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How to Prepare for an Instructional Design Interview - Common Questions and Answers

Have you applied for an instructional design job you’re interested in and now they want to interview you?

Are you wondering how you should prepare? What kinds of questions are they going to ask? That’s what this article is all about.

Here are ten common questions along with why they are asked as well as how to answer them.

For more interview advice, be sure to check out my course, How to Start a Career in Instructional Design.

Question 1: What experience do you have?

Why They Ask:
You can pretty much count on this question in some form or fashion. It’s kind of a “check the box” question that everyone feels compelled to ask even though they have already seen your resume’. They want to hear it from you. The resume’ tells part of the story, but you are the one who can really bring it to life.

How to Answer:
This is one you should practice. A lot. You want to give the interviewer a good idea of what you have done (and, thereby, what you can do for them) but you don’t want to babble on and on to the point that they are bored.

Hit the main job roles and responsibilities. Particularly highlight anything that directly pertains to the job you are interviewing for.

For example, if the job posting mentions that you will be creating job aids then you should definitely mention “at XYZ Company, I created several job aids for the Pinnacle system roll out.” Or whatever makes sense.

You want to be able to give a compelling answer within around 2 – 3 minutes. That’s why you should not only practice but you should even use a stopwatch to see how you do with timing.

Remember, the idea isn’t to give them your whole life story. It’s to succinctly tell them what you have done and then, if there is something in particular they want to hear more about, they’ll ask.

Question 2: What is your favorite aspect of instructional design?

Why They Ask:
It seems like a bit of a “fluff” question, but it can actually help to see how much you really know about instructional design. It can also give an idea of where you are likely to focus your efforts.

How to Answer:
Of course, as with any answer, be honest. Don’t just tell them what you think
they want to hear.

If you like the development/creation part, say so. If you are
more of the analysis type, that’s fine too. Whatever it is, think about the WHY. Why is that your favorite part? That's the meat of your answer along with how you do it.
Try to not only mention what you like to do, but also to let them know that you're really good at it.

Question 3: How do you work with subject matter experts (SMEs)? / How do you deal with a difficult SME?

Why They Ask:
Any job that involves instructional design will require that you work with subject
matter experts or “SMEs” at times.

Usually, as part of the needs analysis, you will interview one or several. You are also likely to work with them throughout the project to help with validation.

The interviewer wants to know that you can work with different types of people and personalities.

How to Answer:
For this one, you want to think of an actual situation and how it played out. If it’s
the more general question of how you work with SMEs, just take the interviewer
through how you have interviewed and/or worked with them on a project.

If they specifically ask about a difficult SME, tell them “I’ve never had a difficult
SME!” and then laugh and laugh. Ok, seriously...

Most of us have worked with difficult SMEs. Now “difficult” doesn’t necessarily mean the person was a jerk or anything like that. One of the more common issues with SMEs that IDs have is when they don’t respond to requests for information.

Regardless of what the “difficulty” is/was, you want to highlight what you did to
overcome it. If it was a difficult personality, talk about what you did to keep your
cool and work productively with the person. If it was that they didn’t respond to
your emails, then talk about how you persisted and were able to get the

As you are doing this, make sure you don’t bad mouth the SMEs. Show how you empathized with them.

Question 4: What Is your process for designing a course?

Why They Ask:
The interviewer wants to know more about the approach you take. They are also usually looking for some indication of your familiarity with various instructional design models.

How to Answer:
If you use a particular ID model or process, mention that and then give a good
example of how you used it in an actual project.

If you don’t or don’t know, then take a look at some of the different models and
see which one aligns best to what you do. The HARPER Method is a step-by-step process designed to teach beginners in the field learn everything they need to know about designing an online course from start to finish.

Question 5: Are you familiar with _______ ISD model?

Why They Ask:
Some companies may have a particular model that they use and want to know if you are familiar with it. Generally, they like to know that you are familiar with SOME ISD model and can use it effectively with your design.

How to Answer:
Most of the time, you can find clues to which model they are going to ask about
in the job posting. They usually list in the requirements section which one(s) they
expect you to use.

The majority of the time, the one they are going to ask about is ADDIE. Make sure, at a minimum, that you can talk through an ADDIE example.

Again, though, if they specifically mention SAM, Gange, or some other model in the job posting, you’d better brush up on that. And, if you can describe how you used it in a project, all the better.

To read more about Instructional Design models, check out the eLearning & Instructional Design for Beginners Community.

Question 6: What is a project you are most proud of?

Why They Ask:
The interviewer wants to hear specifics about projects you have worked on. It is helpful to hear about what you consider to be your “best” work.

How to Answer:
This is your chance to brag. Pick something that you are truly proud of and that represents you at your best.

You should also be prepared to give some background on the project. How you came up with the design, what steps you took to create it, who you worked with, etc... Anything relevant to help the interviewer better understand your skills and talents.

Question 7: What is a project that you aren’t proud of?

Why They Ask:
Here, the interviewer wants to know how you handle adversity and/or how you
learn from your mistakes.

How to Answer:
This is kind of like the classic “tell me a weakness” question you often get in interviews.

You don’t want to go on and on about how terrible you are or did on a project. At the same time, you will want to have some example where you can show growth.

Use examples from earlier in your career. For example, usually your first couple of eLearning courses are really boring. Mention that and then talk about how you worked to improve your skills.

Another angle to take with this question could be a project where things went
wrong. Maybe it was behind schedule or the quality didn’t turn out how you had
planned or some other obstacle. In an example like this, you would want to
emphasize how you overcame that obstacle and what you learned from it.

Question 8: What software/tools do you use/are you familiar with ______?

Why They Ask:
This is mainly just confirming what you probably already have listed on your

How to Answer:
This one is pretty straight forward. It is an opportunity to reiterate any of the software skills you want to emphasize.

Obviously, if they have listed a specific software in the job posting and you have
experience then you’d want to mention that. You should also talk about a project where you used that particular software.

If there is a new program you’ve learned recently, mention that as well. You want to show that you are constantly learning and staying up to date.

Question 9: How do you measure the success of the training?

Why They Ask:
The fact that your latest course had catchy graphics, cool video and good music is great but what were the results?

Did the learners learn what they were supposed to learn? How do you know? That is basically what the interview wants to know with this question.

How to Answer:
There is usually at least some kind of mechanism in place to measure training. It could be an evaluation form filled out after an instructor led course. It could be the number of learners who completed and passed a quiz. Whatever example you
can give, mention it.

Question 10: Can I see some examples? / Show me your portfolio.

Why They Ask:
This is pretty straight forward. They want to see what you’ve done and what you can do.

How to Answer:
The first, obvious piece of advice here is to make sure your portfolio has all your
best work. Learn more about what to include in your portfolio in the eLearning & Instructional Design for Beginners Community.

Once you have your portfolio put together, make sure you are prepared to speak
on each item you’ve included. That may seem pretty obvious, but let me tell you what happened to me, who was not prepared...

I have different types of examples in my portfolio and for one particular interview I had a couple of things that I wanted to share with the interviewer (who happened to be the hiring manager).

I made an assumption about what I thought she’d want to see so mainly focused on them for my prep. Well, guess what? She wanted to see a completely different example and I stumbled through a not so great demo of that. Lesson learned.

It was really disappointing because she had another meeting she had to go to so I only got to show the one thing. I wished I could have at least salvaged the situation by showing her a couple of other examples. But, it was not to meant be. I never heard back from them.


Final Thoughts

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all questions you could possibly be asked in an instructional design interview. It should, however, be a good start to get you thinking about your experiences and projects so that you can answer just. about any question they throw at you with confidence.


Learn everything you need to know about instructional design in the eLearning & Instructional Design for Beginners Community.

Members of the Community constantly engage in design experience.

The trainings in the community guide you through the completion of an instructional design project and along the way, members gather and reflect on the work you create in for your portfolio.

Create a polished online portfolio that is a professional, public-facing site designed to explain and showcase your work experiences for potential employers.

If you’re interested in advancing in this rapidly growing field, learn how the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners Community can help. Click here to get started.


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