25 Instructional Design Job Interview Questions and Answers (Plus a Checklist)

Demand remains strong for instructional designers, especially in the education, healthcare, banking, and consulting services industries. That’s good news if you’re new to the field or ready to take the next step in your career.

Demand remains strong for instructional designers, especially in the education, healthcare, banking, and consulting services industries. That’s good news if you’re new to the field or ready to take the next step in your career.

Your resume and portfolio give employers or potential clients a pretty good idea of your experience level and skills. But, in many cases, especially for internal positions, cultural fit is just as important.

You need to showcase your attitude and approach just as much as your technical skills. That’s why showing up to interviews prepared is key. Preparation allows you to properly demonstrate how you work as well as what you achieve.

To help you land your dream job, I’ve put together 25 common instructional design interview questions and answers. Plus, I divided them into handy categories:

The instructional design process

1. “What’s your design process?”

You’ll get asked this in almost every instructional design interview you attend. And that’s because it’s a pretty crucial question.

Your best bet here is to use real-life examples to illustrate each step of your design process.

Example answer:

I adapt my design process to the eLearning project and audience. That said, I usually follow the ADDIE model as I find it the most effective framework for organizing my workflows.

For instance, in a recent project, I was tasked with building a new product training course. I started by analyzing the product information before interviewing SMEs (our product managers and customer success reps).

The next step was to develop the learning experience and run in-depth testing on a diverse user group. After this, I uploaded it to the corporate LMS and set up a communication strategy to present the course to the necessary learners.

The final step was to gather learner feedback using an email survey to check its impact. 90% of employees who took the training reported having a better understanding of the product and how to communicate its benefits to customers.

2. “What’s the first thing you do when you begin a new instructional design project?”

This is a common question because it highlights your ability to manage an instructional design project from ideation right through to result measurement.

Avoiding hypothetical answers and speaking about your actual experience is usually the most effective approach (even if you’re talking about a practice project).

Do you always start any instructional design project by analyzing and identifying the learning need? Why? How do you achieve this? Do you conduct a needs analysis? Do you audit existing training materials?

3. “Describe the learning experience you’re most proud of designing”

It can be easy to go off on a tangent with this question. So, using a framework like the STAR method can help keep you on track when answering behavioral interview questions.

To use the STAR model, you simply answer the question following the formula below:

  • Situation: give context to set the scene
  • Task: explain your responsibility in the project
  • Action: describe the steps you took to reach your goals
  • Result: summarize the outcomes of your actions

4. “Describe a challenge you faced when designing a learning experience. How did you overcome it?”

There are a lot of moving parts when designing learning experiences. So naturally, interviewers want to know how you face inevitable hiccups.

Using the STAR framework here allows you to tell your story in a succinct way that focuses on your solution, not the problem.

Remember to highlight how you overcame the issue rather than the challenge itself. For instance, let’s say you were tasked with creating a training course from some very dense and technical material.

Talk about how you solved the problem using visual storytelling, interactive elements to break down complex topics, content reformatting to replace jargon, and more spot reviews.

5. “Describe a situation where you failed to deliver a learning experience. What have you learned?”

We all fail. What potential employers or clients want to know is how you learn from past mistakes.

The best way to answer this question is to talk about what you learned and the measures you now take to prevent a similar issue in the future.

Let’s say your learning experience was dampened thanks to some technical limitations with your LMS. Rather than dwelling on the problem with the platform, focus on how it’s impacted your current workflows. For example, do you run more thorough testing? Is there a contingency plan you fall back on?

6. “Tell us about a time when you have had to make major revisions to the course curriculum or content. How did you approach this?”

Adaptability is one of the most sought-after soft skills for employers. This question really wants to know if you are able to pivot when needed and change direction quickly.

For you, it’s an excellent opportunity to give tangible examples of times when you have adapted quickly. Maybe you had to rework the focus of a training program following stakeholder feedback. If so, break down how you tackled that.

Most importantly, use this answer to demonstrate your willingness to be flexible when needed.

7. “Talk us through the steps you took in a recent eLearning project to go from ideation to implementation”

Even the most experienced instructional designer can get tripped up on this question. It’s all about finding the sweet spot between giving a detailed answer and not going on a tangent.

To nail your answer, take a recent eLearning project you’ve worked on and describe each step of the development process. Be sure to include how you approached:

  • Needs analysis
  • Content planning and curation
  • Setting up SME collaboration
  • Content storyboarding and creation
  • Prototyping and testing
  • Delivering learning experiences
  • Evaluating training success

Instructional design knowledge

8. “Which learning design theories and best practices do you incorporate in your work? Why do you choose these models?”

There’s a lot to say here, so rather than simply listing off different instructional design theories, it’s best to give examples of when you used them and why.

Describe a recent eLearning project, focusing on the expectations and challenges. Then, explain which learning design model you chose and why. Finish with the outcomes and why that model worked for that particular project.

9. “How do you align learning objectives with business goals?”

It’s mission-critical that instructional designers connect training programs to wider organizational goals. So, this question is a common one.

Your answer needs to show how you connect these dots, so be sure to mention how you:

  • Define business objectives and skill gaps
  • Set relevant training goals
  • Gather feedback from learners
  • Measure the impact the training has on workplace performance

Needless to say, you’ll want to illustrate each step with an example.

Working with small / midsize enterprises

10. “Tell us about your approach when working with small / midsize enterprises”

Describe your strategies for creating strong relationships with SMEs. How do you lay the groundwork for a productive relationship?

Try to share an example of a time you have worked well with a SME in the past, giving details on how you communicated, what your workflows looked like, and why it was successful.

11. “Tell us about a time a business was unhappy with a training course. How did you handle the situation?”

Working closely with SMEs is a major part of any instructional designer’s role, so it’s important for employers to understand how you navigate these relationships.

The main takeaway here is for you to simply be prepared that this question will come.

Your best bet with this question is to focus on the actions you took to address the issue and what you learned from the experience.

12. “What’s the biggest challenge for you when working with SMEs? How do you handle this?”

Talk from personal experience here. Think about some of the biggest roadblocks you’ve faced when working with SMEs and highlight how you tackle them.

Some examples include how you:

  • Deal with slow reply times from busy SMEs
  • Create clear communication channels
  • Handle feedback cycles
  • Respond to feedback or constructive criticism from SMEs

Project management

13. “Tell us about a time when you experienced a delay in your eLearning project. What did you do?”

The key to nailing this question is to use storytelling. Make sure you give enough context about the project and the challenges you faced before describing your actions.

Some examples include your:

  • Communication approach
  • Reprioritizing tasks
  • Optimizing workflows (delegation, collaboration, etc)
  • Managing stakeholders’ expectations

When possible, explain why you took certain actions.

Finally, wrap up by describing the results. Did you minimize the delay? What was the final outcome? Was the training a success?

Bonus points if you throw in what you learned from the experience.

14. “How do you prioritize tasks when you have multiple deadlines?”

It’s time to show off your juggling skills. As always, using real-life examples from your professional (or personal) life works best.

Explain how you identify critical tasks, delegate work, maintain communication, and use project management best practices to keep your work on track.

Don’t forget to mention any tools you use to optimize your workflows.

Learners’ needs and engagement

15. “How do you identify learners’ needs?”

This is a big one. Your answer gives interviewers insight into how well you know your learners. So, be specific here.

Be sure to explain why understanding your learners’ needs matters before detailing your approach.

Feeling stuck? Start by walking them through how you conduct a needs analysis (stakeholder interviews, learner surveys, performance data, etc.)

When possible, always use an example from your previous work experience. Begin with the challenge, then talk them through your actions and the “why” behind them, and finish with the results.

16. “Describe how you create learner-centric training experiences”

This question tells interviewers your approach to designing learning experiences, which means there’s a lot to say here.

What you really want to showcase here is how you prioritize learners throughout the instructional design process.

Some important points to mention include:

  • Defining clear learning goals
  • Focusing on accessible learning experiences
  • Instructional design techniques like content chunking or microlearning
  • Incorporating interactive learning elements and gamification

When possible, support your answers with real-life examples and learner data. Did your last eLearning project garner sky-high engagement rates? Tell us how you achieved that.

17. “What are your go-to tactics to boost learner engagement?”

You should love this question because it gives you a chance to subtly blow your own trumpet. Describe some strategies you use to keep learners hanging on every word of your training. For instance:

  • Content personalization
  • Using varied content formats
  • Incorporating hands-on practice activities and scenario-based training

Bonus points if you can illustrate each one with an example from your portfolio and explain why you think it was a success.

18. “How would you improve a learning experience that has low completion rates?”

Even though this question is often posed as a hypothetical one, it’s always best to speak from experience.

Now’s the time to tell the story of a time you created a learning experience with low completion rates. And more importantly, how you turned it around. What steps did you take? Where did you start? What challenges did you face?

If you don’t have an anecdote to share, then give a step-by-step breakdown of how you would address this issue.

Content development and delivery

19. “What eLearning tools are you familiar with? Can you tell us your proficiency in each?”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. But rather than simply listing the tools you are proficient in, try to give examples of how you’ve used them in previous projects.

Your list should include any LMSs, eLearning authoring tools, video editing software, and other platforms you use for instructional design projects.

You may also want to elaborate on your tools of choice and why, as well as any software you would like to add to your arsenal.

20. “Tell us about your experience with creating eLearning storyboards”

This question is an excellent opportunity to get into details about how you develop your eLearning content.

Use an example from a recent project to show your approach, and walk them through each step of the process. For example:

  • Make a plan – assess training needs, identify the learning audience, and define objectives
  • Choose the right to create your storyboard for instructional design
  • Find the right instructional design model for your project (e.g., Action Mapping, SAM, etc.)
  • Create an outline to organize the training into logical modules
  • Add your content. Do you use templates? How much detail do you add? What considerations do you prioritize?
  • Share it with stakeholders

You can usually expect a follow-up question about a mistake you’ve made or how you would improve your storyboarding process.

21. “Explain your process for creating multimedia elements for courses”

Use this question to showcase how you leverage multimedia elements to improve the quality of learning experiences.

Most interviewers want to hear about tangible experiences from your past projects. So, take them through each step of your process.

If you’re stuck, try answering these questions:

  • Why do you think multimedia content enhances training?
  • How do you decide when to add a multimedia element?
  • How do you choose the right type of multimedia content for a topic or section?
  • What best practices do you follow when creating multimedia files?
  • What tools do you use?
  • Can you give an example of a multimedia element you have created that you think worked well?

Training evaluation and impact

22. “How do you measure learner engagement in your courses?”

Your goal here is to use examples from your past experiences to demonstrate how you ensure your learners feel engaged during training.

It’s a good idea to explain how you measure both quantitative and qualitative data here. For example:

  • Completion rates – How many learners are dropping off without finishing the training? Low completion rates could suggest the course isn’t engaging.
  • Drop-off rates – Where are learners losing interest? How can you find out why?
  • Session times – How long are learners spending on your courses? Is it much more or less than expected? This could indicate an issue with the length of the training or the difficulty of your course material.
  • Progress scores – How are learners performing on assessments and knowledge checks? Lots of very high or low scores are usually a sign that the content is at the wrong level.
  • Participation levels – Are learners participating in forums or training activities? If they are, that typically indicates high engagement.

You should also explain how you collect this information. Do you use LMS reports? You can usually expect a follow-up question about what you consider to be low learner engagement and what your next steps would be.

23. “How do you measure the success of your learning experiences?”

This question gives you a chance to describe your process for tracking the overall impact of training. Ideally, you want to touch on the different factors that you think are crucial to track for a full picture.

Here are a few examples you may want to mention:

  • Learner engagement metrics like completion rates, session times, and learner interactions
  • Assessment scores from quizzes, assignments, and knowledge checks
  • Job performance data that shows how learners apply the training to their roles
  • Learner satisfaction scores from surveys, LMS ratings, and interviews

24. “Describe how you gather and incorporate learner feedback”

Start by explaining why you think learner feedback is important and how it benefits the effectiveness of instructional materials.

Then, break down the types of feedback you gather. For instance:

  • Formal feedback from learner surveys and exit tickets
  • Informal feedback from focus groups, course ratings in your LMS, and casual chats with learners

And don’t forget to give examples of how you incorporate this feedback, making sure to mention how you analyze, prioritize, and apply learners’ comments.

Staying up-to-date

25. “How do you stay on top of new trends and changes in the instructional design industry?”

Take this opportunity to showcase your commitment to professional development by giving examples of the actions you take to stay informed.

Here are some examples you could share:

  • Professional networks and communities you’re involved in
  • Industry blogs, podcasts, and newsletters you subscribe to
  • L&D thought leaders or experts you admire
  • Conferences or webinars you have attended
  • Online courses, workshops, or training programs you have taken

Pre-interview checklist

So, you made it through the first stage of the selection process. Next stop: the interview. Before you march through those doors, read through this pre-interview checklist to make sure you’re ready to knock it out of the park.

Instructional design pre-interview checklist
  • Research the company and the role – Pull out key requirements and skills from the job description and list some working examples you can give to demonstrate your proficiency in them
  • Update your instructional design portfolio – Refresh your portfolio and tweak it to align with the company and role you’re applying for
  • Prepare your elevator pitch – Come up with a short (five to seven sentences) summary of who you are, your work history, goals, and values
  • Practice your interview technique – Use the STAR framework to answer your job interview questions in a clear and concise way. Prepare examples of your biggest achievements, as well as your challenges and how you overcame them

Next steps

I hope these instructional design interview questions and answers boost your confidence and help you prepare for the future. Or, if you’re a recruiter, there may be some gems in here to improve your selection process.

Nicola Wiley

By Nicola Wylie

Nicola Wylie is a learning industry expert who loves sharing in-depth insights into the latest trends, challenges, and technologies.