One of the requests we’ve heard most often at the end of our customer development workshops was “How can I reach the right people as quickly as possible? Do you have a checklist for this?”

Conducting interviews takes much time and effort, resources that are precious for start-ups and innovation teams. That’s why it’s even more important to get to talk to the right people right away. After all, your findings are only as good as your sources. Your interviewing techniques can be great, but if you’re not talking to the right people in the first place, you won’t get the information you want. You might even make decisions based on the wrong data..

Hiring an outside recruitment agency is too expensive for many innovation teams. That’s why we’re giving guidelines on increasing the chances of talking to the right people right away.

Step 1: Deciding who’s your target group

Before you can start recruiting your participants you need to decide *who *you want to interview. Jobs to be Done research can be done for many reasons: finding out about new opportunities for meeting the needs of your customers, new opportunities technologies offer, or for finding a market for your product.

If you want to be able to draw conclusions from your research it’s important to zoom in and narrowly define your target group. Jobs to be Done are derived from patterns across interviews, not within.

In picking your target group it’s important to focus on two things:

  • They are likely to use your (potential) product, considering circumstances andresources.
  • They’re really feeling the pain you’re trying to solve.

For the first point I suggest brainstorming on a couple of Jobs to be Done forwhich people could be using your (potential) product. We call these ‘Jobs to beDone personas’ and include all the aspects of a Job to be Done: goal, actions,pains and gains. They can guide you to spots where to find your people(especially by thinking of the circumstances that are involved in a JTBD). Tryto be as specific as possible in this.

For the second point I’d take a look at your Jobs to be Done personas as well. What are likely to be the most urgent pains? Who’s most likely to be looking for a solution? But getting people to invest your time in you is the biggest test for this: if people truly feel the pain and are looking for a solution they will make the time to talk to you. Now it’s still a matter reaching those people.

Step 2: Finding your people

If you know what people you want to reach the next step is to go out and find them. But how do you do so?

Finding your target group if you don’t have a product yet

  • Take your JTBD personas and think of places where people with these Jobs to be Done could hang out. You can go here for impromptu interviews and possibly longer follow-up interviews. This works especially well with small ‘trivial’ hires like for example a coffee at the Starbucks. People will probably forget afterwards why they did that (probably even forgot that they *did *so), but if you catch them at the moment you can get some very valuable information.
  • You can set up a landing page and approach the people who sign up for an interview. Gives you a good opportunity to ask them how they ended up on your landing page, discuss the ‘hire’ of signing up on your landing page.
  • Go to meet ups and events devoted to your topic. This works especially well in B2B contexts. You can network and talk to people there for impromptu interviews, and possible longer follow-up interviews. You can also after the event ask for a list of the attendees and their contact details to ask them for an interview. We did this with our research on corporate innovation, and it allowed us to get some very valuable information outside of our network of already existing clients. You could also attempt to contact people beforehand to set up some time at the event to conduct an interview (if it’s a conference for example).
  • You can look up people via the website and reach out on LinkedIn (again, especially useful with B2B). Here it can help big time if you have a mutual connection that can introduce you to the person (there’s a reference function for that in LinkedIn).

If you already have a product you can:

  • Reach out to people who just signed up for your product to see why they did so, and how they got to know about you. I’d suggest using both a survey (to get as much data as possible) and ask for a possible more in-depth interview after it. At Basecamp they did this and they wrote this great article on it.
  • Reach out to people who have returned / unsubscribed for your product. This is very important if your churn-rate is high: why are people turning away from your product? What changes would prevent this?

Step 3: Selecting the right people

Once you’ve made a landing page or have taken the step to go to your local coffee shop, you’re not ensured yet of reaching the right people. You want to interview people who are part of your target group; people who are likely to use your product.

Using a screener.

These are filter questions to test people on minimum requirements. When you’re making a car rental service for example you probably want to filter out people who can’t have a drivers license yet, or people who are likely not to drive anymore because of their age. In this case, you’d set your minimum requirement as being between the ages of 21 and 70. You can ask these questions in a survey, via mail, or in the case of impromptu interviewing at the start, before asking your other questions.

Giving a product or topic-related incentive.

Rather than a monetary one. This includes the reward of “being able to contribute to a product that could help you”. There’s some debate on this one, as with monetary rewards it might be easier to attract people, and there’s the consensus that ‘professional people should be paid back the time they lose by talking to you’. But the problem with giving monetary rewards (in our experience) is that it can bring in people who don’t really care about the topic, but just getting the reward. While having a reward related to the topic or product (like “The first version of our product” or “Exclusive upgrades”) will get you the people who are truly invested in your product / the topic. And as JTBD research is about quality rather than quantity this is very important.

In the case of recruiting for B2B interviews it’s good to offer something in return that could benefit them, like discussed in our Jobs to be Done research in B2B settings post.

Keep an eye on your results

Using these tips help you to find the right people fast, but they’re not foolproof. So make sure to keep checking your results and change your interviewing tactics / target group if necessary. We usually look back after five interviews to check whether we’re heading in the right direction. If we see wildly different results we know we have to change something: the people we approach or the questions we ask.

If you’re experiencing this I’d take a critical listen to your interviews (also ask others for feedback). You can compare it to the ‘interviewing guide’ Alan Klement gives in this great post. If you can conclude it’s likely your target group I’d take a look at the ‘JTBD personas’ you made and focus on a different one.

Note: if you cannot find or convince anyone to participate in your interviews it’s a sign that the problem you’re trying to solve does not really exist. In other words: if you cannot reach your target group for an interview, you’re very unlikely to reach them with your product. It’s a good sign to change your focus.

Making JTBD research worth your time

With proper Jobs to be Done research you can get invaluable findings that can save you months of developing and testing time. But you’ll only get these findings if you talk to the right people, else it will quickly become a resource-consuming activity. These tips help you to find the right people as quickly as possible, and make Jobs to be Done research worth your time.

If you feel you need more information or help, you can sign up for our Jobs to be Done workshop or hire us to do the research for you. For more information you can also check the rest of our Jobs to be Done posts on