THE POWER OF BACK CHECKING – by Martha Masitha, Recruitment Manager at Qualitative Quarter.

Qualitative research requires participants to match criteria given: research results hinge on this, and although it may sound simple, the job of a recruitment manager in the research industry means having to have an acute ability to assess people. Thus, after participants have been selected, it is my job to ensure that they are in fact correct – and this is done by back checking:

Back checking is the fun part of my job, where I get to communicate with all different types of individuals and get to understand them better. You don’t know the person you are speaking to but through conversation you gather enough information to know the type of person they are. When back checking I look for fun energetic people, people who know what they want with regards to products that they use and why they use those specific products and brands. We come across the weirdest and most interesting reasons as to why they use those products but no matter how weird or interesting their reasons may be we strive to find the right people for our groups.

We don’t mind speaking to 10-15 people till we come across the correct person for the project; now finding the correct person is where it can get complicated.

We in research are all too aware of “groupies” the ones that creep in despite your efforts to effectively back check them – and more often than not they put a spanner in the works! However in addition to just telephonically back checking participants we at Qual Quarter use a system of verifying attendance to try and weed out the incorrect people. It doesn’t always work, they do sometimes slip through but this only makes us work harder to try and rid the industry of them.

When I back check I am trying to make sure that based on the criteria all respondents fit: if I suspect that there is something odd about them, I will ask them a few more questions than what is in the recruitment questionnaire just to get a feel for whether they are being truthful.  We have various techniques and ways of asking questions to ensure a valid answer in terms of outlined objectives.

Research is a big field to play in but everybody knows everybody, ie. Suppliers and clients in Johannesburg invariably know people in Cape Town, Durban and everywhere else. When you send an “incorrect” person through for a group/interview it has a ripple effect. It does not only damage the clients reputation but also brings the entire recruitment process and our integrity into question, as it is time consuming for everyone and a lot of money goes to waste. As a recruitment manager I know and understand this ripple effect all too well.

Some people will leave you amazed and confused because when you speak to them they will tell you one thing and when they get to the venue or in the group they will say the other. As to why they do that, I think I need to run my own focus group to figure that one out.

We have very simple processes in place to help make the back checking process a smooth and easy one, all information for a project is on one spreadsheet to make it easier for client to see everything all in one document.

The job doesn’t end at just back checking respondents, we also have to try and ensure they arrive at the groups! So once everyone has been checked and approved, they will all be sent confirmation messages which has date, time and all relevant details and directions on. We also request that they be at the venue 15-20 minutes before the starting time. This is something that has to be done to ensure all participants arrive at the venue.

The success of a project relies on having the correct people take part in a project, therefore accurately back checking respondents becomes the most important cog in the wheel of the research process. Incorrect participants gives you invalid results!