Market research interviewers collect information on people's attitudes and experiences. They carry out market, opinion and social research on behalf of businesses, government departments and organisations such as charities. They conduct interviews with people and record their responses to give organisations a better understanding of their target audience's likes, dislikes and future needs.
At the beginning of each project, research agencies receive instructions from the organisation that has commissioned the research. These are used to determine the number of interviews that need to be carried out and the type of person that should be interviewed. Companies often target their research based on factors such as age, gender and employment background. The agency then prepares surveys and questionnaires for the interviewers to use.
Traditionally, interviews were conducted face to face using paper-based questionnaires on the street or in people's homes. However, many research agencies now use computers with specialist software packages. Market research interviewers are increasingly based in telephone interviewing centres.
Market research interviewers may use computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) software. The questionnaire is set up on the computer, allowing the interviewer to input the relevant answers whilst conducting the telephone interview. They may also use computer-aided personal interviewing (CAPI) where the questionnaire is downloaded into a hand-held multimedia computer used by the interviewer for face-to-face interviews.
A market research interviewer's duties typically include:
Interviews should be conducted in line with the ethical framework contained in The Market Research Society (MRS) Code of Conduct and its associated guidelines.
Market research interviewers may also participate in central location testing. This involves recruiting respondents to attend a central location, where they are asked to test a product or service - for example, taste testing a new food item. This kind of survey is often conducted in city centres, for example in a hotel function room.
Market research interviewers usually work on short-term contracts and many work part time. The working hours can be irregular and may involve shifts. Interviewers often need to be available for a minimum number of hours or shifts a week. Evening and weekend work is common.
The work can involve interviewing people in their homes, in a public place such as a shopping centre, and in central locations. With telephone interviews, interviewers may work from a call centre or from home. Outdoor work can mean standing around for considerable periods, in all weathers. House-to-house interviewing may involve a lot of walking.
Market research interviewers often need a car and a landline telephone.
New interviewers may earn approximately £10,000 a year.
The majority of opportunities for market research interviewers are with specialist market research agencies, which are predominantly based in and around London. However, most agencies have a network of interviewers spread across the UK. There are also agencies based in most large cities. It is common for interviewers to be on the books of several agencies to increase the regularity of work.
Employers include market research agencies, social research organisations, opinion pollsters, government departments and research institutes. Some advertising agencies have research teams, but often sub-contract interviewing out to specialist agencies.
Positions are advertised in the local and national press, on specialist recruitment websites such as www.research247.com, and the websites of individual agencies. www.mrweb.com is an online resource for market research companies and has listings of market research agencies. There is also a vacancies section in Research, published monthly by MRS, available online at www.research-live.com. A list of agencies is available online at www.theresearchbuyersguide.com.
Most agencies will only take on people for work who are over the age of 18. There are no set qualifications. Employers are often more interested in the interviewer's personality, enthusiasm and communication skills.
Most organisations and agencies look for people with good literacy skills, and experience of working with the general public. Some employers may expect GCSE grades (A*-C) in English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.
Previous experience of working in a contact centre or customer service role would be useful.
Training is often a combination of introductory training followed by practical supervision. To start with, candidates may attend an introductory course covering all aspects of market research interviewing. This may include how to select and approach people, ask the required questions, and complete surveys. Training in the use of multimedia computers may also be covered. Telephone interviewing centre employers will usually offer training in telephone interviewing.
A supervisor or experienced market research interviewer usually oversees the first set of interviews. Most employers also carry out appraisals of interviewers' skills once or twice a year.
MRS is the official awarding body in the UK for professional qualifications in market research. It runs the MRS Accredited Interviewer Training Scheme (AITS) for organisations and interviewers. Research organisations that are Accredited Interviewer Training Providers can offer training that leads to interviewers completing the AITS, and achieving the nationally-recognised MRS Certificate in Interviewing Skills for Market and Social Research. New interviewers follow an initial training course and then complete a work-based portfolio showing how their work has developed over a period of three and six months.
Further professional development qualifications in market, social and opinion research include:
The MRS and the Association for Qualitative Research (AQR) also run training courses, events and conferences. Details are published regularly on their websites.
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Market research interviewers should:
Promotion to supervisor or area fieldwork manager is possible, although usually only in larger agencies. Interviewers with a good track record are more likely to achieve promotion.
Some interviewers may decide to specialise in certain types of research - for instance scientific or political research.
Experience of interviewing is useful for people wanting a career in market research. With further professional qualifications it may be possible to progress to market research assistant or executive.
The Association for Qualitative Research (AQR),
Davey House, 31 St Neots Road, Eaton Ford,
St Neots, Cambridgeshire PE19 7BA
Tel: 01480 407227
The Market Research Society (MRS),
15 Northburgh Street, London EC1V 0JR
Tel: 020 7490 4911
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.