Are you hoping to land your dream instructional design job in 2021? You won’t get far without writing an instructional design resume! A great resume gets your foot in the door and gives you a chance to wow potential employers in-person with an interview.
If you’re new to instructional design, you’ll need some help writing an instructional design resume that stands out to recruiters. It also doesn’t hurt to understand the process recruiters use to find candidates.
I’ve pulled all my best advice for writing an instructional design resume into this post to help you land that instructional design interview.
Tips for Writing an Instructional Design Resume That Will Get You Noticed
Did you know the average recruiter only looks at a resume for about 6 seconds? It’s true! You have less time to get noticed than it takes to say, “grande vanilla latte, please.” So how do you make sure your resume has what it takes to make it into the “interview” pile? Try these eight tips for writing an instructional design resume that will get you noticed.
1. Find a Job You’re Interested in
Your resume starts with a job that sounds like a good fit for you. That may seem backward, but resume writing is not a one size fits all T-shirt. So the first step is to find a job that you are interested in.
You can do this by searching on any job-search site (LinkedIn and Monster are popular choices). Once you find the job you are interested in, you will tailor your resume specifically for that job. If you see three jobs you like, you will write three resumes and three cover letters.
If you are a new or aspiring instructional designer, I highly recommend you check out my free Transition to Instructional Design Resume eBook. I break down how to build a custom instructional designer resume using real examples to demonstrate how to reframe your current experiences. I also provide a real resume example so you can get inspiration for your resume. Click here to get your copy.
2. Identify Job Keywords
Read through the job posting that you are interested in a few times. First, to understand the qualifications of the position. Next, compile a list of keywords for you to use in your resume. Keywords are essential in writing an instructional design resume, or any resume for that matter because many companies use keyword recognition software to scan through submissions automatically.
That means that if your resume is missing an important keyword, you’re out of the running before a real person even sees it. Even if a real person reviews resumes for all applicants, that person is most likely not an instructional designer. Recruiters and other HR professionals won’t connect the dots – so if they don’t see a specific word or phrase, you won’t move forward.
Look for repeated words and action verbs in the posting. Another way to make sure you’ve identified all the keywords is to scan other instructional design postings. Are there buzzwords or specific skills that keep popping up from one company to the next? These are probably strong keywords that you should include in your resume!
3. Inventory You Skillset
What do you bring to the table? Make an inventory of all your applicable skills. Everything from customer service to technical knowledge is important. Even if you think you’ll never include a skill on the resume you submit, having a running list is a great exercise. Plus, you never know when a niche skill will come in handy!
Compare your list to those keywords you identified earlier. Does your skillset include all or most of those keywords? Edit your list of skills to remove anything irrelevant to the specific position. What you include should cover the key qualifications or really shout that you have it all plus some!
If any gaps exist between your skillset and the keywords you identified from the posting, ask yourself a few critical questions. Is this a skill you don’t have at all, or is it a skill you just hadn’t thought of or were using in a different way or maybe you call it something different?
Honesty is important, so obviously, you shouldn’t slip in a keyword if it’s not in your skillset. Instead, keep those skills in mind as opportunities for future growth. And, be prepared to explain how you will quickly develop those skills or what you are already doing to develop those skills.
4. Write a Keyword and “Screener-Friendly” Qualifications Summary
Your qualifications summary is a short blurb that outlines why you’re the right person for a position. It’s one of the first things someone sees when they open your resume.
Leverage your existing skills, but make them instructional design-friendly! Your experience in a non-instructional design field is still very much relevant. You’ll just need to align that experience with what’s useful in instructional design. I have some great examples in my ebook to help you rephrase qualifications to put them into the instructional design language.
For example, project management skills used in other areas apply to the project management of courses. You can leverage that experience and knowledge.
You can still write an attention-getting qualifications summary without paid work experience. What school or coursework have you completed that’s prepared you for the job? What interpersonal skills have you picked up that will help you work in a collaborative environment? What projects have you done for free that allowed you to work through a process you can relate to a typical instructional design model? Your answers to those questions all represent relevant qualifications!
To make your summary screener-friendly, use brief, incomplete sentences with action words. Don’t forget to sprinkle those keywords into the qualifications summary!
5. Add Some Appeal
Anything you can add to your resume that helps it stand out is a bonus. The content of your resume is the most important focus, sure. But remember, your resume only has 6 seconds to capture the reviewer’s attention. One way to do this is by changing up the visual design of your resume.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t do anything that will compromise your resume’s scannability. Don’t add tables to your resume. The software companies use to scan applicants’ resumes won’t pick up information in a table. If you use an image in your resume, it should not include important keywords for the same reason.
Here are a few things you CAN do to make your resume visually appealing:
- Add a splash of color to the backgrounds of your header or section titles.
- Choose a different font. Stick to something professional. Sans serif fonts have high readability but are a nice change from the standard fonts like Arial and Times New Roman. Helvetica, Georgia, and Muna are all professional fonts recommended by recruiters.
- Create a logo and use it in your header. You can download logo templates for a reasonable price from Creative Market.
- Use standard margins and line spacing. A one-inch margin is standard, but you can go down to ½ an inch if needed. Use a 1.15 line spacing for the body of your resume.
6. Write a Cover Letter
Simply including a cover letter with your resume can increase your chances of getting an interview. Even if the employer or recruiter doesn’t even read the cover letter, the fact that you took the time to write one can work in your favor.
Start your cover letter by stating why you’re interested in the job. What do you find exciting about it, and why are you the perfect candidate?
Now you need to research the company that’s receiving your resume. And I mean going more in-depth than the ‘About Us’ section on their website! Really get a feel for what this company is about. What are their values? Do they partner with any charitable organizations? What’s their social media presence like?
Your cover letter should show you’ve done your homework. Relate your work ethic to the company’s values. Mention any connections you have to their outreach efforts. Convince them that you’ll fit in perfectly in their company’s culture.
7. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Writing an instructional design resume is time-consuming, and I know you’ll get tempted just to click ‘send’ and hope for the best. But please do not skip this step! You may feel like you’ve read your completed resume so many times you’ve got it memorized, but your resume can always benefit from a second set of eyes.
Send your resume and cover letter to someone you trust and ask them to proofread it for you. I also practice the 24-hour rule. Before sending off professional documents, step away from the work (in this case, your resume) for a day. Come back to it with fresh eyes and make another round of edits before sending it in.
Once you’ve sent off a resume, the waiting begins. This is the hard part, and I’m here to tell you to relax! Don’t waste time refreshing your inbox every hour or stalking the job board to see if the posting disappears.
The best thing you can do while you’re waiting for that interview is to stay productive. Keep searching job sites for positions that interest you. Keep working on those skills that you still need to develop. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep putting yourself out there.
Another great way to pass this time is to brush up on your interviewing skills. This article has everything you need to know about interviewing for an instructional design job.
Still Need Help Writing Your Instructional Design Resume?
Don’t forget to download my ebook for a step-by-step guide to writing your best instructional design resume.
Do you need a little extra help writing your instructional design resume? Have you been sending out resumes for a while without interview invites? You might benefit from a one-on-one coaching session. I’ll be happy to give you my feedback or help you build a stronger resume!
Just starting your instructional design journey? Learn more about my immersive, 12-week Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.