When it comes to market research, the group of participants taking part are a crucial component to the success of the project. Comprising a faction of high quality, qualified respondents is a process that comes with its own set of challenges, but creating a great group starts with a well built screening questionnaire. Not only does a well written screener aide in the success of the project, but it can also save a lot of time and money on the client end!

So, what makes an effective screening questionnaire? There are several points that should be closely reviewed before stamping a draft with the seal of final approval for fielding.

1. Before you begin wiring your questionnaire, be sure you have a clear outline of what you’re aiming to achieve from this research study. Ensure you have a solid understanding of the intent and purpose, what types of participants would provide the most useful data, and how you will utilize the collected data after the study concludes. All of these factors weigh in on the pertinency of the questions you choose to include for screening.

2. Limit the questions to those that really have the most impact on the scope of the study. By putting in too many questions, you run the risk of turning off a potentially great respondent because the time commitment up front is too long and monotonous, and may also relay a message of a disorganized study. You also run the risk of redundant questions that may inadvertently disqualify participants who are the right fit for the research. Contradictory questions create a lot of confusion for the interviewers and respondents, alike.

3. Be mindful of skip patterns and recruiters notes. While most recruiting firms will pick up on errors, it’s not always clear what direction your skip pattern should take an interviewer as opposed to the direction it is taking them. Also, leaving off notes that give instructions for disqualification can create confusion if there aren’t clear cut guides to quotas. If these errors aren’t caught early, the entire recruiting process may be compromised.

4. When you can, limit excessive quotas. There are certainly instances where an abundance of parameters are absolutely necessary in order to collect the best possible data. But most times, this isn’t the case. Excessive specifications create more obstacles for the recruiting firm to find the multiple needles in the haystack, and also put your project at rick of losing valuable respondents who may be screened out over an insignificant detail. Some quotas are always expected, but be careful about adding quotas to the quotas (and so forth).

5. Keep the wording of the questions limited and easy to follow. Remember, most recruiting firms interview potential candidates over the phone by reading from the script you provide. If the questions are too wordy or complicated, a respondent may lose focus, or misunderstand the question, which may inadvertently lead to a false or inaccurate response. This could compromise the quality of the recruit, but can be avoided by keeping questions simple, short and direct.

6. Review the order of your questions, and ensure it has the correct flow. When possible, include all qualifying questions at the front end of the screener. This will save time on the recruiting end, and also reduce the number of candidates who spend excessive time answering questions only to be turned away at the end. Demographic and other sensitive questions are typically best suited for the back end of the screener, and folks who don’t have to answer these right out of the gate are more inclined to answer. Make sure the questions are aligned in an order that makes logical sense and doesn’t disrupt the flow.

7. Finally, before you send your screening questionnaire out into the field, ask someone to read it out loud to you. Role play, as if you are the candidate and the other person is the interviewer. This will give you first opportunity to hear how the screener reads, and pick up on any potential issues. Also ask that person to look over any skip patterns you may have included to be sure they make sense and don’t elicit confusion. Give your document one last look over to make sure nothing obvious needs correcting before sending it along.

Once the recruiting firm has the screener in hand, ask them to review it and provide any feedback they may have. If there are issues, they will be sure to let you know! It is also important to keep in mind that when the recruit has been fielding and not producing after extensive efforts, it is usually an indication that there is a significant issue with the screener: either the questionnaire or the specifications. If you make the process near impossible, it will be near impossible to fill with quality respondents. Remember, the success of the project starts with a sound screener!

Posted in Focus Group, Research, tips, user research.

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