Hire Instructional Designers: The Complete Guide
So you think you want to hire an instructional designer. Great choice. Instructional designers are eLearning industry superheroes. They create learning experiences and develop instructional materials to make learning accessible. Whether you’re creating training modules for your employees or building online courses for students, an instructional designer is an essential member of your eLearning team.
Why Hire Instructional Designers
If you’re thinking about hiring an instructional designer, you probably already have some idea of what they can do. But are you aware of all the benefits instructional designers can bring to your team?
You need to hire an instructional designer if you want to:
- Transition in-person classes to online
- Build courses that align with teaching and learning best practices
- Bring course development in-house and reduce dependence on vendors
- Align organizational goals and projects with employee needs
- Create better learning experiences
Basically, if you’re creating courses, modules, lessons or other remote, hybrid or in-person learning opportunities, you need an instructional designer. Here’s everything you need to know to hire instructional designers for your team.
But What Do Instructional Designers Do, Really?
We’ve talked about the big-picture goals that instructional designers can help you achieve. Let’s look a little closer at how they make all this possible.
Instructional designers plan and oversee creation of the learning experience. They assess learning outcomes to make decisions about content, activities and assessments. They may be the one who builds the course in the Learning Management System or they may work with Learning Technologists on this step.
The titles Learning Experience Designer and Instructional Systems Designer are sometimes used in place of Instructional Designer, their central goal is the same — to create materials and systems that support learning. However, many instructional designers do have areas of specialization.
You might find IDs who specialize by industry or field. The core industries typically include; corporate learning and development, non-profit, government, and education. Or they may be focused on specific fields such as healthcare, finance, automotive, IT, higher education or K-12.
Other instructional designers specialize by function. For example, you ID may be an expert in needs analysis and learning strategy design but need to partner with another professional that specializes in content writing to create a publish-ready deliverable. It’s often helpful to understand your team members strengths and gaps to be able to hire a team that complements one another or to contract out for specific areas.
Strategically hiring an instructional designer who specializes in your industry, field, or within a specific function can be a smart decision for optimizing your team’s results.
How to Attract the Best Instructional Designers
If you want to attract and hire the best instructional designers, your organization needs to be aware of what these candidates are looking for. Pay and benefits are always at the top of any candidate’s wish list. Make sure you’re offering a competitive rate whether you’re hiring employees or contractors. For employees, remember to consider your benefits package as part of the total compensation.
Then, consider flexibility. More candidates are looking for remote, hybrid, and flexible work arrangements. When writing job postings, highlight opportunities for flexibility.
Finally, candidates are considering how this role will help them grow and advance their careers. In the job posting and during the interview process, look for ways to show the candidate how this role can help them grow and develop.
What to Budget for an Instructional Design Salary
To get the best instructional designers on your team, you want to pay competitive rates. In the U.S. full-time instructional designers make about $78,094 per year on average.
Your industry and their experience level will determine how much instructional designers will expect to be paid. In general, corporate instructional designers tend to make the most while academic IDs tend to have the lowest salaries.
Of course, instructional designers with valuable specialities or greater experience are likely to command the highest salaries. Senior instructional designers may make up to $10,000 more per year than their more junior colleagues. Keep in mind that job salaries are growing across the board. Make sure your job postings offer enough to be competitive.
Also, many candidates are choosing to avoid roles without posted salary requirements. So if you can include a range in your job postings, you may get a more diverse and qualified group of candidates to choose from. Keep an eye on your state laws as well, since more states and large cities are enacting salary range disclosure regulations.
How to Hire Instructional Designers
The process for hiring an instructional designer isn’t much different than for any other role you need to fill. However, there are some best practices to help you find an ID who is the best fit for the role and your organization.
Step 1: Identify Your Organization’s Needs
Before you begin your search, take some time to define the specific instructional design needs of your organization. Consider factors like:
- Goals and strategy
- Target audience
- Types of content you need to develop
- Current or future use of technology
This will help you determine whether you need an instructional designer with a specific speciality or background.
Step 2: Describe Your Ideal Instructional Design Candidate
Think about the mix of skills, experience, and education you’d like to see from your ideal candidate. Be careful not to just recycle old ideas here. Consider the real work you expect the candidate to produce and ask yourself who can best deliver that work.
The following questions can help you paint a picture of your ideal candidate:
- How many years of experience should they have?
- What industries or companies have they worked with?
- What are the top 3 skills they need to do the job?
- What education or credentials should they have?
Don’t forget about specific software and tools they’ll need to use. You might not reject a candidate because they don’t have experience with Articulate 360 or Adobe Captivate, but your ideal candidate might have this type of technical expertise.
Using this portrait of your ideal candidate, you can create a job description.
Step 3: Create an Instructional Designer Job Description
Once you have a clear understanding of your organization’s needs, create a job description that outlines the required skills, experience, and qualifications for the position. Be sure to include details about the specific types of instructional materials the designer will be responsible for creating, as well as any software or tools they will be expected to use.
We’ve created a sample instructional designer job description for academic jobs and for corporate training roles to help get you started. Once you have your job description ready, it’s time to start looking for your new instructional designer.
Step 4: Share Your Instructional Design Job Opening
To find the best instructional design candidates, cast a wide net. Start by posting on your organization’s website and social media channels. Then partner with specialized job boards and recruiters with expertise in placing instructional designers.
At Teamed we have a roster of vetted and qualified candidates worth considering. Plus, our specialized job board puts your job posting in front of instructional designers seeking remote, in-person, employment, and contract roles. See if our hiring services are the right fit for your organization.
Step 5: Evaluate ID Job Applicants
Once you have some applicants it’s time to evaluate their skills and experience. You can start by reviewing their resume and portfolio. Then, move on to the interview. The right interview questions can help you really understand a candidate. More on that in a minute. Finally, you might want to ask for a sample task.
By the end of this process, you should have all the insight you need to pick the perfect candidate. Let’s take a closer look at the evaluation process.
How to Evaluate an Instructional Design Resume
Start by checking the resume against your profile of an ideal candidate. Determine whether this person has the experience, background, skills, and credentials you’re looking for. If not, do they have others that might be considered equivalent. For example, if you’re looking for someone with 3 years of experience and a master’s degree, you might be just as happy with a candidate who has 10 years of experience and a certificate.
Next, look at soft skills. Do you see evidence of good communication, creativity, and problem solving? You’ll investigate these skills more deeply during the interview, but see what you can glean from the resume.
If the candidate seems like a good match and they’ve included a link to their portfolio or LinkedIn profile, go review some samples of their work. Determine whether it meets the standards you’re looking for and whether you have questions you’d like to ask about their previous projects.
Instructional Design Interview Questions
When you interview an ID candidate, look for evidence that they’re listening actively and communicating well. Get to know their areas of expertise by asking questions like:
- Can you tell us about your background and experience in instructional design?
- What instructional design models or frameworks do you use and why?
- Can you walk us through your process for designing and developing instructional materials?
- How do you stay current with developments and trends in the field of instructional design?
Depending on what you need from an instructional designer you might ask about types of multimedia and technology they use, how they keep materials accessible for all learners, and how they organize and keep track of multiple projects.
You can use the interview to dig even deeper by asking behavioral questions for an ID interview. As you ask these questions, look for evidence of creativity, problem solving, and the top skills you identified earlier.
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Instructional Designers
- Tell me about a time when you had to design instruction for a particularly challenging topic. How did you approach the design process, and what strategies did you use to ensure that learners were able to understand and apply the information?
- Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult stakeholder or subject matter expert. How did you handle the situation, and what strategies did you use to maintain a productive working relationship?
- Tell me about a time when you had to revise an instructional experience based on feedback from stakeholders or end-users. How did you incorporate the feedback into your design process, and what changes did you make to the materials?
As you plan your behavioral interview questions, consider scenarios that are likely to arise during the design process. Make sure you’re asking questions that will reveal the candidates decision making process, conflict resolution tactics, and organization skills.
Types of Instructional Design Samples to Request
Instructional designers understand they need to have samples of work. If a link to a portfolio is not shared via their resume, be sure to ask for samples. Some standard types of samples include:
- needs analysis
- course outline
- eLearning modules
- writing or assessment sample
- project organization and tracking document
There are plenty of other sample types you might choose to ask for. What’s most important is that you look for the ones most relevant to the kind of projects the candidate will be working on if hired. Of course, work samples only show a snapshot in time. If you want to see an instructional designer in action, you might choose to assign a sample task.
Should I Assign A Sample Task?
When hiring an instructional designer, it can be very helpful to assign a sample task. This way you can compare candidates directly to one another and see how they perform given the unique requirements and standards of your organization.
Here are some tasks you might ask a candidate to complete:
- create an eLearning module on [topic]
- conduct a needs assessment
- write a specific piece of content
- develop a lesson with learning outcomes
Whatever project type you choose, the sample task should be as short as possible and it is always preferred for the organization to pay candidates for their efforts.
ID’s by Employment Classification: Employee, Temp, or Contractor
You may be most familiar with hiring for salary and hourly employee roles, but instructional designers can operate under several different employment classifications. Which type you hire depends on the needs of your organization. Keep in mind that employee type is dictated by employment law, not by your organization. Make sure you’re following the relevant laws and regulations for each type of employee.
How can I hire temporary contractors legally?
Hiring contractors has major benefits for business but there are important factors to consider. You won’t need to pay payroll taxes, unemployment tax, or make social security contributions. Contractors generally receive no benefits and there’s no long-term commitment, but you have to be careful about misclassification, which can have serious tax and legal consequences.
Many organizations choose to hire only contractors who have an LLC, which provides a level of protection. Others use an employee of record service to handle the compliance aspects so you don’t have to.
In short, hiring contractors is a great option, you’ll just want to make sure you’re hiring legally. An employer-of-record, like Teamed, can help.
Should I consider hiring an Instructional design intern or new graduate?
Hiring interns or new graduates is a great way to find professionals who are both affordable and highly motivated. New graduates often come into the workforce with either contracting experience or well-developed real-world practice via portfolio projects.
Just remember that if you’re hiring someone as an intern, your organization needs to follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Labor as well as any relevant state labor laws. Most organizations work directly with colleges and universities to create compliant internship programs.
Find the Right Instructional Designer
Finding the right instructional designer can help your organization achieve its goals. Whatever your industry and needs, Teamed can help you build a pipeline of qualified candidates for your open instructional design roles. From our specialized job board to our fully done-for-you recruitment packages, we offer the hiring services you need to find qualified professionals in instructional design, eLearning, and learning technology. Find your next employee, contractor, or expert consultant with Teamed. Explore our hiring services or contact us to get started.