A not so research interviewer-friendly suburb

I am on my third assignment as a research interviewer. Each assignment consists of recruiting and later interviewing every member of specific households in a specific suburb before specific deadlines. Each household has been randomly selected and cannot be replaced.

The first assignment went pretty smooth, and my response rate was average. The second assignment looked exceptionally good initially, but then surprise cancellations of interview appointments landed me on a disappointing, slightly sub-average response rate.

My current assignment takes place in a faraway beautiful rich mountain town where the air is fantastic, the silence is zen-like, and the landscape breath taking.


Work-wise, however, this one looks bad so far. I am more than a week into the assignment and past several deadlines where I haven’t been able to make contact yet. The contacts I did make were mainly refusals, and my attempts to persuade were futile and made me feel cheap and annoying. The respondents seemed to look at me as if I’m a sneaky marketer trying to sell them vacuum cleaners.

I’m not… and this is social research, not marketing research. The survey informs future public investment decisions so that tax payer funds can be allocated as efficiently as possible. The (processed & safe) data is also available for a range of current and future ‘common good’ type of research projects, and the respondents receive a letter in advance that briefly presents the survey and its purpose.

Regardless of all that, they are either never home or/and don’t want to participate. Duh.


Response rate drama

The response rate is vital for the survey because the type of people who refuse to participate tends to differ systematically from those who accept; and without them the societal groups they belong to will be underrepresented in the data, and the sample won’t be like the population it is supposed to mirror.

So in a sense the people who hate surveys are the most important to interview, because they are likely to be underrepresented in the data already. They are also the most likely to be arrogant and hard to persuade; the ones who scare the fun out of the job. And apparently many of them live in this rich mountain town.

The response rate is of course also vital to me personally because it is a key metric upon which my job performance is evaluated. So right now it doesn’t seem like I am doing a good job.

My supervisor is supportive and says she has heard that this suburb is hard, but I can’t know if my poor results were therefore inevitable, or if my timing / interaction / appearance / competency is bad too. In any case, the poor response rate puts extra pressure on the term’s remaining assignments.


3 thoughts on “A not so research interviewer-friendly suburb

  1. Lisa

    Being from US, we rarely ever encounter any type of door-to-door type person, except for the Census Taker every four years. I can’t imagine a more difficult job. It does seem the post sent out before your visit would help, but who actually reads those? I “feel your pain” and wish you success.


    1. Mados

      Actually most do recall they received the letter although they may not have read it in details – it is most a reassurance thing.

      But yes, it is a difficult job … I am not 100% sure if I was mad to take it. It has some good sides with independence, freedom, variety and sociological insights, and the employer is great…. The training and support is super good, and it links up with my education in some ways. And it is not an office… And I need work, and there is not much work to get locally where I live. And I have some limitations in regard to which types of work I can handle (not good with crowds, noise, multi-tasking and office politics)… so I had plenty of reasons.

      Apart from this last suburb it has been going quite OK … so I hope I’ll get use to the hard bits and be able to keep a steady performance and hold on to it.


    2. Mados

      Anyway, I just googled ‘household interview USA’ and there were a number of links about a national health survey being conducted door to door with randomly selected households. That sounds somewhat similar to what I’m doing (I didn’t read about in details, just a quick skim).



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