No matter how talented of an instructional designer you are, interviewing for an instructional design job with a new company (or any job, for that matter) can be overwhelming! Sometimes, the stress of the interview alone can throw you off your game. Before I share my secrets for landing your dream instructional design job, drop down to the comments and tell me your go-to tip to help you feel at ease in any interview.
Before you walk into an interview, take a deep breath, and remember that every one you’ll talk to that day has been in your shoes. We all understand interview nerves! With that said, I’ve got some excellent advice about how to prepare for your interview. I’ve pulled together some What-if scenarios that you should be ready for, and finally, a few tips to help you stand out amongst the other talent.
Tips to Land Your Dream Instructional Design Job
Preparation is Key
I know prepping for an interview is a given. Still, the best way to feel confident when you’re interviewing for an instructional design job is to be over-prepared. Instructional design requires a high level of focus and organization. Prove to your potential employer that you’ve got those skills by nailing your interview questions and be ready to provide any additional resources that may be required.
Here’s a checklist of ways you can prepare before interviewing for an instructional design job.
● Organize your Work Samples
Choosing which samples to showcase is a time-consuming task, but it’s essential when interviewing for an instructional design job. It’s worth the initial time investment because you can prepare it way ahead of time. You’ll also be able to reuse it (with minor tweaks and updates) for all your job interviews.
I recommend creating a portfolio of your work. There are many online platforms available to help you do this. Create a Google Site for free (check out this simple, step-by-step guide) or build a professional portfolio using premium sites like Squarespace or Adobe Portfolio.
What should you include in your portfolio? Don’t worry. I didn’t forget about that! I’ve got some tips for making your portfolio – pop down below to see them!
● Prepare for Questions
I know this is a given, but it’s also one of the best ways to appear confident and knowledgeable when you’re interviewing for an instructional design job.
My best advice (especially if you get nervous or tongue-tied in a high-stakes environment) is to write out your answers to the typical interview questions. Not only are you more likely to remember your response if you’ve written it out instead of just thinking about it, but you can also edit each answer to make sure you’re as concise as possible.
If you are interviewing for one job, you might be interviewing for multiple jobs so writing down your responses allows you to refresh your thoughts before each and every interview.
Here are some questions I’ve encountered that I’m glad I didn’t have to think up answers for on the spot:
1. How would you deal with a subject matter expert that’s not responsive to your requests for information?
2. What tools and software do you have experience using to build courses and course materials? Make sure you have specific names for this and be honest!
3. If this is your first instructional design position, how does your previous experience align with the skills needed? Teachers you have a ton of experience that is applicable to instructional design!
For more ideas, there’s a great list here of questions that you should expect when you’re interviewing for an instructional design position.
TAYTAY TIP: “Look at the job posting and write down at least one experience, knowledge, skill, ability or interest for every single item listed on the job posting. Odds are that the job posting was built for very specific needs so the interviewer will be checking to see that you can perform the task.”
● Research the Company
Doing your research ahead of time is a must for any job. Don’t just glance at the company website’s landing page and read their mission statement.
Read their recent blog posts and make a note of any topics of interest (find a way to bring them up in the interview or work it into your response to a question they ask you).
Check out their employee data on Linkedin (like where most of their employees are from, where they’ve studied), and see if you can make any connections. Search their most recent posts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Many companies showcase well-known clients of theirs. This is a great way to see their work in action and can make for an interesting conversation starter.
Most importantly, return to this research at least a day before your interview to make sure this specific business sticks out in your memory. Even the most well-intentioned interviewee can mix up companies when they’re in the thick of their job search!
● Write a list of questions to ask
Use your research on the company to ask important questions during your interview (and it should go without saying, but these questions should not be related to money or benefits). Ask what their team’s preferred workflow is, how they collect data on the courses they’ve built, what mediums are they building for the most – mobile, desktop, live, and etc.
The benefit of these types of questions is twofold. First, by asking thoughtful questions, you’re showing genuine interest in the company, the work they do, and the work you could potentially do for them. Second, you might learn something about the position that you can add to your pros or cons column. Then, if you end up with multiple offers, the questions you asked in that initial interview could end up being the tiebreaker.
Bottom line: you should always ask at least one question when you’re interviewing for an instructional design job. You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. It is important that you know enough about the company to make sure that the company, the job, and the organizational culture is a good fit for YOU!
● Know what is trending in learning
If you aren’t keeping up with trends in the learning industry, now is the time to brush up and get up to speed. It is important that you can talk the talk and walk the walk. So, take the time to learn about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and anything else that is trending. Know about your tools – what version is the most recent, what are it’s full capabilities, what is happening at the company, and etc.
What ifs: Scenarios to Expect
I love to prepare for every scenario! I know that it’s impossible to plan for every single ‘what-if’ situation, but here are a few common ones that you should keep in mind when you’re preparing for interviews.
What if the employer asks me to create a course?
It’s not uncommon for interviewers to ask you to follow up on the interview by sending an example they ask you to create. The good news? You’ve made it through to the second part of the interview! Your interviewers probably wouldn’t have asked you if they weren’t considering you as a serious candidate for the position!
The bad news is there’s usually a quick turn-around, so it’s good to expect you might have a project with a 2-day deadline right after an instructional design interview. The product you’re asked to complete will vary depending on the specific job and the company. Some common interview follow-up tasks are using the company’s template to create a storyboard and creating engagement activities or knowledge checks.
Some companies may ask you to build an eLearning lesson. It isn’t uncommon for the phrase instructional design to mean eLearning.
Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions, and give the project your all. If you have a chance to exercise your creativity, this is a great way to help you stand out.
What if all my work samples are protected by an NDA?
This is a widespread issue for existing instructional designers- you’ve worked on countless projects for your current company. Still, an NDA you sign with past clients or employers protects all that work.
Here’s a useful workaround that prevents you from having to create something from scratch but also allows you to comply with the legally binding document you’ve signed.
Take the project you’re most proud of, that best showcases your skills. Repurpose the template you used but replace all the text (using a Latin word generator is a quick and fun way to fill in the text. I like pirate latin). Replace any logos and other sensitive documents with logical images and fake logos.
What if the employer asks if you have experience with a skill you’ve never tried?
Honesty is the best policy, so don’t pretend you know how to use Captivate or another tool you’ve never used. At the same time, you can still use your response to showcase your talents.
Instead of saying ‘no, I’ve never used that before,’ try saying ‘Oh, I have always wanted to work more with X, but have spent most of my time using Y. I am a quick study and would be happy to apply my current skills to the new software. I am confident it would be a smooth transition.”
What if it’s a phone or video interview?
It’s not uncommon for instructional design positions to be remote, so a phone or video interview isn’t off the table. All the same preparation rules apply, but now you also need to make sure you have a comfortable and quiet space with stable internet or good reception for the duration of the interview.
Test out the connection ahead of time. The first time I used Zoom, I had a friend send me a meeting request, and we did a practice run. That way, I wasn’t looking at the meeting interface for the first time during an interview. For a phone interview, make a call from the exact spot you’ll be sitting in during the interview to eliminate being thrown off by a bad connection.
Make sure you have links to all your resources readily available, even if you’ve sent them ahead of time. For online interviews, always be prepared to share videos. Open up your computer’s webcam and check out what’s in the background. Make sure you’re dressed professionally and have decent light. Usually, your interviewer will give you a heads up if you’ll be asked to join via video, but better to be safe than sit through an interview in your workout clothes!
How to Stand Out
Here’s some good news, if you’ve been taking notes, chances are you’re already going to stand out amid a vast talent pool. Here are a few things you can do during an interview that will really help put you over the edge.
- Share your range in your portfolio by including projects that show off your visual design, templates you’ve created, and projects for different types of instruction.
- Have printed copies of your digital portfolio put together in professional binders and copies of your resume on high-quality paper to hand to each person interviewing you.
- Send a thank-you note (even for an online interview) and try to include a personal connection instead of just the standard, “thank you for this opportunity…” message.
- Make a personal or professional connection to the company’s mission or the goals of the organization.
- Prepare a pitch where you highlight your training and skills like you’re selling a product. Think of it as an elevator pitch for yourself!
With that said, there’s no way you won’t ace this interview! Preparation, expecting the unexpected, and putting in that extra effort to stand out are great ways to land the instructional design job of your dreams but my last piece of advice? Be yourself! If you show confidence in your abilities, your future employers will too.
If you have any other questions about interviewing for an instructional design job, head over to my Facebook community, and join the conversation!
Are you looking for a proven path to go from teaching to full-time instructional design and eLearning development, without getting another degree? Check out my 12-week immersive program: Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield