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Best Practices for Self-Reported Demographic Questions

Demographic survey questions allow you to collect characteristics about your participants – age, gender, and tenure are examples - and later segment your survey data to compare how responses vary by group. While demographic data can provide valuable insights, consider these best practices before designing your next survey.

First and foremost, consider pre-loading your demographics to avoid self-reported demographic questions. Most survey providers, including Quantum Workplace, allow you to load a file listing the individuals you’re surveying. This file should contain relevant and valuable demographics. This recommended approach prevents survey participants from answering information about themselves that you already know. It typically also leads to more accurate data and fewer concerns about confidentiality.

There may be times when you don’t have certain or any demographic information about your survey-takers, though. In this case, you may want to add a survey item to collect it.

If you include demographic survey questions:

Only ask for information you really need. Be very intentional about your demographic questions. If you include too many, you’ll frustrate the participant, who is giving you their valuable time, and it might cause them to question the survey’s intent. As you create the survey, think about how you want to segment the results, then include demographic questions that will help you slice the data to achieve your goal.

Put demographic questions at the end of the survey. Doing so prevents participants from introducing bias in previous answers. And if the participant is tired with the survey or runs out of time, you still get the responses to the questions you really need.

Make demographic questions optional. Asking more personal questions may make some participants uncomfortable, and you don’t want to lose out on their opinions. Provide the option to answer demographic questions, but let them know these responses aren’t mandatory.

Smart examples for your survey:

Demographic survey data allows you to dig deeper and find more interesting insights than only viewing feedback from the entire population.

We recommend pre-loading demographics about the population you’re surveying whenever possible. However, there are times self-reported demographic questions are either necessary or should be included to make survey feedback even more valuable.

But what does that look like in application? 

Here are four examples that can get you thinking about what these questions look like, and how they can influence your survey strategy.

  • Survey type: EXIT SURVEY

    Question: What shift do you work?

    Sample response options: Early morning, daytime, evening, overnight

    We find that the shift an employee works is typically not tracked in HRIS, so this question supplies new data to help you understand turnover. If you suspect turnover rate is higher for a certain shift, asking this question helps you to confirm or deny your hypothesis, and better yet, understand why. Maybe some changes need to be made to create a better employee experience during that particular shift.

  • Survey type: NEW HIRE SURVEY

    Question: How long have you been in the workforce?

    Sample response options: Less than 1 year, 1-3 years, 3-5 years, 5-10 years, 10+ years

    Successfully onboarding employees fresh out of college may look very different versus those who have spent a decade in the workforce. This question helps you evaluate onboarding challenges and needs by different populations so you can tailor unique onboarding experiences accordingly.

  • Survey type: JOB CANDIDATE SURVEY

    Question: Where do you look for jobs?

    Sample response options: Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, Ladders.com, other

    Even if the perfect candidate doesn’t end up accepting your job offer, you can still get valuable information from them. By learning where your ideal candidates are searching for employment, you can choose to advertise more heavily in those places and attract more talent.

  • Survey type: CUSTOMER SURVEY

    Question: How often do you use our software?

    Sample response options: Daily, weekly, monthly, a few times a year

    If you don’t readily have access to customer usage data, this simple question separates your most loyal users from everyone else, allowing you to isolate their feedback.

    In general, we find that customer surveys tend to include more self-reported demographic survey questions compared to internal employee surveys because you may not know who you’re hearing from. Our shareable pulse survey link combined with self-reported demographic questions is a great fit for these surveys!