process you have in place there is always a risk someone may not turn up.

Where should I run the research?

Again, this is something we advise on based either on how other clients run their research or on industry standards. It is possible to run research anywhere, but typically if you want to get in-depth information or run usability testing, it is best to plan in advance and have a dedicated space. This could either be a meeting room or a specialist research facility, such as our Bristol-based lab User Viewing.

This will allow you to recruit the right people and invite them along, as opposed to running guerrilla research in the street with random people who may not be your target user group. Also, a dedicated space helps with confidentiality as the participant won’t be worried about being overheard, and allows you to properly record the session.

Can I keep the participants’ details?

Because of the latest data protection law, we have reduced the amount of personal data we share with clients about participants to limit the risk. This means we only share contact details if it is essential to the research. If you are capturing data about the participant that you intend to keep, it is important to be transparent and get consent from the participant in advance. This is something your recruiter can help you with, if you use one. We also advise anonymising all data kept after a research session.

For the latest information on the General Data Protection Regulation, click here to visit the Information Commissioners Office website or check our GDPR summary.

Who should I recruit?

This is a slight exaggeration, as we very rarely get clients asking us who they should recruit although it does happen from time to time. However, what we do often find is that it can be tough to simplify the recruitment criteria into a defined brief that can be used for recruitment.

Although we can’t tell you exactly who you should recruit, we often help our clients review their briefs using our past experience recruiting for similar projects or our knowledge of our online participant community.



jess lewesIf you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.