Providing services in instructional design, virtual training, and human performance improvement.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Land an Instructional Design Position

As a growing company, Victor 12 frequently interviews and hires instructional designers from the junior to senior level. For every one open position, we may interview roughly ten designers and sort through forty or fifty resumes.

So how do you, as an instructional designer, get your resume reviewed favorably, make it through the interview process, and be selected for the position?

Consider the following recommendations of things to do and avoid to improve your chances of landing the job.

Thoroughly read the position description and research the company prior to submitting a resume.

Tailor your application to the position by highlighting your experience relevant to the stated position and company needs. Demonstrate that you took the time to research the company and fully understand the opportunity, as opposed to just sending a generic form-letter introduction and resume.

If submitting a cover letter or introductory email, address the letter to a specific person.

Too often we receive cover letters addressed to “Dear Sir” or, even worse, to “Dear [insert random name from a company the candidate previously applied to]”. Do a little research to try and identify the person likely to receive your application. If it is not obvious from the position description, search on the company website or LinkedIn for the individual likely to supervise the position or be involved in making the selection. Address this person by a professional title (e.g., Dr., Ms., Mr.) and their last name. If all else fails, most employers prefer the salutation “Dear Hiring Manager”, followed by a colon.


I cannot stress this one enough. Many resumes we receive are filled with spelling errors, grammar errors, and information left over from other applications. We receive cover letters addressed to wrong employers, applications for position titles that don’t exist in our company, and emails that read as though they were written by a non-English speaking infant. Once you have proofread your resume and cover letter, send it to a trusted friend or mentor to proofread and review for you. The more reviewers you recruit, the more likely you are to catch errors and areas that can be improved. If you have an e-portfolio, make sure you have thoroughly proofread your entire portfolio. Which leads me to...

Have a portfolio ready.

While we don’t always ask instructional designers to see their portfolios, it is always a good resource to have when applying for jobs. This can be especially helpful if you are junior and new to the field. Your resume may not have a wealth of professional experience, but including a link to an e-portfolio with strong, instructionally sound samples can bolster your credentials. If you are interested in doing development, graphic, or media work, this becomes especially important.

Act professional from your first interaction.

After selecting a candidate for a phone interview, I’ve been disappointed on more than one occasion when their response email to my interview request is informal, filled with errors, or otherwise unprofessional. As a candidate, you are being judged from your very first interaction with the company. Every email you send should be clean and professional. Every phone call you have with them should be calm, clear, and polite. We don’t start evaluating candidates at the in-person interview, we start evaluating them from the moment they enter our system, or sometimes even before then if we receive an inquiry prior to an application.

This position is important to us as a company, so it should be important to the candidate we select. Prove that to us.

Know your field.

For most interviews, via phone, webcam, or in person, we ask candidates the same set of questions. Depending on their responses, we may deviate from these questions as the interview continues. Our starter questions are directly relevant to the position responsibilities. We test candidates to make sure they can perform the required duties of the job. If there is a skill or responsibility listed in the position description, we may very well ask you to describe how you would complete a related task. In fact, we may actually give you a sample task to complete during the interview process to prove you can be a success in the position.

Additionally, if you have a skill set listed on your resume, you should be able to speak clearly about that skill. If you claimed to have done something for a previous employer, you should be able to explain how you did it and what your previous responsibilities entailed. If you are fresh out of college, you should be able to speak intelligently about your coursework, internship, or other experiences relevant to the field and position.

In a future post, we’ll go into more detail about interviews. However, following even these brief recommendations should help you improve your job search process.

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