Recruiting users

Why inclusive recruitment is important

Inclusive design ensures you include audiences often overlooked in the design process, to improve the outcomes and value for all customers. Designing products and services for edge users offers benefits to everyone.  Making sure you are inclusive in your recruitment process will help your team develop better products, systems, and experiences.     

Inclusive research isn’t a tick box; there are costs involved in ensuring our diverse population is reached, and this often means tailored methods/approaches to ensuring we are engaging with the community effectively. For example, interpreting and translation costs may seem high, but the cost-benefit of the correct message and information being received far outweighs the base cost of these services.  

How to recruit participants 

These are the main ways you can recruit people to participate in user research or usability testing:  

  • recruiting participants yourself  

  • recruiting participants through a market or research company, or research platform  

Minimise how often you recruit the same person. It’s best practice to conduct research with new people for each research project to make sure you’re covering a diverse range of needs. 

A general principle for quantitative research activities (for example, high volume surveys) is to only research with the same person every six months. 


Pro tip!

Leverage communication channels your organisation maintains, such as Yammer, LinkedIn, meet-up groups, social media groups, or external newsletters.

Recruiting people yourself  

It might be appropriate to recruit participants directly where:  

  • funding for recruitment is limited    

  • your organisation is connected to networks of people who fit your target cohort  

  • your organisation doesn’t have a participant panel or central research function for you to leverage  

  • your organisation has memorandum of understanding (MOU) set up with other organisations to help facilitate recruitment or identifying people for research  

  • you have existing relationships with peak bodies or not-for-profit organisations that can connect you to people   

Consider whether you can leverage customer databases maintained in your organisation where customers have consented to being contacted about future research opportunities. Or, if your organisation runs Customer Satisfaction Surveys you can start collecting data from people about whether they consent to being contacted for research or usability testing.  We recommend you check with your organisation's legal and privacy team to ensure you’re identifying and managing legal and privacy risk at the outset. 

It's important researchers build an understanding and skills to meet the preferences and expectations of people with diverse needs.  When recruiting people, you should consider your target cohort and any specific needs they have around accessing the research activity, appropriateness of payment and how they can access support if needed.   

 Factor in adjustments and supports into your project budget. For example:   

  • engaging domain experts for specific topics  

  • working with representatives of a group (for example a representative from an Aboriginal community)  

  • translation services for people who don’t speak English or English is a second language 

  • for surveys or written communication, consider having services in different languages.   

If your team or organisation is new to recruiting people directly, check in with your project sponsor and senior leader around what approvals are needed. For example, if you’re researching with children, you will need to ensure the research is set up safely, and that privacy and ethical issues are managed appropriately. This might mean your research needs to go through additional levels of ethics or governance approval.    

To set up and maintain a database of people you research with, ensure you de-identify datasets, store consent forms details of payment securely. Check with your local data management experts.    

If you are conducting face-to-face research on NSW government premises ensure you review your workplace, health, and safety protocols.   

Sending expressions of interest 

The Research Communications template published on Digital NSW provides examples of recruitment call-outs and expressions of interest that you can tailor and send to people.  

Extra care should be taken so that you don’t access and use people’s personal, or health, information held by your organisation for purposes outside the person's original informed consent.      

Recruiting people through a market or research company or platform

You can engage a user research or market company, or research platform, to recruit people for your research. This might be appropriate where your user groups are hard to reach or difficult to find, impartiality is significant, or you need support recruiting people with diverse needs. Ask vendors how they source applicants to ensure the criteria for screening people aligns with the characteristics you need in your user group.   

Follow your organisation procurement processes to know what rules apply to sourcing and contracting a vendor. 

Tips on working with vendors  

  • Before engaging a vendor, check if they have access to the types of people you need for your area of research. For example, if research involves people with a disability, ensure the vendor has access to diverse people or a panel of people with disability.  

  • Get involved from the start – use your knowledge of the target research groups and problems you’re trying to solve by helping to inform the recruitment brief and criteria for who you need to recruit  

  • Help frame the research questions so they’re culturally sensitive and appropriate  

  • Attend research activities   

  • Ensure the vendor is meeting your organisation policies and processes. You can refer them to the ethical principles in this guide. 

Research with the NSW public sector 

When your primary customer is NSW government teams and employees, engage them to participate in creating or improving a product or service.   

This can be done by asking someone else in NSW Government if they’re interested in participating in an interview, focus group, or usability testing, for example. 


Pro tip!

Only involve people who are likely, or actual, consumers of the digital product or service you’re creating or improving. If you can, try and reach people you don’t usually speak to, to get a diverse range of experiences and feedback. 

You need to respect people's time and always ensure you follow privacy rules including doing ethical user research. This means you still need to obtain informed consent when you’re using the information collected (insights, feedback, and contributions) to inform how you design and deliver products and services.   

In some cases, you may be conducting stakeholder engagement or seeking business advice and so the engagement would not be deemed as ‘research’. If in doubt about whether your engagement activities require you to obtain consent, speak to your organisation's privacy team.   

Research with people with disability 


Definition of disability 

Disability - any limitation, restriction, or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months.   

There are varying degrees of disability—from having no impairment or limitation to a complete loss of functioning. It can be associated with genetic disorders, illnesses, accidents, ageing, injuries, or a combination of these factors.  


1 in 6 people in Australia is estimated to have a disability.  People with disabilities are diverse—having different types and levels of disability, coming from all demographic and socioeconomic groups, and having varying needs for assistance. 

How people with disabilities participate in society is influenced by factors such as the level of their disability, the availability of services and the accessibility of their environment, and by community attitudes and discrimination.  


There are various peak bodies and not-for-profit organisations representing people with a disability that you can collaborate with to help facilitate recruitment or provide expertise to your project.   

Before you contact an organisation ensure you are able to access or secure funding to engage their services.  Check with your legal team about whether there is a memorandum of understanding that has been set up with an organisation.    

Below is a list of types of organisations you can contact for more information. This is a starting point only and you should do your own research: 

  • Deaf Australia – Deaf Australia is the national peak organisation for deaf people in Australia who use Australian Sign Language. You can contact them via email at [email protected] 
  • Deafness Forum of Australia -  Deafness Forum of Australia is the peak national body representing the views and interests of all Australians who live with hearing loss, people who have an ear or balance disorders, and the families that support them. You can contact them via email at [email protected]   
  • Physical Disability Australia – Physical Disability Australia is the national peak body representing people with physical disability. You can contact them via email at [email protected] 
  • Blind Citizens Australia - Blind Citizens Australia is the national representative organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired. You can contact them via email at [email protected]  

The NSW Government Design Standard for Accessibility and Inclusivity sets out how you can design and build inclusive and accessible digital products and services.

Key considerations include:  

  • include people with disability in your design and delivery process from the outset 

  • ask people what supports or adjustments are needed during recruitment  

  • ensure meetings and events are accessible  

  • ensure accessibility features are turned on for assistive technologies. For example, participant use of screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition tools  

  • write in plain English  

  • use accessible PDFs.   

Research with culturally and linguistically diverse people

According to the 2016 census, 27.6 per cent of the NSW population was born overseas with 21 per cent of the NSW population from a non-English speaking background.  We recommend having a target of 23 per cent of participants from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background, as this is the percentage of the NSW population that identifies from being from a CALD background.  

Language barriers, lack of social support, lower health literacy, lower socio‐economic status, greater incidence of ill health and a sense of disempowerment are factors that heighten inequities for these populations and place CALD consumers at greater risk of adverse patient safety incidents.  

- A study by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

While culturally and linguistically diverse people may experience participation barriers, it is important to understand that CALD people are more likely to experience severe disadvantage when intersectionality occurs. For example, a non-English speaking, mature aged woman, with low income and carer responsibilities is more likely to experience greater barriers to participation. 


  • Ensure surveys and research sessions are available in other languages.   
    • the top five languages spoken (other than English) in NSW are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Greek (ABS Census 2016). 
    • you can find translation and interpreter services by going to Multicultural NSW website or using the National Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). Your organisation may have an agreement with TIS for translation services so you would need to provide them your company code when accessing their service. 
  • Consider how CALD community members can contact the research team with follow up questions and feedback including providing feedback in-language.  
  • Find a CALD community group to reach out to about potential collaboration opportunities and offer an ‘in language’ translation of the request, if required.    
  • It is important to build rapport and trust with community groups, not everyone has had a positive experience working with government.


  • CALD media landscape seminar - discusses very practical ways to reach the different CALD communities, and discusses which methods of communication are more successful compared to others, depending on community groups that you would like to target 
  • Multicultural NSW provides a range of information on the culturally diverse population of NSW, and the key social and economic characteristics of communities living across the State. 


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