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Screening Questions: Do Your Surveys Need Them?

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The ability to create and distribute a survey in just a few clicks is nothing short of incredible. Before you know it, your survey can be in front of thousands (or more!) eyes to collect the powerful data you need. But what good is that data if you’re polling people whose input might not be relevant to you? That’s where screening questions come in!

What are Screening Questions?

Survey questions are used for focus groups, surveys, and polling to prequalify the respondents. For example, if you plan to survey parents, a screening question to prequalify respondents could ask if they have children.

There are several different types of screening questions you might use depending on the type of survey you’re running and the data you want to collect.

Screener Categories

Typically, they fall into one of these four categories.

Demographic questions

Questions like the one about children fall into this category. They can also include things like the respondent’s age, marital status, location, gender, ethnicity, and location. These are the most frequently used screening questions

Behavioral questions

These screeners give survey creators an idea about a respondent’s regular activities. For example, they could include how frequently they vote in local elections, how many hours per week they exercise, and how often they travel.

Industry-specific questions

One of the common biases survey creators come up against is based on the industry their respondents work in. These screening questions give you a heads up about which respondents might not be a good fit for your survey because of pre-existing biases surrounding the industry in which they work.

Product or service questions

If you create a product or service, there will be some groups it’s not intended for. For example, if you sell ride-on mowers, you’d want to be sure your survey respondents have a yard and would actually use the product. With product or service screening questions, you’re able to rule out respondents who aren’t your intended audience.

Should You Be Asking Survey Questions?

Now for the next big question: do you need to be asking screeners for your surveys? Not necessarily, they’re not for everyone. However, there are several benefits to asking screening questions that might make them right for you.

Cost-savings

If you’re spending time, money, and energy on creating surveys that are going out to the wrong people, this is a big waste of your valuable resources. With screening questions, you can better focus your efforts and help ensure your time, money, and energy are being well spent.

Mitigating bias

It’s virtually impossible to eliminate ALL bias in surveys. But that doesn’t mean it’s not something to work toward! A great place to start is with screening questions so you can weed out any obvious red flags. With a better understanding of your respondents’ behaviors, demographics, and career, you can help preserve the quality of your surveys and the data you collect.

More accurate and reliable data

This is perhaps the greatest benefit of utilizing screening questions. There are times when you’re running a low-stakes survey (for example, as an icebreaker at an event). But let’s say you’re launching a new product and the survey results you collect can make or break the success of the launch. In this case, using screeners will give you the peace of mind that you’ve done your due diligence in surveying the right people.

Screening Questions FAQ

What are the different types of screening questions?

These questions will typically fall into one of these categories: demographic questions, behavioral questions, industry-specific questions, and product or service questions.

What is a screening question?

Screening questions are a way to prequalify survey respondents or focus group participants. Based on their responses, you can then weed out any participants whose input might not be relevant to your needs.

What are the benefits of using screening questions?

Any time the stakes are high when it comes to survey results, using screeners can be beneficial. For starters, they help you save money, energy, and time on creating and distributing surveys to the wrong people. At the same time, they help you eliminate any obvious bias that might pose an issue with your survey results. Finally, and most significantly, they help ensure you get the most accurate survey data possible.

How many questions should I ask?

This all depends on the survey you’re running and type of information you need to collect. For example, if the only qualification for participating in a survey is that respondents must be pet owners, your screener could include a single question: “Do you own a pet?” Yes or No. In other cases, you might need to dig deeper into the demographics, habits, and behaviors to ensure they’re the right fit for your survey.

 

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