A view from the other side…. working with another research agency to recruit harder to reach research participants

I have recently started working on a project to explore young learners’ experiences accessing work experience opportunities. 

For us to be able to carry out research into this we needed to be able to speak to a range of young people aged between 14-18 from a wide range of different backgrounds. 

We know that recruiting and conducting research with school-aged users presents quite a different challenge to the typical users of public services we tend to conduct our research with.

So to ensure we reached these users we decided to work with a specialist research recruitment agency to help ensure we recruited users across all of the different attributes we were looking for. 

It has been a really interesting experience working with a specialist research agency alongside doing our own recruitment. 

The first challenge was for myself and the lead user researcher Adam to decide which attributes would be the hardest to reach and therefore we might need help with. We used the user research plan Adam had developed to help us do this. In the end we decided to ask the specialist recruitment agency to help us recruit seven young learners and two parents/guardians who might support young people to find and apply for work experience. 

We then reached out to an agency to help us. The agency sent us some onboarding and pricing information, and some information about the incentive rates we would need to pay research participants for their time taking part. And we briefed them about the users we were looking to recruit. 

Once we were happy with the quote, the agency had a thirteen working day lead time to start to book research participants, although they actually began sending through participants earlier than that. I am glad we engaged with them early in the project and didn’t wait to rely on our own recruitment to reach some of the harder-to-reach users we were trying to speak to. 

It has been really interesting being on the other side of the fence, being the client working with an agency to recruit users for research. 

I have been surprised by how much we have been able to achieve without actually speaking to each other. We have only had one very brief call and the rest of the briefing and research booking has been done via email. There have been a couple of minor misunderstandings but the process has largely worked well and the agency has responded quickly and been flexible. 

Overall it has been a really good experience using a research agency to recruit some of the harder to reach users. It meant that with our own recruitment we could keep our recruitment screening survey simple as we didn’t need to ask questions to screen for all the attributes we were trying to get to. Also it has been a relief to know we have had someone dedicated to look for the harder to reach users. I would definitely do this again especially with harder to reach attributes and non engaged users

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