Recruiting Hard-to-Find Enterprise Professionals for User Research

If you want to conduct research with enterprise audiences, recruiting is often both critical and really hard. See how we’ve made it easier with the help of LinkedIn’s tools and a rigorous screening process.

If you’re doing online checkout UX testing for Amazon, you can recruit from among tens of millions of consumers. Not so if you’re doing research with, say, HR VPs at large U.S. health care companies considering a move to cloud software. Here, your target audience might be less than 500, not to mention hard to reach and very busy.

Recruiting B2B professionals for user research can be a huge challenge, often scaring off teams from doing any research.

Fortunately, with the growth of LinkedIn’s social network and ad platforms, we now have an effective way to pinpoint and recruit hard-to-find enterprise and B2B professionals. After years of practice and experimentation, we often prefer this channel over panels and recruitment agencies because it produces higher quality participants and is scalable.

Here are some recent examples of enterprise audiences that we’ve recruited with the help of LinkedIn, and some highlights of our process.

Recruiting Senior Staff at Central Banks

The world’s most respected global finance organization wanted to conduct research with a subset of economists, statisticians and researchers at government agencies around the world. The focus was professionals who used our client’s data platforms on a regular basis, particularly people in central banks and statistical bureaus within Africa and Latin America.

It was a tiny, hard-to-find, and skeptical audience. And due to internal constraints, our client could not assist with recruitment — unable to even provide a list of contacts. Nor could we mention the client’s name in our recruitment. So we turned to LinkedIn and experimented with a variety of approaches, including:

  • Text ads (displayed to thousands)
  • Sponsored InMail campaigns (sent to hundreds)
  • Direct InMail messages (sent one at a time)

Our best results came from Sponsored InMail. We created unique campaigns based on job roles and skills. For instance, our “Stats” campaign targeted professionals in statistical roles within government organizations around the world.

Across all campaigns, our recruitment messages and ads were shown over 75,000 times (impressions), resulting in over 1,700 clicks. Of those, 178 (or about 10%) completed a web-based screener. We narrowed the pool and conducted phone screens with 15 candidates, and finally, selected 7 of those for research sessions.

Key Steps in Our Recruitment Process

Here’s an overview of our recruitment process showing highlights from the above project example.

1. Target Audiences

Partial targeting criteria for 1 of the 11 LinkedIn campaigns, allowing for highly targeted messages.

2. Write Ads & Messages

Example of a Sponsored InMail message. We created 14 variations of InMail messages, and 16 text ad variations. 

3. Screen with Web Survey

Part of our 10-question web-based screener. All ads and invitations pointed here.

4. Optimize Campaigns

Example of performance data that allows us to shift budget to higher-performing campaigns and ads.

5. Screen by Phone

Excerpt from our phone screen script that allows us to further narrow down the pool of candidates.

6. Schedule Sessions

A web-based tool we use to schedule sessions and send communications to participants.

6 More Examples of Enterprise & B2B Recruitment

Fire Protection Engineers at Large Companies

  • The digital product team at a national association wanted to understand the code research needs of fire protection engineers at large and mid-size companies — and to observe them interacting with applications and prototypes.
  • We used LinkedIn’s search tool and direct InMail messages to recruit engineers who conduct research and have familiarity with fire and building codes as part of their daily job.

IT Architects at Enterprise Financial Services

  • IT executives at a Fortune 500 financial firm were wrestling with a strategic decision related to their enterprise applications. It was a decision with major implications for cost, staffing and customer experience.
  • The team wanted to understand how similar enterprise firms had tackled this challenge — both direct competitors as well as peers in other industries.
  • We started with a list of target companies. Then, using LinkedIn Recruiter, we identified and recruited senior IT professionals who had previously worked at a target company in a specific range of roles (e.g. director of web architecture) likely to give them the experience we sought.
  • Out of 30 professionals that we contacted, we were able to conduct 10 one-on-one interviews leading to critical insights.

Product Management Directors at Security Firms

  • A technology firm was preparing to build a new consumer product in the digital security space and wanted to better understand the competitive landscape and identify gaps in the market.
  • Using LinkedIn Recruiter’s search tools and direct InMail messages, we successfully recruited product management directors who recently worked at Norton, McAfee and other major security players.
  • The interviews allowed our client to quickly get up to speed on the space, dismiss some assumptions, and generate new hypotheses for consumer research.

Call Center Reps Using Specific Chat Software

  • A major player in the SaaS space, with over $1 billion in annual revenue, wanted to conduct research with a specific group of customer service reps, supervisors and directors at enterprise call centers. The company had been unable to recruit these users on its own, and as they shared their research plan with us, we quickly realized why.
  • Participants needed to regularly use online chat with customers, use one of two platforms, and — most importantly — be willing to talk with a researcher about their workflow and experience, something likely to scare most call center pros.
  • We launched 7 text ad campaigns on LinkedIn’s ad platform to a specific set of audiences, and tested a number of different ad messages. About 100 targeted professionals completed our web-based screener. We conducted phone screens with 13 of those, and then selected 6 for research sessions.

Product Executives with Specific Hiring Needs

  • A consulting firm wanted to conduct audience and concept research with product leaders at U.S. companies with over 1,000 employees with specific pain points and hiring needs. Their target job titles included Head of Product, Chief Product Officer, and SVP of Product Management.
  • Using LinkedIn’s ad platform, we launched over 10 campaigns with over 40 unique ad messages. Out of 500+ professionals who clicked an ad, 125 completed our web-based screener.
  • The participants from this recruitment campaign fueled 10+ rounds of small-scale qualitative research.

In-House Corporate Travel Managers

  • A global travel company had recently launched a web platform for corporate travel managers working within enterprise companies. They were eager to understand the informational needs and mental models of this audience.
  • Using LinkedIn’s ad platform, we successfully recruited participants for multiple studies, including contextual interviews, information architecture research, and usability testing.