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What are best practices for building a screener survey?

Screener surveys are key to a successful user research study. Get the most from your screener survey using these tips and best practices.

The screener survey (or questionnaire) is vital to making sure that you are capturing only qualified candidates for your study. Here are some best practices for creating a stellar survey.

Tip #1: Don't give away too much.

To ensure that you get the most qualified participants for your study, you'll want to make sure you do not give away too much information upfront. This allows the screener to filter out people who would not be a good fit for your study, and highlight those who would be better qualified.

  • Don't assume that your description will filter out the right respondents; instead use the screener to filter people based on responses.
  • Leave out any hints as to the study purpose or the name of your company (unless required).
  • Avoid leading questions and answers.

Let's look at an example. A researcher is interested in speaking to people who pay and use for Music4U, an online music streaming service. Rather than sharing this goal upfront, they should take this approach during setup:

Project Title: Music Study

Description: We are interested in speaking to individuals who download or stream music.

Potential Screener Question: "Which if the following streaming music services do you currently pay for and use regularly? Please select all that apply."

  • Concert Jam (May Select)
  • Music4U (Must Select)
  • To My Ears (May Select)
  • PlayThatFunkyMusic (May Select)
  • None of the above (Reject)

This keeps the type of service you are looking for a secret while you collect honest answers from respondents.

If you are recruiting professionals, it is okay to be more clear about what you are looking for. Use your screener to include questions regarding proficiencies, experience, and understanding of their profession. You can even ask for their LinkedIn profile if you'd like to review it.

Tip #2: Avoid too many "yes" or "no" answers

Let's imagine a researcher is looking for respondents who are iPhone users.

Here's an example of poorly formatted questions:

"Do you own and currently use an iPhone?"

  • Yes (Accept)
  • No (Reject)
  • I don't know (Reject)

Here's a better way to format this question:

"What smartphone do you own and currently use?"

  • iPhone (Accept)
  • Android (Reject)
  • Windows (Reject)
  • I'm not sure (Reject)
  • I don't own a smartphone (Reject)

📖 7 Common Screener Survey Mistakes Even Experienced Researchers Make—and How to Fix Them

Tip #3: Get to know your candidates.

Now, we're not saying you need to become besties with every respondent. However, you can learn a a lot about an individual by allowing them to express their personality. We recommend that you add one short answer question (preferably at the end of your screener) asking them to provide a descriptive answer to any question.

You could ask something like this:

  • "What is your favorite mobile app what do you like best about it?"

Or feel free to make it fun!

  • "If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?"
  • "Think about a product you recently purchased. How would you describe the benefits of this product when recommending it to a friend?"

Tip #4: Use Skip Logic

If you need to change the order of your survey based on responses, you can use our Skip Logic feature to do so. Skip Logic will skip pages for respondents based on the answers they've provided.

Here's an example of how to use Skip Logic:

Page 1

"What smartphone do you own and currently use?"

  • iPhone (Accept)
  • Android (Reject) [Finish]
  • Windows (Reject) [Finish]
  • I'm not sure (Reject) [Finish]
  • I don't own a smartphone (Reject) [Finish]

Page 2

"What is the latest iOS update you've installed on your iPhone?"

  • iOS 16 (Accept)
  • iOS 15 (Accept)
  • iOS 14 (Accept)
  • iOS 13 (Reject) [Finish]
  • iOS 12 (Reject) [Finish]
  • iOS 11 or earlier (Reject) [Finish]

In this example, the researcher is interested in speaking with iPhone owners who have a installed iOS updates 14 and later. The Skip Logic has been set up so that only those respondents who have selected that they have an iPhone will proceed to the questions on Page #2. If a respondent doesn't select that they have an iPhone, they will finish the survey. For other Skip Logic use cases (such as having participants skip pages), check out our guide here

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