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Your Ultimate Guide to Screener Questions

Sep 27, 2022
Screener questions

Searching for a crash course on screener questions? Well, you’ve come to the right place… Here’s everything you need to know about this survey element: from the benefits they provide to tips for creating your own.

What is a screener question and why do you need it?

A screener question is an important component of survey design, as it helps you filter or “screen” out participants who don’t fit the description of your target respondents. These questions can be based on demographic descriptors, behaviors, interests, or attitudes.

Effective screener questions allow you to gather insights from qualified respondents who fall within your target audience. Participants who are not a member of the target audience as reflected by their response to the screener question(s) will be terminated from the study. This lets you (as the researcher) have control over who can and can’t take your survey.

When designed correctly, screener questions can also help reduce the cost of market research by eliminating respondents who do not align with your target audience. They can be implemented into all types of qualitative and quantitative research, from in-person interviews to online surveys.

Let’s review a quick example. Say you’re researching the attitudes of people who only work fully remote jobs. With that in mind, you don’t want the responses of people who don’t fall into this category to share their answers and skew the data. Therefore, an example questions to help filter out those respondents might be:

What best describes your current work situation?

  • Part-time and in-person
  • Part-time and remote
  • Part-time and hybrid
  • Full-time and in-person
  • Full-time and remote
  • Full-time and hybrid
  • Unemployed
  • Retired
  • Other

Only respondents who select “part-time and remote” or “full-time and remote” will be presented the remaining questions in the survey, while the others will be disqualified from the study.

Now that you know the basics, how do you go about writing and implementing screeners in your next study? Follow these simple tips for everything you need to move forward with confidence.

Types of Screener Questions with Examples

The first decision is to select the type of screening question that will get you the right participants based on your evaluation criteria. The four most common types include:

  • Demographic
  • Psychographic
  • Behavioral
  • Firmographic

When picking which type to include, be sure to consider the audience you want to target and how you would define that audience. It is also common to include multiple screener questions from different categories to get more targeted and specific insights. Let’s dive into some examples for each.

Demographic Screener Questions

The simplest and most common screener questions are centered around demographic characteristics. These can ask respondents about age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, marital status, income level, etc. Say you’re testing some messaging ideas on your target audience of people who rent their current place of residence. To identify this segment, you could ask a question such as:

What describes your living status?

  • Homeowner
  • Renter
  • Lessee
  • Other
  • Prefer not to say

This would allow you to filter out respondents who don’t fall into your target audience, as only people who selected “18 – 25” who are currently in college would proceed with the remainder of the study.

Psychographic Screener Questions

Psychographic segmentation involves identifying respondents based on attitudes, interests, feelings, and beliefs. Say you’re looking to capture the opinions of people who value the option to work remotely. In order to filter out the respondents who don’t fit this criterion, you could ask:

How important or unimportant is the ability to work from home to you?

  • Extremely important
  • Somewhat important
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat unimportant
  • Extremely unimportant

Behavioral Screener Questions

As the name alludes, behavioral segmentation allows you to filter through respondents based on behaviors and actions. For example, say your target audience consists of avid TV watchers. To avoid getting feedback from people who don’t fall into this category, you can ask questions about how much television they watch on a regular basis:

On average, how much time do you spend watching TV per day?

  • Less than 1 hour
  • 1 – 2 hours
  • 3 – 4 hours
  • 5 – 6 hours
  • More than 7 hours

Depending on your desired cutoff point, you could decide that only respondents who selected “3 – 4 hours,” “5 – 6 hours,” or “More than 7 hours” would qualify for the remainder of the study.

Firmographic Screener Questions

This type of screener question, also known as “business-to-business” or “B2B,” is used when reaching out to decision makers for brands. They seek to filter through respondents by industry, company size, job title, company annual revenue, etc. Studies using these questions are targeting specific people based on the company they represent, as opposed to personal attitudes or qualities.

For instance, say you’re targeting small to medium businesses. You might ask someone about the size of their company in terms of employees:

Approximately how many employees does your company have?

  • Self-employed
  • 1 – 10 employees
  • 11 – 50 employees
  • 51 – 200 employees
  • 201 – 500 employees
  • 501 – 1,000 employees
  • 1,001 – 5,000 employees
  • 5,001 – 10,000 employees
  • 10,001+ employees
  • I don’t know

This way, if your target market is only small to mid-size firms, you can easily filter out those who exceed your desired number of employees.

It’s important to note that not all demographic, psychographic, behavioral or firmographic questions are screener questions. Survey questions are only screeners if the responses given by the participant dictate the remainder of their survey experience. If the answer doesn’t influence the experience for the respondent, it is not a screener question but rather a question used to gather more insights and assist in further data analysis. If it falls into one of the screener categories but is not a screener question, it’s generally best to put it at the end of the study.

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Tips for Making the Most of Your Screener Questions

Screener questions are extremely valuable research tools, but to avoid tainted insights and wasted resources, follow these simple tips.

1. Always include all screener questions at the beginning of your study

This effectively filters out unqualified respondents before they finish the remainder of the study. It also prevents your respondents from wasting time on a study if they are just going to be disqualified from it in the end.

2. Offer a “catchall” answer option

It is best practice to include a catchall answer option such as “I don’t know,” “None of the above,” or “Other” when applicable to ensure respondents always have an option that applies to them. Without this, respondents might be forced to select an answer option they don’t completely identify with– potentially qualifying the wrong respondents for the remainder of your study.

3. Avoid “yes” and “no” answer options

With binary questions, respondents have a 50% chance of qualifying for your study. This decreases the credibility of your study, and presents the risk of acquiescence bias, or the tendency to answer “yes” to appear more agreeable.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that some of your respondents might be bots or simply inattentive. Binary screener questions give them better odds of qualifying for the study, regardless of whether they really meet the target audience criteria.

For example, say you are only trying to survey people who identify as Democrat. Instead of asking them whether they are of that political affiliation, present a variety of options and only continue surveying the people who selected “moderate Democrat” or “strong Democrat” in their response.

Do you consider yourself a Democrat?

  • Yes
  • No


Please select your closest political affiliation:

  • Strong Republican
  • Moderate Republican
  • Independent
  • Moderate Democrat
  • Strong Democrat
  • Other
  • No political affiliation

4. Avoid leading questions

As tempting as it can be, avoid adding extra information in the question that could influence or pressure respondents to answer a certain way. Consequently, the wrong respondents might end up qualifying for your study, increasing the risk of contaminated data.

5. Use clear language and avoid industry slang

Be as clear and explicit as possible when asking questions to reduce the risk of dishonest or incorrect responses. If you do choose to include any industry-specific jargon or terminology, be sure to define it in the question.

6. Include enough screeners

It can be very useful to include multiple screener questions if it helps further define your target audience. Don’t hesitate to use more than one, but be sure to stay concise and relevant.

Screener Questions vs. Trap Questions in a Survey

A common misconception in research and survey design is the difference between screener questions and trap questions. Both help to filter out respondents, but in slightly different ways.

While screeners help weed out participants by certain characteristics, trap questions help to catch and terminate low-quality respondents by serving as an awareness-check. They identify participants who aren’t paying close attention to survey questions, potentially indicating they are providing sub-par responses to not only the trap question but others in the study. Learn more about how to write and structure a trap question by checking out our previous blog on the topic.

The GroupSolver Difference

Still not 100% confident in designing screener questions and launching your survey? Let GroupSolver do the hard work for you! With GroupSolver, you can choose from a question bank of archived screener questions to help you simplify the survey design process. Or, let one of our market research experts help you out so you can rest assured knowing you’re getting the best insights.

Ready to see for yourself? Start for free and create your survey today!

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