Top 20 Instructional Design Interview Questions – How to Answer Them

Congratulations! You followed my advice and got your instructional designer certificate. Then, you applied for a position and you landed an interview. OK, great! Now, take a deep breath and review our list of questions that you may be asked during the interview process and some terrific ways to answer them.

Interview Questions

Here are common questions that you may be asked when interviewing for a job as an instructional designer:
1. What experience do you have? →
2. What other work have you done that is not instructional design? →
3. What is your instructional design process? →
4. Describe a learning program you designed using the ADDIE process. →
5. How do you work with subject matter experts? →
6. What metrics do you use to determine your course design success? →
7. What software and learning management systems do you know? →
8. How do you make courses engaging? →
9. Have you ever recommended curriculum or course changes? →
10. How do you teach instructors to use a new e-learning platform? →
11. Why do you want to work as an instructional designer? →
12.What software do you use for design work? →
13. Here is something we want you to work on. What would you do to improve it? →
14. How do you measure the effectiveness of a program design? →
15. How well do you work with other people? →
16. Can you create a storyboard? →
17. How do you deal with different levels of learning abilities? →
18. What does your typical day look like? →
19. Do you create more than one prototype? →
20. What will be the first thing you do, if hired? →

1. What experience do you have?

The interviewer wants to understand how the work that you did before will help you be successful in the new position.

Your Answer: Experience

Be sure to do your research about the job you are applying for and the company. You should know ahead of the interview what the work will be like so that you can prepare a customized instructional design portfolio of previous work that shows how it applies to the new position.

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If you do not have a portfolio of past work, you can make up examples of how you would approach a new project and make what is essentially a virtual portfolio of work that you could do.

While showing the work in your portfolio, mention the software tools you used and the relevant concepts behind the designs, who the project was designed for, the training purpose, the metrics used for evaluation, and how the analysis of the results turned out. Convey enthusiasm for everything you did. Enthusiasm is contagious and a strong positive influence when you seek a new job.

2. What other work have you done that is not instructional design?

It is very common for instructional designers to come from other fields with a wide background in a variety of academic pursuits. For example, teaching in a classroom gives a valuable experience that can help when designing courses. Or maybe you’ve hosted live corporate training events on virtual conference platforms.

If you are new to the instructional design field or making a lateral career shift, this is your chance to explain how your past experiences will help you achieve success in your efforts as an instructional designer.

Your Answer: Related Experience

Many coming into the field of instructional designers have experience in other fields. Be sure to highlight any facets of your experience that give you an advantage for the position you are applying for and relate those things to this answer. Without sounding forced or fake, use keywords from the job listing and explain how your experience relates to those keywords.

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Identify the problem from your experience and how it relates to keywords for the new position. Describe how you solved the problem and the exceptional results achieved. Describe the results in concrete terms such as “positive satisfaction surveys improved by 50%.”

3. What is your instructional design process?

Since design is the key function of your job, the interviewer will want to know how you approach the instructional design process. This question seeks to understand your knowledge of the popular strategies used for instructional design. This probes your ability to understand the big picture concepts and how those concepts determine your steps in the design process along with your work methods. The interviewer wants you to explain organizational and project management skills.

Your Answer: Instructional Design Process

Organize your answer at three levels. The first level is to give an overview of the top-level instructional design strategies that you understand and use. Secondly, discuss the design process steps that you will take. Thirdly, describe a typical workday to show that you can prioritize the elements of an ongoing project and manage your efforts to a successful conclusion, on time and budget.

Instructional design theories and models include:

  • ADDIE
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives
  • Individualized Instruction
  • Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
  • SAM Model
  • Situated Cognition Theory
  • Sociocultural Learning Theory

Incorporate the ADDIE model along with other instructional design theories in your answer. Link your design process steps to the established models with the related theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and social learning. Expect to have a follow-up question that asks you to explain why you choose certain methods over others.

Be flexible in your opinions about the different methodologies, yet speak with confidence about them. Demonstrate your comprehension of popular theories and useful methods in the field. Show how you can incorporate this knowledge into your design process. If possible, use specific examples of how a particular method was successful in your past work.

4. Describe a learning program you designed using the ADDIE process

The ADDIE process is analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. It is the most widely used model for instructional design. The interviewer is looking for your experience in managing a project through all the stages of the ADDIE model including prototyping and iterative development.

Your Answer: ADDIE Process

ADDIE-Process

A complete answer would cover all the stages of the ADDIE process from the initial analysis of the project through the evaluation of the project. It is not considered sufficient by most interviewers for a candidate to have experience with only parts of the ADDIE process. The key to this model’s effectiveness is having success by using the full rendition of it. It is useful to describe any experience in rapid development.

5. How do you work with subject matter experts?

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are widely used in instructional design. An effective instructional designer must be able to effectively manage relationships with SMEs. The interviewer uses this question to see how you will approach getting information from SMEs, even difficult ones, and if you can convert expert knowledge into understandable course content.

Your Answer: Subject Matter Experts

Part of your answer includes how you plan to recruit and work with SMEs. Explain who you know, if that is relevant, especially if any SME you know played a critical role in a previously successful project. Explain how you plan to get cooperation from SMEs who you do not know and how you will manage the relationships.

Manager-300Mention you are aware of the difficulty in getting interviews with SMEs who do not prioritize discussions with instructional designers as a high priority. How will you deal with interview cancelations and still keep on track to meet your
project deadlines?

Discuss the full process of cold-calling an SME, getting to know him or her, getting an interview appointment, and building trust with them. Give examples of interview questions you will use that are open-ended and meant to extract as much knowledge from them as possible. By demonstrating these skills, it gives the interviewer confidence that you can get the critical data needed from SMEs even if they are reluctant to participate.

6. What metrics do you use to determine your course design success?

Institutions hire an instructional designer for the results that they can achieve. The instructional design phase is only half of the complete picture. The measurement of the results is the other half. Demonstrating that you are aware that performance requirements are a big part of your success is critical. This shows that you can design a program with success goals in mind.

Instructional designers succeed by designing courses with techniques that have pre-determined objectives for learning and ways to measure if those objectives are met. Be sure to discuss how you will analyze results and what software tools and metrics you will use for your analysis.

Your Answer: Using Success Metrics

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The best way to answer this question is to present a previous work sample. Show the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you selected for the project before the launch and then the results achieved based on the project analysis.

It is very effective if you also show a project design that had unexpected results and what you did to remedy the situation. It is a significant part of the design process to be able to repair failures and make corrections based on the project analysis.

Be very specific in your answer to this question about why you chose certain KPIs and what the analysis results meant. Connect the choice of KPIs with an established learning theory.

For example, using gamification methods, your KPIs could be the percentage of students engaged in study games correlated with the percentage of improvements in examination scores. The answer shows how the implementation of a gamification study system impacts overall testing scores. Statistical significance in the correlation of improved test score with the participation in study games would be a KPI that demonstrates positive project design results.

Failure-Success-301Do not be too shy to talk about project failures. This makes your past experiences valuable especially if you can demonstrate the steps you took after a failure to improve the design.

7. What software and learning management systems (LMS) do you know?

A key element in the work of an instructional design professional is proficiency in using the latest and best software tools. You must have technical competence with all major learning management systems (LMS). Find out before the interview what LMS and software are used by the job you apply for and then be prepared to discuss your proficiency in that system and software in detail.

Most job listings identify the software tools that are commonly used in the position and expect basic proficiency in those tools. However, it is fairly easy to learn how to use some of these tools. You do not need-in-depth expertise in every possible tool because some tools perform similar functions. You can hire freelance help to get up to speed quickly with any tool that you do not know how to use at an expert level.

You should at least recognize the popular software and know what it is used for, such as Captivate (and other Adobe software), Storyline, and Blackboard. Instructional designers need to know about graphic design, some programming code, and have technical expertise in common software tools and systems.

Your Answer: Software and LMS

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A big part of this work is staying current with popular software tools. It is important to make learning how to use new tools as a part of your personal continuing education to stay up with innovations. A powerful way to convey this to an interviewer is to have a list of the tools you used on past projects and a list of the current tools you are investigating and learning.

It is also appropriate to state that you have a basic understanding of particular software tools and that you have worked with contract workers (freelancers) who had the required special expertise for a particular project.

The main idea is to convey is your ability to be flexible, be part of a team effort, work with different client’s requirements, and learn quickly while on the job. Adaptability is the key. Prove your ability to adapt by citing examples of tools you needed to learn how to use in the past and how long it took for you to gain proficiency in those tools.

8. How do you make courses engaging?

Student engagement with course material is a KPI that is vital for student outcomes to improve. An interviewer wants to know about anything that you have done, which encouraged students to become engrossed in the materials. Examples of this are gamification elements and the use of interactive multimedia in courses.

Your Answer: Course Engagement

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To impress the interviewer have examples from your portfolio available to show that demonstrate the techniques you used to increase student engagement effectively. Bring a laptop with your portfolio on it for an in-person interview. Have your portfolio accessible online for a remote interview.

Walk the interviewer through the multimedia elements and give him or her a chance to try out your most successful examples. Be prepared to show how the KPIs track engagement and share the details from a past analysis, such as student performance results before and after adding engagement elements to the course materials.

A job-winning tip is to make a short trivia game about the organization that you are applying to work at that uses the company’s history, mission statement, and important details in the answers. The design of the trivia quiz shows off your graphics abilities and the trivia questions show you did your research on the organization when you applied.

9. Have you ever recommended curriculum or course changes?

Much of the work of an instructional designer is teamwork. It is important to be able to accept constructive criticism and give feedback. An expert instructional designer brings valuable insights into a project without being overbearing. It is important to have interpersonal communication skills and be able to present an alternative viewpoint in a way that is descriptive and persuasive without being argumentative.

Strategy-300With this question, the interviewer is searching for your ability to identify strategy weaknesses and recommend project changes that guide the project in a better direction. Instructional designers need to be confident in their views and be able to express them. Your answer here shows how well you keep up with current trends
and your ability to persuade others.

Your Answer: Recommending Changes

The best way to answer a question like this one is to explain a real-life example from your experience and talk about how you handled it. Talk about a project that you worked on and you recommended a change that had a positive result. Explain your rationale for suggesting the change, what opposition you faced, how you overcame the naysayers, and the positive impact the change had on the project.

Explain the details of the change recommendation and the performance metrics used to prove the positive impact. Talk in statistical results. For example, you can describe a project where reducing each lesson plan length by 20% improved the students’ retention of the material by 15%, as determined by quizzes. A detailed example shows you understand the importance of the work and you have the skills and enthusiasm to implement positive changes that you recommend to the decision-makers.

10. How do you teach instructors to use a new e-learning platform?

As an instructional designer, you might make courses for students or you might design a course curriculum to be taught by other teachers. You need to have technical skills to design the course for student comprehension and the administrative skills to teach other instructors how to use the system.

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The interviewer is asking how you would teach an instructor. How is your methodology different when compared to teaching students? Can you work well with others? Being able to conceive of a design from multiple user levels is what this question is about. There may be a third level of system administrators as well who need to have some technical instruction from you on how to use a new system.

Your Answer: Teaching Instructors

When describing a methodology that teaches the instructors how to use a new e-learning system, you want to discuss specific instructional methods such as using instructional videos, written guides, and direct one-on-one training with tech support. The important factor here is to show you can test the comprehension and knowledge transfer achieved by the instructors.

Be sure to explain how you would approach teaching instructors with different levels of technical skills and some who may have no technical expertise at all. Use an example of how you worked with a complete newbie to reach a level of useful expertise in a new e-learning system. Describe the challenges and how you overcame any problems to get every instructor’s comprehension to a practical level.

Interview-Question-300If you have not had this experience of teaching an instructor, then, pick a platform that you know well to use as an example. Teach the interviewer as if the interviewer was an instructor learning the system anew. Show that you have the knowledge and the patience to explain complex systems
in understandable ways.

11. Why do you want to work as an instructional designer?

The interviewer wants to know about your enthusiasm, motivation, and ability to pursue a dedicated career as an instructional designer.

Your Answer: Being an Instructional Designer

This question gives you a good chance to talk about your passion for design, your artistic skills, your interest in technology, your enjoyment in helping others learn, and the bright future of a career in this profession. The interviewer wants to feel your enthusiasm for doing a good job.

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12. What software do you use for design work?

A good interviewer knows to ask this question. However, an interviewer may not be familiar with the software tools you use, since this is not in the area of the interviewer’s expertise. Many companies use a two-part interview process. The first interview is for general screening of the candidates for qualifications. The second interview is for narrowing the candidate choices to select the best person for the position.

Make it easy for the interviewer to take notes about your skillset, which the supervisor will likely review. Give a list of the names of the software you use and one sentence for each one that describes what the software tool is used to accomplish.

Examples of popular software used by instructional designers include:

  • Adobe Captivate
  • Lectora
  • Camstasia
  • Lectoa
  • Snagit
  • Brainshark
  • EasyGenerator
  • Articulate Storyline, Studio, and 360
  • Blackboard

This is just a short list of examples. Make your own list. Also, be sure you know what each of these popular programs can do, even if you chose to use an alternative tool to accomplish the same things. Be sure to tell the interviewer that you are constantly learning to use the newest software tools.

13. Here is something we want you to work on. What would you do to improve it?

Interview-StrategyThis interviewing technique is what I call the “put you on the spot” and “interviewer seeking free advice” strategy. I always recommend you turn this strategy to your advantage by assuming you got the job.

Your Answer: How to Improve a Sample

If there are obvious flaws, like lousy graphics, mention them but more importantly go for the “assumed close” as if you already got the job.

Tell the interviewer you will review the materials and return the next day(s) with your detailed proposal. Also ask, if you have questions about the materials, who you should contact. That person is either a team member or a supervisor. Be sure to contact them and start working together in a very polite way.

An instructional designer not only works with graphics and content, but the work is also about the purpose of the design, what it will be used for, who will study the materials, and what are the appropriate measurements of success.

14. How do you measure the effectiveness of a program design?

Measure-Effectiveness

This is a terrific interview question because it is the core element that creates success in informational design. A design is only as good as its performance metrics. Part of instructional design is identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) in advance of the project’s creation to be used for the analysis of the success. The KPIs are the goals and achieving them at certain levels is considered a success.

Your Answer: Program Effectiveness

Every instructional program design starts with the goals to achieve. The design must have pre-determined key performance indicators (KPIs) to use for analysis of the program’s effectiveness. Often the KPIs come from past performance metrics with the intent to improve upon historical outcomes.

These KPIs could be things such as exam scores, content retention, student engagement, the time needed to complete the program, ability to solve problems, and any number of other metrics that have importance to the project. The KPIs used must be relevant to the desired outcomes, that the goals are realistic, and the benchmarks set in advance to measure the effectiveness of the program design.

15. How well do you work with other people?

Instructional design is rarely a solo effort. For most projects, you will be working with many members of an internal team, perhaps other stakeholders from various groups, and even outsiders as subject matter experts.

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If you are not a “people” person, who gets along well with others, this may not be the best career choice for you. For example, if instructors are using materials created by you, you will want to consult with them regularly.

Your Answer: Working With Others

You must convince the interviewer that you cooperate well with colleagues as you may be interfacing with them daily. Much improvement in instructional design efforts comes from getting feedback from the system’s users. Be certain to state that you enjoy working as part of a team.

If possible, give examples of past projects with a large number of team members. Talk about the contributions of other colleagues and how much you valued the input as well as how you incorporated their efforts in the program design.

16. Can you create a storyboard?

Creativity-300A storyboard is an important tool used by instructional designers to layout a series of panels that show the design framework for a learning program. The interviewer wants to know your skills in creating a storyboard because it is usually a major part of planning any project.

Your Answer: Storyboard

The best way to answer this question is to have examples of storyboards you created for past projects in your portfolio. If you don’t have direct experience creating a storyboard for a project, you can create a virtual project to show as an example. Be sure the storyboard you show is exceptionally well-designed. If needed, use freelance help to get feedback on how to improve your storyboard design.

17. How do you deal with different levels of learning abilities?

One consideration in instructional design is that students may have different learning abilities and different learning styles. One popular design theory is Bloom’s Learning Taxonomy. This theory considers three modalities of learning, which are affective, cognitive, and psychomotor.

Your Answer: Differing Learning Abilities

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This is a perfect opportunity to show a project from your portfolio that has a design specifically created to address this issue. If you do not have such a project, create an imagined one and apply Bloom’s Learning Taxonomy to demonstrate your knowledge of this approach.

18. What does your typical day look like?

The interviewer asks this question to learn more about your work methods, how you work with a team, and respond to superiors.

Your Answer: Workday

For your answer, offer a structured workday that is organized for effectiveness and efficiency. Make sure there are touchpoints with team members and information provided to superiors about the project status as a normal part of your routine.

19. Do you create more than one prototype?

Many projects require creating more than one prototype for project approval to advance from the conceptual stage to the execution stage. The interviewer is looking for flexibility when there is a need for multiple reiterations of a project design that are reviewed for approval.

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Your Answer: Multiple Prototypes

The answer to this question is best given by showing examples of prototypes from your portfolio. If you do not have any projects that required multiple prototypes, it is a good idea to take one prototype model and create an alternative prototype to show you are capable of doing this successfully.

20. What will be the first thing you do, if hired?

This question is a bit of a trap. Resist the temptation to say you will go on an all-night drinking binge to celebrate. The interviewer is trying to see if you can prioritize things in a way that makes sense.

Your Answer: First Thing to Do

Career-300If you will be working with a team, the priority is to get to know the other team members. If you are in a solo position, the priority is to create a work plan and a timeline for your supervisor’s approval. If you will be improving on a preexisting design, your first step is to review the previous
materials.

General Questions

Here is a checklist of general questions that you may be asked. There is no exact right or wrong answer to these questions. Just be sure you have a short, confident answer to any of them.

  • What is your communication style with clients?
  • How do you document project decisions and progress?
  • How do you track time and budget?
  • What do you do if a client is not happy with your work?
  • How do you handle project interruptions?
  • Have you ever struggled to communicate with colleagues?
  • What is your greatest weakness in instructional design?
  • Can you work effectively under pressure?
  • What is your main goal for your career?
  • What motivates you about this work?
  • Are you currently employed?
  • What would you current superior say about your work?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why are you interested in this organization?
  • Can you work remotely?
  • How do you communicate remotely to a team and your supervisor?
  • What is your most successful project?
  • What do you want us to know about you?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Have you learned software on your own (self-taught)?
  • Have you worked in a collaborative way?
  • What is your favorite part of instructional design work?
  • What is your least favorite part of instructional design work?
  • Have you worked on a team?
  • How do you establish yourself as a new member of a team?
  • What is the most common instructional design flaw?
  • How do you persuade a client or team member to try a new approach?
  • What educational theories do you prefer?
  • What evaluation models are the most effective?
  • What do you do if you disagree with an expert?
  • Is creativity or efficiency more important?
  • Do you feel comfortable with new technology?
  • Do you have any questions?

Conclusion

Becoming an instruction designer is a terrific career path. The pay is exceptional and the work is very rewarding. To land one of the highest-paying positions, make sure you have the skills, experience, and knowledge to succeed. If you are just starting your studies or if you need a refresher course, be sure to check out my list of the best instructional design courses.

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