You found an e-learning job you’re interested in and applied.  Now they want to interview you.  How should you prepare?  What kinds of questions are they going to ask?  That’s what this article is all about.

In my over 20 years of experience in corporate training and development, I have been on both sides of the  interview and I know what you are likely facing. Here are ten common questions along with how to answer them.

For more interview advice, be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Getting a Learning and Development Job article.

Interviewing for a combo job such as Training Specialist?  Use this guide together with Insider’s Guide to Answering Instructional Design Interview Questions and Insider’s Guide to Answering Corporate Trainer Interview Questions.

Question 1: What experience do you have?/Tell me about your Experience

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’.  I get it, though.  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 I would 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.  In particular, highlight any that directly pertain to the job you are interviewing for.  For example, if the job posting mentions that you will be creating online safety courses, I’d definitely mention “at XYZ Company, I created several safety compliance courses for our focal point review.” Or whatever makes sense.

You want to be able to give a compelling answer within around 2 – 3 minutes.  That’s why I’d not only practice but I would 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.

(By the way, if you are worried about a lack of experience, I have a FREE tool to help you brainstorm ideas of what to include in your resume and use to answer this question.)

Question 2: What is your favorite aspect of E-Learning Design/Development?

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 e-learning 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 working in a particular software, 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.

I like the development phase where I’m actually creating the training asset. When I answer this question, I’ll mention this and then give a recent example.

“I love working in Storyline because I really enjoy using my creativity.  Recently, I worked on a short customer service course that came together really well.”

I try to not only mention what I like to do but also to let them know that I’m 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:

Most e-learning positions 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 I’ve had is when they don’t respond to my 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 information.

As you are doing this, make sure you don’t bad mouth the SMEs.  Show how you empathized with them.  “I know that as Director of Sales, Sarah is very busy. Since my email requests were probably getting lost in the shuffle, I set up a quick phone call with her to discuss the information I needed to move forward with the project.”

Question 4: What Is your process for Designing E-Learning?

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 instructional design.

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.  I’d start with ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate).  It’s well known and usually broadly fits whatever you might have created.

Question 5: What LMS have you used?

Why they ask:

With most e-learning jobs, you will also be working quite a bit with the learning management system (LMS).  You need to be able to publish courses in a way that will work with whatever LMS the company has.  The interviewer wants to know you can do this.

how to answer:

Don’t sweat too much if you don’t have experience with the specific LMS that the company uses.  They all have similar functions and features.  Yes, if the company uses SuccessFactors and you happened to have used that, great.  They will like that.

More important, though, is your overall experience and competence with learning management systems in general.  If I don’t have experience in the specific LMS, I emphasize that experience.

“I haven’t worked with Cornerstone specifically but I have used several other LMS’s and I am very comfortable with learning and navigating a new one.  I am familiar with SCORM, AICC and xAPI and have published dozens of courses that adhere to these standards.”

If you want to get some extra brownie points, do a little research into the LMS that they use.  It’s probably mentioned in the job posting.  Then, you could say something specific to it.  “I notice that XYZ LMS has _____ functionality which is similar to ABC LMS that I currently use.”

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.

I like to use examples from early in my career.  For example, my first couple of e-learning courses were really boring click and read, click and read, click and read safety lessons.  I mention that and then talk about how I worked to improve my 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 E-Learning Authoring tools do you use?

Why they ask:

You probably have this on your resume already but they may still ask.  They want to confirm that you are able to use their authoring tool.

How to answer:

This could also be a general software question and not necessarily specific to e-learning authoring tools.

The main goal here is to let them know you are proficient in a variety of tools and can produce quality e-learning.  At a minimum, they probably want to know you can use Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline or one of the other big authoring tools.

Since a lot of e-learning development also involves audio, video and graphics, I’d make sure to mention any of those types of software that you use regularly.  (e.g. Adobe Audition, Camtasia, Illustrator, Audacity, etc…)

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

One other tip.  If there is a specific software that was mentioned in the job posting that you haven’t used, see if you can get a free trial of it.  This is something I did for a combo job I applied for where they wanted someone who knew Adobe Captivate.  I hadn’t used it before but I got the free trial and played around with it.  I then created a short demo course that I brought with me to the interview.  They loved it and I got the job.

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

Why They ask:

The fact that your latest course had slick graphics, cool video and catchy music is great but what were the results?  Did people 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 at the end of the course.  It could be the number of people who completed and passed a quiz.  Whatever example you can give, you can mention.

You should also mention any successes you’ve heard about anecdotally.  For example, if someone has increased their sales after taking a sales course you created, talk about that.

Question 10: Walk me through an example./Show me your portfolio

Why They ask:

This one 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.  I talk more about what to include in your portfolio in my Ultimate Guide to Getting a Learning and Development Job article.

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 as well but let me share with you what happened to a certain <ahem> someone 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 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 e-learning 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.

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