How to write good screener questions

Screener questions are a crucial tool in customer and user research, effectively ensuring that only the most relevant and qualified respondents participate in your study.

What is a Screener Question?

A screener question is essentially a set of preliminary questions used to identify suitable candidates for a research study. These questions help gather insights about potential respondents' demographics, behavior, industry expertise, and product usage, which in turn allows researchers to filter out those who do not meet the specific criteria needed for the study.

Effective Screener Survey Questions

Screener survey questions typically fall into four categories:

  • Demographic Questions: These questions ascertain basic characteristics such as age, gender identity, income level, etc.
    • Select your most recent annual income:
    • Less than $30,000
    • $30,001 - $50,000
    • $50,001 - $75,000
    • More than $75,000
  • Behavioral Questions: These questions explore the respondent's habits and decision-making processes.
    • Have you ever used an app to find friends?
      • Yes
      • No
    • How often do you cook?
      • Weekly or more often
      • Monthly
      • Quarterly
      • Annually
      • Never
  • Industry-specific Questions: These questions gauge the respondent's expertise and professional background.
    • Have you worked in {name} industry?
      • Yes
      • No
    • How long have you worked in your current industry?
      • Less than one year
      • 1 - 3 years
      • 4 - 7 years
      • More than 7 years
  • Product-specific Questions: These questions determine the respondent's familiarity and usage levels of the product in question.
    • How long have you used {name} product?
      • Less than a month
      • A few months
      • A year
      • More than one year

Why Use Screener Surveys?

The primary benefit of using screener surveys is to engage only those participants who are most likely to provide insightful, relevant feedback for your research objectives. This not only streamlines the research process but also increases the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the findings.

Steps to Writing an Effective Screener Survey

  1. Identify Desired Respondents: Clearly define who you need to hear from based on specific characteristics, behaviors, and experiences relevant to your research goals.
    • What common traits do the respondents you wish to interview possess?
    • What industry do they work in?
    • What are their objectives?
    • What habits define them?
    • Do they currently use your product or service?
  2. Understand Who to Exclude: Just as important as knowing who you want is knowing who you don't want. Define characteristics of respondents who are not suitable for your study.
  3. Craft Targeted Questions: Develop questions that will help you filter in the right participants and filter out those who do not meet your criteria. This includes using both direct questions and cleverly designed 'red herring' questions to verify the authenticity of respondents' expertise.
    • For example, let’s say you want to hear from people who’ve recently purchased a tablet device. Your screener might filter for that by asking:
      • Do you have a tablet device?
        • Yes
        • No
      • And follow up with this question:
      • When did you purchase your tablet device?
        • Within the last month
        • 1 - 6 months ago
        • 6 - 12 months ago
        • More than 12 months ago

Tips for Crafting Screener Surveys

  • Avoid Leading Questions: Ensure your questions are neutral and do not prompt respondents toward a desired answer.
  • Validate Information: Ask for the same information in different forms to confirm its accuracy.
  • Focus on Qualitative Insights: Beyond demographic data, prioritize questions that provide deeper insight into behaviors and preferences.
  • Incorporate Open-Ended Questions: These allow you to gauge the thoughtfulness and depth of potential respondents' answers.

In conclusion, screener surveys are an indispensable part of conducting efficient and effective research. By carefully selecting respondents who are most aligned with the research objectives, you can ensure higher quality data and more actionable insights.

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