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

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Succeed in Instructional Design Interviews

In a previous post, we talked about how to land an instructional design position. Since interviews are crucial to earning the position, it is worth spending more time on this important aspect of the hiring process.

Many companies, Victor 12 included, use more than one interview to get a feel for candidates. We will often conduct phone interviews then webcam and/or in person interviews for an open position. We do this to narrow down the applicant field and to make sure we find the best person for the position and company.

As a candidate, you should make the most out of these interviews. Use this time to determine if the position’s responsibilities and expectations are a match with your own skills and interests, and if the company culture is one that you can fit into for the long term. While some candidates may only think of their next job in the short term, you should view a position with at least a five year mindset. Can you see yourself growing with the company for the next five years or more?

Here are some helpful pointers for common interview types.

The Phone Interview

We use phone interviews to narrow down large applicant pools and to save time over in person interviews. We ask each applicant about four or five standard questions, in addition to any unique questions that may arise from their resume. Phone interviews are usually brief, so it is essential to make the best impression during that time.
  • Speak with the interviewer in a quiet area.
Do not take the call outside or in an area with distractions. You won’t come across well if it sounds like you are in a wind tunnel, if you are putting away dishes, or if you have dogs barking or kids screaming in the background. If you do the interview in your home while others are present, close yourself in a room alone and put a sign on the door to prevent disruption or outside noises.
  • Sit down, smile, and speak calmly.
The interviewer cannot see you during a phone interview, so if you are pacing or gesturing wildly with excitement all they will hear is your panting breath. You need to convey a sense of professionalism using just your voice and words. To accomplish this, sit up straight in your quiet area, speak with a smile (you can detect a smile in someone’s voice), and enunciate.
  • Practice.
Enlist the help of a friend to practice your phone interview skills. Call your friend using the same phone you will use for the interview and speak in the same room you’ll use. Practice introducing yourself and answering a few technical questions. Your friend should provide feedback on if it is easy to understand you and if there is any static or distracting background noises.

The Webcam Interview

Virtual interviews are becoming more common, especially with remote positions. They can be used to interview a candidate who has yet to relocate or who will be working from an off-site location. Or they can be used to conduct additional interviews if phone screening did not adequately narrow down the candidate pool.
  • Speak with the interviewer in a quiet area.
Just as with a phone interview, pay careful attention to your background and room selection for a webcam interview. Pick a quiet place free of distractions. As with the phone interview, if you do the interview in your home while others are present, close yourself in a room alone and put up a sign to prevent disruption. If possible, unplug your phones or turn them off to avoid potential ringing in the background. The portion of the room that will be visible from the webcam should be clean and professional (e.g., an empty wall or a bookcase).
  • Test your webcam.
Do not wait until the last minute to purchase a webcam or learn how to use one. You should know how to operate your webcam and ensure that it works correctly.
Before the interview, turn on your webcam and adjust it so that the view presents your face and upper torso. You should be well-groomed and dressed in professional attire. Once you have a good shot, you should stay relatively still during the interview. It is very distracting for a candidate to lean forwards and backwards while talking, effectively shrinking and growing in size on the monitor.
Do NOT have other individuals in the shot. To share a “webcam interview gone wrong” story, I once interviewed a candidate via Skype and we lost connection during our interview. About four or five minutes later, the connection was re-established and her webcam turned back on. When it did, I got to watch her re-adjust her clothing while a boyfriend or husband snuck out behind her in his underwear. I did not hire her.
  • Make eye contact.
This may take some practice. Adjust your webcam so that it focuses on your face in such a way that, when you look at your monitor and the view of the interviewer, it should appear as though you are making eye contact with them. If your webcam is off to the side and you are looking in front of you at the monitor it will appear as though you are looking sideways.

The In Person Interview
  • Dress to the part (or slightly higher).
Professional attire is a must. If you are uncertain exactly what to wear, aim slightly higher than what you feel the position calls for. Better to overdress than underdress.
  • Avoid distracting habits.
Do not be the candidate that clicks their pen incessantly. Or the one that taps their foot against the table over and over. I once had a candidate who answered every question while literally clawing across the top of the conference table with his fingers. It was so distracting and unprofessional that I could not concentrate on his responses.
  • Do not share inappropriate details about yourself or the interviewer.
Try to limit the amount of personal details you share during interviews. There may be times when it feels appropriate to mention that you have children or that you enjoy vacationing in Barbados, but oftentimes you should stick to information relevant to the position.
Likewise, do not bring up any personal information you discovered about the interviewer. It is always smart to research the company prior to interviewing. You want to know about the position and all relevant information to help you determine if this is where you want to work. It may even be appropriate to share this knowledge during your interview, but stick to relevant and professional information.
For example, I am a competitive triathlete in my free time. This is not relevant to an interview. However, I once had an applicant locate a picture of me racing and, at the end of her interview, asked if I was “one of those strange people who wore spandex cycling shorts.” The question was inappropriate, unprofessional, and reflected very poorly on her.

As a final tip, remember to thank the interviewer. Regardless of what type of interview, this is always a good practice. When possible, follow your verbal thank you with a brief written one via email.

Good luck and happy job hunting!

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