The instructional design field attracts a wide variety of individuals with diverse training and instructional development experience. Choosing the right instructional designer can be a challenging process as you consider the needs of your organization while reviewing stacks of resumes and work samples. You want to ensure that the individual you hire has the desired skills and experience and is the right fit for the position and your team.
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Create a brief checklist before reviewing resumes. This ensures that you are fair in your evaluation of each resume and that you don’t overlook important details. If HR screens the resumes first, be sure they have a copy of your checklist. When the stack of resumes gets really high, it’s tempting to skip the basics, but it pays to be thorough at this stage of the hiring process, and the checklist will keep you on track. The checklist should target the following:
- Spelling, grammar, and formatting—The resume is the initial writing sample for an applicant. It goes without saying that there should be no misspellings, grammatical errors, or formatting issues. It should be concise, readable, and free of any awkward or confusing phrases. An instructional designer’s primary skill set should include strong verbal communication and writing abilities, so this is an area where those talents should be apparent.
- Relevant skill set—Often, great candidates are screened out because they have experience in a different instructional development tool than the job requires. However, applicants with proven experience in one authoring tool have demonstrated their ability to produce learning content. For example, if an applicant has worked exclusively with Articulate™, and your organization uses Captivate™, consider allowing extra time for a great candidate to get up to speed on the nuts and bolts of Captivate™. Authoring tools are easy to learn, and there are plenty of support networks available to help with tricky questions. The key aspect is whether the applicant has tangible skills in developing professional and engaging learning courses. Note: if you are interviewing for a contractor position you should screen for experience with your company’s preferred development tools.
- Experience—Does the candidate have a work history in the instructional design field? Candidates may come from teaching or corporate training backgrounds or may have experience in technical writing, but they may not have experience in creating instructional materials for the unique needs of adult learners. If you are hiring for a junior-level position, find out if they have done any pro-bono work.
- Education—Discussions on instructional design forums visit this topic quite frequently—should companies require an instructional design degree? If you are screening applicants based solely on educational experience, you may skip over talented individuals. At ProEdit, an instructional design degree demonstrates the candidate’s ability to be successful in a formal learning environment that includes learning adult learning theory and instructional design models. Decide what is important for your team, and screen applicants accordingly.
Reviewing Work Samples
An instructional design candidate should be able to provide work samples. This can be tricky because they may be bound by confidentiality agreements. However, they should be able to share generic storyboards or development materials and describe their design process to you. What should you look for when examining a work sample?
- Creativity—Just as you may be weary from the same resume formats, learners get tired of training materials that all look the same. Has the candidate created something that uses a creative learning approach? Is the work visually stimulating and attractive? If there is dialogue, is it authentic-sounding and engaging?
- Good design—Is the material organized well with a logical flow from simple vocabulary to complex concepts? Is the design based on solid adult learning and instructional design best practices?
- Interactivity—What sort of interactivity has been built in for the learner? No one enjoys sitting through boring page-turners, so make sure that your candidate has the ability to draw in the learner with their interactive content.
- Presentation—Learning courses are often your company’s face to the world, so it is very important that the candidate present samples that are free of spelling and grammatical errors. Are items placed consistently on the screens? Is there attractive use of white space? Do graphics or animations look polished and professional?
One final note on work samples: Even if the samples do not cover subject matter relevant to your company, the quality of the instructional design should be your first concern. A competent instructional designer should be able to quickly absorb new source material and produce a great-looking course. Screening for candidates with experience in your particular industry may mean you overlook talented applicants.
Continue to Part 2 – Tips on Interviewing and Evaluating Instructional Designers
At ProEdit, we are experts in placing instructional designers for a multitude of industries throughout the U.S. Contact us today for more information or help finding the right candidate for your instructional design needs.