BACKGROUND: The majority of participants in weight loss trials are non-Hispanic White women, while men and women of color are underrepresented. This study presents data obtained from non-targeted and targeted recruitment approaches in a trial of behavioral weight loss programs to (1) describe the yields from each approach and (2) compare the demographics, weight control histories, and study involvement of samples recruited by each approach. METHODS: Data for this observational study include source of recruitment, demographic information, weight loss experiences (e.g., lifetime weight loss, current weight loss behaviors), and completion of the 6-month assessment visit. RESULTS: Men comprised 14.2% of participants who responded to non-targeted recruitment efforts, while targeted efforts yielded 50.4% men. Similarly, people of color comprised 12.8% of those who responded to non-targeted approaches, whereas targeted recruitment methods yielded 47.2% people of color. Men recruited through targeted methods were younger (p = 0.01) than men recruited through non-targeted means but were otherwise similar. Women of color recruited through targeted methods reported use of fewer weight loss strategies relative to women of color recruited through non-targeted means (p = 0.006) but were otherwise similar. There were no differences by recruitment method on retention to the study. CONCLUSIONS: Using targeted recruitment methods increased the ethnic and gender diversity of the recruited sample without reducing study retention. This targeting also increased the enrollment of women with less weight loss experience who may not have otherwise sought out a weight loss program. Developing and implementing a targeted recruitment plan should be considered early in the clinical trial development process. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinicaltrials.gov, NCT02368002. Registered on 20 February 2015.