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3 Ways to Shine in an Instructional Design Interview

These 3 Instructional Design interview tips will help you ace your next interview. Here’s how to showcase your skills and let your talent shine through.


If you’re looking for ways to shine in an instructional design interview, look no further. Whether you’ve already landed the interview, or are just starting your job search, these three tips will help you showcase your skills and stand out as uniquely you.

You’ve probably already skimmed through lists of common interview questions and done some research into potential employers. We’re taking interview prep a step further. These tips are specially chosen to help skilled and motivated professionals like you.

Nerves, business norms, and virtual interviews can make it harder for even the most skilled candidates to stand out. Fortunately, instructional designers have two superpowers: creativity and thoughtful planning. Apply these superpowers to the tips below and you can’t help but shine.

Tip #1: Ignite your passion and hone in on your skills

What does passion have to do with interviewing? Pretty much everything. The job interview process can be stressful and overwhelming. There’s anecdotal evidence that companies are engaging in more rounds of interviews with each candidate, which can add to the stress factor. Under these conditions, it’s important to keep your passion burning.

Remember, there’s a reason you want this job. The paycheck is part of it, but there’s probably a reason you’re excited about this particular instructional design job with this specific organization. There’s also a reason you got into this industry in the first place. Letting this motivation shine through can make for more successful interviews. Interviewers love to see applicants who are fired up to do great work.

Try these exercises to prepare for your next job interview:

  • Connect with your inner purpose. Grab a pen and paper and ask yourself why you pursued this career. Write down your first answer, then keep asking, “Why?” Digging deep will help uncover your inner purpose.
  • Visualize the future. Ask, “Where do I see myself in three to five years?” This might sound like a cliche, but put some thought into it. When you know where you want to go, and why, you’re more likely to get there. It can also help you put the role into perspective.
  • Find growth opportunities. If hired for this role, what skills will you be able to apply and develop? What capabilities are you excited to grow? How will this help you realize your purpose and reach your goals?

Now that you’re fired up, it’s time to hone in on your skills. You bring a unique set of strengths and areas of growth to any instructional design role. Prepare talking points that don’t just tell interviewers what you can do, but also how you’ll help meet their goals by leveraging your skills and experience.

Perspective Checkpoint!

Before we move on to the next tip, let’s pause for perspective. If you do the exercises above and you find yourself getting less excited about the job opportunity, that might be a sign it isn’t the right role for you.

Instructional design roles can take many forms and appear in all kinds of industries including corporate, higher ed, government, educational technology and more. Remember, you don’t have to take the first role you’re offered. Go into the interview with curiosity and see if you the role is really the right fit.

Tip #2: Harness the Power of Insightful Questions.

Interviewers love to know that you’ve done your homework and are excited about the position. The types of questions you ask show exactly how much research you’ve done and what’s most important to you.

Do some research on the organization’s mission and values. What important projects are they working on? Do they have any new partners? You can often find this information on their website or in news articles. If you can’t find it, ask during the interview.

Example questions:

  • How will the work I’m doing on [project] support the organization’s mission to…”
  • I’m really excited about the [project name] project. How does it contribute to your organizational goals?
  • I see you recently merged with/acquired/ partnered with [organization]. Where do you hope that partnership will take you?

Think about what you can bring to the table to help them achieve their mission. How can you contribute to these projects and help them meet their goals?

Ask specific questions about the role that show you’re thinking deeply about it. For example, if the job listing mentions something like “create innovative digital learning training” ask questions like:

  • What does your current training look like?
  • What’s working and where do you see room for improvement?
  • What does a more ideal state look like?

Thoughtful questions like these are a sure-fire way to impress interviewers and show them you’re the right fit for the role.

Tip #3: Prove your talents with strong work samples

Wait! Don’t skip this one.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know I need a portfolio,” but there’s more to it than that. Let’s talk about what strong work samples really look like.

The key is to provide a few high-quality samples of your work. Make sure each one has a clean and modern look. They should include content that’s substantial and well-written, based on sound learning theory.

Don’t just offer links to a bunch of courses you’ve worked on, show the full process. For each sample you should have material that gives a clear idea of the:

  • Learning plan or course outline and your role in it
  • Development process and learning theory that went into it
  • Finished learning experience.

You don’t need dozens of samples. Two to five strong examples is plenty. Try to showcase samples at different states in design, development and project management. Also, try to pick out samples that best align with the job posting.

Pro Tip:

If you don’t have samples that match what the employer is looking for, it’s okay to make one! Use a tool like 7taps to create a mini-course that shows off your skills. Keep the design clean and the content professional.

You can create a portfolio on a website builder like Wix, WordPress, or SquareSpace. If you’re not comfortable with any of those platforms, a well-designed Google doc can serve the same function.

Good luck on your Instructional Design Interview!

There you have it. Three tips to help you shine in your next instructional design interview. We hope you found these useful. If you did, don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to get a monthly roundup of posts right to your inbox.

If you’re still looking for your next instructional design role, we can help. Check out our job board or reach out today.

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