Effective Participant Screening Instruments

A universal priority exists among all market researchers: recruiting precise participants. As friends, coaches, teachers, and the ever-mounting telemarketer compete for telephone time, creativity is paramount in crafting recruitment qualification screeners.

Yielding qualified participants requires team work and importantly, thinking beyond the quotas. An understanding of and having empathy for recruiters, who spend arduous hours with our instruments to qualify prospects for our studies, is just smart research. Some considerations:


  1. Study Purpose & Rapport Builder
  2. Blind” Questions
  3. Limit Skip-Patterns & Identify Terminators Prominently
  4. Consider Length
  5. About Algorithms


Study Purpose & Rapport Builder: Incorporating an appealing study purpose with the introduction assists in capturing prospects’ attention. Something beyond the generic, “Health Study.” Let’s say you are conducting branding focus groups for a hospital, perhaps your study’s purpose for screening purposes could be, “Local Health Care Options.” It provides a little more information, and gives the participant food-for-thought with the term, “options.” An opening question can spawn further interest, such as, “Beyond the patient, when you visit someone in a hospital (as a visitor), what is most important.” This provides an opportunity for the recruiter to develop rapport with the prospect early in the conversation.


Blind” Questions: An essential screener component! Often, screeners include closed-end questions, with “yes/no” responses for important quotas. “Blind” questions hide your desired category, product, brand or response within a list of like options. For instance, a first question in the quota series could be: “Of the following hospitals, which have you visited in the past year,” followed by a list of the hospitals. The secondary questions could then inquire as to experience, frequency, type of service, again offered within a list. If you say, instead, “Have you visited Mercy Hospital in the past year?,” the qualifying “Yes/No” response is not as reliable. The desire to please is a basic human trait. “Blind” questions ensure that participants truly meet the quota, are not trying to please the recruiter, or respond dishonestly because they are primarily motivated by the $.

The use of “blind” questions is especially important for usage studies, as is requesting that the prospective participant physically check the pantry/ bathroom/laundry room to verify the exact brand of product used before they qualify for invitation. This is especially important in more “commodity” categories.


Limit Skip-Patterns and Identify Terminators Prominently: Rather than rely on recruiters to be typographers, make question sequences easy to follow. Indent secondary questions under the desired response, with the alternate response below with call-outs {GO TO next question}. “Thank & Terminate” and specific quotas should follow the question immediately, as opposed to appearing in paragraph form under the question. Even the most astute recruiter can miss an important quota without prominence.


Consider Length: A ten-page screener is not only time-consuming, consider: Is it truly necessary? Often, lengthy screeners are the result of a client who is attempting to garner various segments with the use of one instrument. If your segments are distinct, perhaps distinct screeners are in order as well?


About Algorithms: An algorithm is a method of qualifying study participants utilizing a pre-programmed software. Prospective participants’ responses are entered into the program which determines qualification, segmentation, or attitude toward a brand or category (e.g., Loyal- Passionate-Casual or Trend Setter-Trend Follower-Trend Less). This process adds a layer to the recruiting process, and accordingly, increases recruiting costs. Algorithms work well for clients who confidently understand their target markets.


Making a screener detailed enough to yield your qualified participant, and simple enough to be successfully utilized by a varied skill-level of recruiters across the country is a guaranteed win-win.


market research recruiting

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at 5:45 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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