Instructional Design – Preparing for your first interview
You’ve taken the leap to switch careers, you’ve done the training, got your certification, and now you’ve landed your first interview in Instructional Design. Don’t panic, we are here to help you land that job and make the next step forward in your new career.
A lot of the preparation for an instructional design interview is similar to how you would prepare for an interview for any role and some of it may seem obvious, but there are many common mistakes and most of it comes from lack of preparation. Being well-prepared will set you up for success, so here are some important first steps:
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Do your research
Research the company that you are interviewing for. What is their culture like, and what are their values? Find out as much as you can and think about why you want to work there, as well as why they should hire you. How do you think your skills and experience will fit with their culture and company mission? Tailor your preparation for each interview in the same way you would adjust your CV for different company applications, show your skills and experience but also demonstrate how they fit with their company objectives.
Job Spec Analysis
Part of your preparation needs to be analysing the job specification and benchmarking yourself against all criteria a company has. You might match 80-90% of their criteria, with 10-20% missing in a specific area – consider how you can make up for the specifics and how your experience can feed into these missing criteria and skills.
Often Instructional Design interviews have three stages, an introduction stage, then a showcase stage based on a task – and a final stage with senior team members.
Once you are fully prepared there are a few more tips you can take into the interview with you to ensure you make the best impression.
Take your time
Don’t rush your answers, take time to consider the question so you can give your best answer.
Tell your story, why did you go into this industry, and how did your past experiences lead you here? As a new designer, you may not have a wealth of direct experience, but you can still demonstrate transferable skills and show your passion for the field.
Back up your answers with real examples, you can prepare some examples in advance that demonstrate things you might be asked about: How you delivered a project objective, give an example of teamwork or collaboration, and how you turned a difficult situation around.
Get comfortable with using the STAR method as a framework: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You can read more about the STAR method here: STAR method
There are also more specific areas of Instructional Design that you can expect to be asked about so prepare these in advance.
Get comfortable with talking about your design process
Even as a new Instructional Designer who may not have worked on many projects, you should be very aware of what your design process is and feel comfortable talking about it. The temptation for newer candidates can be to jump in and show how much they have learnt by talking at length about design theory, but they are asking about YOUR process. By all means, do reference design theories like ADDIE or Kirkpatrick as it demonstrates knowledge, but talk about how these models influence your process. Your design process should also give the interviewer an insight into what you would be like to work with and tell them more about you as a person. Don’t be afraid to give personality to your process. For example, how do you plan, what tools do you use, and have you changed your process based on experience? How do you bring your ideas from fruition to completion?
An interview brief/task
It is quite common to provide a brief to the interviewees and ask them to present back. You might be asked to design a learning offering, or come up with a project plan and discuss your approach to it. The brief might be generic or specific, you could be asked to come up with something from scratch or be provided with resources. For example, you may be given a slide deck in PowerPoint and asked to design an online resource based on that slide deck.
If a company identifies specific technology at the level of their job spec then it would be recommended to tap into that technology and show your design plan with it being incorporated.
If there are no tech prerequisites then the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can showcase.
This is an opportunity to show your process, your tech stack and the tools you use. You won’t be expected to know all the tools out there, but do talk about the ones you have the most experience with and give examples of how they fit in your overall process.
Examples of working with an SME (subject matter expert)
As an instructional designer, one of the challenges will be working with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and some will be easier to work with than others! During your career you will meet all types of experts from the overbearing ones who want to dictate every step of the process, to the ones who are impossible to get in contact with, the challenges are real and how you handle them will be something you can expect to be asked about at an interview.
Prepare some examples and show how you involve your SME in the process, how you work with different types of people and how you manage the relationship.
These questions will be looking at not just how you work with SMEs but also how you manage professional relationships and collaborate with others which is a key part of any job.
How do you keep up with changes in L&D?
If L&D is your passion you need to show your interest, how do you keep up with changes in the industry? Are you part of any groups or discussions, what sources do you turn to and are there any key people that you follow? Also think about what you believe Instructional design can bring to the business in a broader context, why it is important and how it can impact the business’s bottom line.
Your turn to ask a question
It is good to ask questions because it shows you have seriously considered the role and want to know more about it. What are the responsibilities of the role, it is more focused on design or development and what does the day-to-day job look like?
What are the opportunities for progression? What is the expectation of the role in the first few months? Are you adding to a team or taking over an existing role? As a company, how do they identify training needs, and what is their process? This question should give you some good insight into how they work on a day-to-day basis.
And most importantly don’t forget to breathe! Good luck and remember if at first, you don’t succeed, ask for feedback and then try again.
- Instructional Design Mock Interview with Cara North and Aleks Drobik by Devlin Peck https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL3y5sUA3LQ
- The STAR Method: The Secret to Acing Your Next Job Interview by Kat Boogaard https://www.themuse.com/advice/star-interview-method
- Working with SMEs: Dr Luke Hobson’s 8-Step Framework to Building Effective Relationships, & Courses By Cassandra Naji, https://www.eduflow.com/blog/a-complete-guide-to-working-with-your-subject-matter-expert