Francesca is the Field Manager at Hook Research. In the midst of double-checking that our processes and forms are up-to-date per the new GDPR guidelines,  she took some time to sit down with us and talk about the evolution of qualitative recruitment throughout her career and what changes might be coming down the line… 

When I used to tell people I worked in Market Research, the initial response was always ‘Oh, so are you one of those people who stand on street corners with a clipboard?’ I’m sure many of us of a certain age can remember this.

Of course, that is how qualitative recruitment was traditionally done. Recruiters would randomly knock on doors or place themselves at a pre-selected location known for high footfall – such as a shopping centre – and stop people who looked like they would meet their criteria as they walked by. A screener typically took 5-10 minutes (at most) to administer, and recruitment quotas were relatively straightforward – essentially, they just confirmed gender, age, socioeconomic group (SEG), lifestage, and product/brand usage.

While many things have stayed the same in research since those early days (for example, the ability to hold an engaging dialogue with respondents – something that is at the heart of Hook’s Talking Human ethos) I think it would be fair to say the qualitative recruitment process has evolved quite significantly. My experience in market research spans over 20 years, and these are just some of the key changes I have noticed in that time.

Key changes in Qualitative Recruitment

Communicating with respondents: Nowadays, recruiters mainly work from home, using electronic databases. These include a large amount of information so that they can target a specific sample individual to a project. Phone calls are also less important now than they used to be – instead, many recruiters are dropping potential respondents messages via email, text, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. There is no doubt that this has made communication easier and quicker: recruiters can now contact large numbers in one go, and the response rate tends to be faster. You could even argue that this shift in communication with respondents has made research more accessible to younger generations, who respond much better to these more casual methods of communication.

Quotas: Over the past 20 years, I’ve noticed that recruitment quotas have become increasingly more sophisticated. These can now include segmentation techniques and algorithms, for example, leading to lengthier and more complex screeners that can be more akin to a quant questionnaire.

SEG’s: The definition of SEG as we know it is evolving as well. C1’s and C2’s now appear to have the most disposable income (for example, a plumber is likely to earn more these days than a ‘B’ classified teacher). In response to these changes, we regularly use alternative questions to occupation, to ensure that we’re getting the right respondents. How we define SEG may thus need to be reconsidered going forward – perhaps by including an individual’s income, lifestage attitudes, or what specific products they own.

Lifestages: As we’ve blogged about in the past, Lifestages are becoming increasingly more difficult to define. People’s lives and household structures have changed dramatically:  it’s difficult, for instance, to put an age limit on an ‘empty nester’, with ‘children’ staying at home into adulthood. Similarly, the age range of mums with young children is increasing.

Pre-tasking: While asking respondents to do a creative homework task as part of the qualitative recruitment process has been around for a long time, we are expecting more and more from respondents nowadays. Multiple tasks are now the norm, and it is common to ask respondents to complete creative collages, take part in a panel where they interact with the researcher and/or other respondents, create video diaries, upload photos, etc. in the run up to, or after, the research session.

Qualitative Recruitment - Hook Research

And GDPR is coming…

As well as the challenge of these qualitative recruitment changes, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to kick in from 25th May 2018 – whether or not we are in or out of the EU (or somewhere in between…). The new definition of personal data is wider than under the Data Protection Act, and will therefore increase the obligation of recruiters to safeguard the personal information of individuals.

Hook Research have been thinking about the GDPR and its implications for some time now. Whilst the regulations seem to be constantly evolving, our impressions seem to be that, for recruiters, transparency and security will be key:

  • Recruiters will need to ensure respondents have a clear and unambiguous understanding of WHY we are collecting their data, WHAT it will be used for, and HOW LONG it will be kept for (the onus will be on the researcher/client to ensure the recruiter is fully briefed on this detail); respondents will need to be assured their video won’t turn up on YouTube….unless we have told them it will, and they have agreed to it!
  • The recruiter will have to get informed consent from the respondent for the data to be used in a particular way
  • The recruiter will have to take steps to ensure the data they receive is accurate, up to date and its accuracy is not likely to be challenged
  • Data sent from/to a researcher/client must be password protected (with the password sent in a separate email), and securely deleted at an appropriate time

This may feel like a daunting prospect for recruiters, and some of the more experienced ones may be anxious about the impending changes. Of course this will have a huge impact on us as a research agency too, and we are already refining our procedures – cleaning our databases, password protecting documents, and ensuring total transparency to respondents regarding their personal information, to start with.

But, hopefully we will all look forward with excitement rather than apprehension, and to quote the words of Charles M Schulz: ‘Life is like an ice cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time’.

Enjoy this blog? Check out our blog on how new technology is disrupting traditional recruitment – we think you’ll like it!

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