8 Best Screening Questions for Your Survey

Ask these screening questions before your next survey to qualify respondents.

If you’re putting forth the effort to create a survey, it’s because you are genuinely working to get to the heart of an important question. In order to do so, and to make sure both you are your respondents aren’t wasting time, you want to ensure you’re posing questions to the right people. By incorporating strong screening questions into your survey workflow, you are able to do just that.

While running a survey, you can’t just decide to omit responses because they don’t represent the survey population as you’d envisioned—this will tamper with your results, potentially rendering them meaningless. What you can and should do instead is establish clear parameters on who your survey is intended for so that you know you’re getting important information with each completed survey. Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about screening questions so you know your survey respondents are providing the insight you need.

What are screening questions?

In order to ensure you’re receiving feedback from your target audience, it’s important to screen respondents before surveying them. Since surveying can take significant time for both those creating and running the survey as well as those participating in it, screening respondents ensures you’re best respecting everyone’s time. It also helps you to collect the most pertinent information.

Screening questions—which may also be referred to simply as “screeners”—are the way that we filter out respondents who are not best suited to answering our questions. It’s an umbrella term that could encapsulate any number of questions, depending on the industry you’re working in, the kind of information you’re looking to collect, or the populations you’re intending to survey. They are simple questions that inform you about key behavior or identity markers of the respondent to determine their eligibility to participate in your survey.

Regardless of what the specific questions are, the core intention is always the same: to narrow the scope of your survey respondents so that every answer you receive brings you closer to understanding the information you’re seeking. When running a survey, you would include a small set of screeners in advance of beginning the actual survey. Based on the answers they provide, respondents either go on to complete the survey or conclude with the screeners.

What are the benefits of using screening questions?

We’ve covered the importance of narrowing the focus to your target audience, but are there any other benefits of using these kinds of questions in your survey? Absolutely—the fact of the matter is that, by using screeners, you’re improving your survey in a number of ways. Here are a few examples of how they can enhance the efficiency and results of your survey:

  • Reach your target audience: We’ve already touched on this, but it’s worth repeating—reaching your target audience is the most important aspect of running a survey, and one of the hardest things to do. By including a curated set of screeners in your survey workflow, you’re dramatically strengthening the pool of results you receive.
  • Lower overall costs: Conducting a survey can be expensive—whether you’re paying for a panel of respondents or incentivizing individuals’ participation with rewards or prizes, the costs can add up. By homing in on the exact population you want to be surveyed, you know you aren’t wasting money along the way.
  • Simplify data analysis: Processing and analyzing data can take serious time—but it’s much easier to do so when you don’t need to determine which respondents fall outside the scope of qualified participants. By identifying them as valuable before the survey begins, you’ll have a much easier time processing and analyzing data once you conclude the surveying phase.
  • Reduce bias in responses: We know that survey responses are susceptible to bias, but this is far more common when survey respondents aren’t actually qualified to participate in the first place. Since uninformed individuals don’t have the necessary knowledge to provide an honest opinion, they are more likely to be swayed by other factors. Screeners cut down on the chances of this happening.

Now that you’re well informed of the many benefits of including screening questions in your survey, hopefully you’re convinced of their importance. But what might these questions look like in practice, and what are the top screening questions to ask to ensure you’re reaching your target audience? Read on to determine the best questions for your survey.

What are examples of screening questions?

In the world of screeners, there are three key types of questions you should consider: behavioral, demographic, and industry-specific screeners. Each can provide important information, and which type you choose will rely heavily on the kind of question you’re working to learn more about. Let’s take a closer look at each and provide some examples to help you understand them better.

Behavioral screeners give you insight into the behaviors of your respondents in order to determine if they’re a good fit for your survey. Demographic screeners inform you about the background and context of the respondent. Industry-specific screeners are designed to provide insight into an individual’s knowledge of a given industry.

Here are the best questions to consider from each category:

Behavioral

  • How many hours per week do you spend doing X activity?
  • How often do you watch X type of television program?
  • How regularly do you vote in local or national elections?

Demographic

  • How much money do you earn on average each year?
  • What is your highest level of education?
  • Which of the following best describes your gender/race/sexual orientation?

Industry-specific

  • Do you or a family member have experience in the following industries?
  • Which industry do you currently work in?

There’s no established list of best screening questions—these must be tailored to your specific survey based on the unique information you’re working to understand. Keep in mind that these questions are meant to be used before survey questions, that using more than one is best to help you determine your respondents’ credentials, and that using yes/no questions should be avoided to give more room for respondent interpretation. Once you’re ready to begin crafting your survey and receiving responses, get started with Voiceform for free!

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