BLOC Podcast

53: 5 Instructional Design Interview Answers

June 28, 2022 Episode 53
BLOC Podcast
53: 5 Instructional Design Interview Answers
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I answer some of the interview questions from my ATD blog article, "10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Instructional Designers."

Here's a link to the blog article:

Connect with Heidi on LinkedIn: or on my website:

Thanks for listening to the BLOC!

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

Or check out what I'm working on over at


Hello friends, and welcome to the blog, the building learning and organizational culture podcast. I'm your host, Heidi Kirby. And on today's show, we're gonna do something that I think is going to be pretty fun. So I just wrote a blog for ATD, called 10 questions to ask when interviewing instructional designers. And it was just to give hiring managers an idea of some questions that they could ask during interviews to find some of those skills that they're looking for that are outside of a portfolio, right? And somebody on the comments on social media said, I'd be interested in how you would answer each of these questions. So I thought that this would be a fun opportunity to answer some of these questions. I don't know if I could get to all of them in one episode, there are 10. But I'm just gonna start going through some of them and see how far we get. So the first question is, tell me about a time when you completed a successful needs analysis? What did you find out? And how were you able to incorporate those findings into your work? Needs Analysis is my favorite thing to talk about, because one of my favorite professional stories comes from needs analysis. So when I was working my first instructional design job for NASA, I was taking a needs analysis course for my Ph. D. program at Old Dominion. And I was doing like this mini needs analysis for this event that we put on that was like, a week long event with leadership at at NASA. And when one of the leaders that I worked for found out, she came and said, Oh, hey, like, we're, we're planning on doing this thing, our curriculum just turned 10 years old, we went to go to what they would call like a roadshow and go to all the different NASA centers and talk to learners to get their feedback on the curriculum. And so I was invited to help craft the questions for the needs analysis for these little pilot groups, I was invited to come on the trips, and take notes and compile the data. And so I was able to travel to all 10 NASA centers in the United States, and do needs analysis. And one of the things that was really cool about it was that as I was collecting the data, in between trips, I was able to then kind of take those recurring themes, and incorporate them into the course that I was building. So when people were saying things like, it's too boring, or there's not enough this or there's not enough of that, and I wish there was more whatever or that I wish that the the assessment questions, were not trying to trick me or, you know, some of the different suggestions that we got, I was able to then turn around and like, check my own work and say, okay, is this does this fit. We also, were working with this qualitative research consultant, who was coding the data and putting it together in themes, but I was also asked to kind of do my own analysis, based on being there and based on the fields, field notes that I had taken. And so, you know, not only did we have the themes from the researchers and the consultant, but my themes were then incorporated into the findings as well. And I was asked to make some suggestions for the curriculum based on those findings. And then those were presented to senior leaders, and then implemented and plans for implementation were made. And so it was such a cool experience. And I was able to implement the findings immediately, over time. And, yeah, it's just really awesome. Okay. That took a minute. So I'm going to skip ahead to question three. Question three says, think about one of your most recent ID projects. Can you explain your design process from idea to implementation? So I was without instructional designers for a little bit. This has happened to me a couple of times now in my management experience, and so I've had to take on the role as an instructional designer and the goal was to create a customer education course, the first one for our new learning experience platform. And we had some material. But there is by and large, no customer education curriculum. So the material that we had was some old webinars. And they were done with an audience. So there was kind of a lot of getting into the weeds and q&a and things like that. So my goal was to take the most basic high level webinar and turn it into a really basic high level onboarding course, for customers. And so step one, was to listen to the webinar and figure out what was relevant, right? Like, what, what would customers need to hear from that and what was just extraneous information. And so I looked at the transcript first. And then I watched the webinar back while I was kind of taking some notes to make an outline. Then I made an outline, which then became a script for a video. I had that script reviewed by several people just for organization for technical accuracy for grammar and, and phrasing, because it was a narration script, right. And then recorded the script, went ahead and use Camtasia to record the screencast videos that I needed, used Google Slides for some filler slides, and some kind of like animated screens, and then used Pexels for some stock video, put it all together in a little five minute overview, exported it in SCORM, uploaded it to our learning experience platform, and then had people review it again. And then it was launched as our first course. Okay, so what I missed what I missed in there, when I was telling that story, it's a good thing. This isn't a real interview, and it's just a podcast was that the script was also reviewed after the initial videos were prototyped. And then it was reviewed when it went into the LX P. And then it went, underwent some other changes, I really kind of failed to highlight how many review processes the course had, which I think is important. I think having a really iterative design process is a really, it helps save you so much time because if you're letting your Smee as your stakeholders, whoever in your organization know what you're doing at each step, it's much easier to not have to go back and make large changes, they'll know what to expect. And even if a script isn't quite the same as a video, right, and so, but it can paint enough of a picture that you're not really going to surprise anyone. The next question is, tell me about a time when you use technology to solve a problem in your role. I'm going to take it all the way back again to when I was an Instructional Designer for NASA. There was a process called revalidation. And every course in our curriculum had to be touched, looked at reviewed at least once per year to make sure the information was up to date. When you're working in government, you've got standards, standards get updated regularly, and not having an updated standard is a compliance issue. It's a safety issue. It's a legal issue. So you have to make sure that you're looking at all of those courses at least once every year, and making sure that the information is correct. The process that I inherited was convoluted, has an understatement. It involves really lengthy emails to our sneeze asking them to look at the courses of the month as it were asking them to fill out a checklist of review items. And then to scan that checklist back in with their signature because they had to sign off on it. And then that document would be printed, put in a color coded photo or folder, whether the course needed changes or didn't, and was then carried to someone's desk who would then implement the changes. I'm sorry, it's just such. It's it was it was not automated. Okay. And so the first thing I asked was, What is this standard requiring us to do here? Because they were asking for spelling errors, punctuation, errors, grammar errors. And I'm like, shouldn't that already have been sorted when we did the QA at the end of the course. So we did a little digging, looked at the language. And I said, Okay, first of all, we can scope this review way down for our sneeze, that's going to have sneeze responding to us way faster. Because there was a bit of a problem with sneeze time to response, they took forever to get the course reviews back, then I found out that they hadn't really divvied them up evenly. Among our sneeze, there were some use for every different, like, topic in the curriculum. And depending on the month, a Smee could get no courses to review, or they could get five. So the next thing I did was I divided them all evenly, and created a schedule. And then thanks to my wonderful manager at the time, Latoya, we were using this awesome project management software called teamwork. And I was able to automate the entire process and teamwork so that there were no emails that had to go out. All I had to do is tag the Smee, when it was time for them to review a course had the name of the course they had to review, little checklist of items, little signature area where they could sign off and say, yep, this has my blessing, and pass it along. And so what was taking several people a really long time every month, was narrowed down to just a few people and a few hours a month. Questions seven says, Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult Smee or stakeholder? What made this situation challenging? And how did you handle it? So when I was working in one of my roles, there was a stakeholder who was so extremely upset about the quality of the customer onboarding that we were doing for her team, that she was actually going to go to a competitor. And I heard this complaint through our sales team. Like that's who fielded the complaint. And it came to me and sales wanted to facilitate a conversation. And I love sales, sales, or people in sales are my favorite, because I respect them that I could never have a sales job. I'm way too much of an introvert and I don't like talking to strangers at all. But anyway, I was afraid that sales would be so worried about coming up with a solution because there was actually like money on the line that I thought they may overlook, figuring out what the actual root cause was. So I cut sales out and I contacted stakeholders directly. And I was just like, hey, let's get on a call. Let's talk about this. Like, I just want to understand what's going on. So I get on a call with a stakeholder and they're like, this stuff is boring, it doesn't apply to our people, our team shouldn't have to take all this stuff just to be allowed to use the system. Not all of it applies. And so I explained that we're required to have some sort of training in place for access to our system. But that it doesn't have to necessarily be what we've created. If they wanted to create something if they wanted to create a checklist or a PDF, or some kind of have simple material to go along with maybe like one or two of the courses we are offering. Like however they wanted to put it together. We could work with them to bypass our customer onboarding. And the stakeholder was like, let's try it out. Let's see what it looks like. See how it works. And so, you know, I sat on another call and we went through and kind of mapped out what they felt their team needed and what they didn't want them to take and then what additional materials they wanted to add to it. And we were able to come to a really great solution, one that I think fit everyone and they were no longer a contract risk. So, but what made this situation challenging was that the stakeholder was so angry, by the time I got involved that I was really kind of, I was really worried that they were just, they had already written it off. So how I handled it was that I just made very clear like that I was ready to listen and that, like, you're not gonna hurt my feelings. If you say something bad about this training, like, I don't even own it. I inherited it, like, you know, and so it was really important to establish that to like, hey, whatever you say, I'm not going to be offended. And just to let them have the full floor and let them say everything. And it really letting them get it all out. All their frustration helped me to determine their need, right? Like, it helped me to see what the real problem was, and it helped me to be able to better solve it. Alright, I'm gonna skip around a little bit, but I'm gonna do two more. So question number eight is Tell me about a time when you wanted to make a particular design decision. But as certain Smee stakeholder or team member overruled you, what was the situation? And how do you do handle it? So I think there's this misconception, this, not my answer to the question, I just want to say this, that I think there's a misconception a little bit, that being an instructional designer, means that you get to be this really amazing creative artist. And not once in my entire instructional design career hasn't been that long, guys. It's only been like five years. But anyway, not once in those five years. Have I had 100% creative freedom. Unless I was creating the course, myself, or like, on this podcast, for instance. So I don't know which I don't know which situation to share. I used to go back and forth with one of my old managers a lot. Where my design was very what's the word like earthy and very, like, loose. And her style was very, like, modern, clean, basic. And we would go oh, my gosh, we would go back and forth all the time. And, but But the nice part was, is that neither of us were like, willing to die on the hill, so to speak, right? She would say, why did you use that color for that? And I'd be like, because this she'd be like, Alright, fine. Why did you use that font? And I'd be like, because I don't know. And she'd be like, I like this font better. Okay. So we were always kind of making, you know, making compromises. That's the word. But I think, probably my favorite time. And I would also recommend that you not answer this question with a bunch of stories like I am. I just have a bunch of stories that I want to share on my podcast. But there was this time that I was making a presentation deck for some leaders. And I picked a very artsy looking presentation deck. And my manager kindly told me that it was a little too abstract for executives. That was when I learned that I don't have executive presence, and then I probably never will. But I never looked back on it. At least not my visual design decisions. I never looked back on criticism towards those with a lot of malice. My initial gut response when someone's criticizing my work is like, defense, right? But I've also learned that over time, and so when I'm starting to feel defensive when someone's giving me feedback, I just kind of take it in. And then I walk away. And I give it a little bit of time. And then I come back, and I'm like, Yeah, you were totally right about that thing over there that you said was terrible. And it's okay to do that. Like, it's okay if it takes you some time to process feedback. And it's okay to share that too, I think. And I've always shared that. Because it helps me work better with people, for them to know how I am, right. And if I say, Hey, if you're giving me some tough feedback, I'm probably going to be quiet and need some time. But then I'm going to come back, and we're going to talk about it. And I'm not going to bite your head off, because I'll have processed it. And finally, question number 10. What are some of your personal and professional goals? I'm not going to answer this for me at this point in time, I think it would be a little bit more beneficial. If I share how I've answered this over the years. As I mentioned in the ATD blog, I don't like the question, where do you see yourself in five years, because if I take any point in my life, and go five years back and ask past me, if they could possibly imagine five years in the future, me, they'd never be able to do it. I am a horrible predictor of my own future, because I habitually do not give myself enough credit. And so what I've shared over the years, when I was interviewing for NASA, my personal and professional goals were to become an instructional designer, right, and to positively contribute to the field of instructional design and help people to realize that learning doesn't suck. Or it doesn't have to sec. My mission, and my goal is still to help people realize that learning doesn't have to suck. And when I decided that, I wanted to take on more of a leadership and a management role. I was very open about that, in my interviews, I, you know, one of one of my most supportive managers knew from the interview that I wanted to be a manager Wednesday, and she said to me really early on, when I was working with her, I want you to take my job, I want to prep you to take my job one day. And that was so wonderful, it was wonderful to enter a position knowing that your manager knows that you want to move up. And I think a lot of times we self sabotage, we don't want to come across as too assertive, or as a threat or whatever. But like, it's okay to be forthright about wanting career development and wanting to move up and wanting to succeed. In fact, a lot of places really like that. You know, that attitude, really, I've yet to meet a leader who is unhappy about that attitude. And, you know, as long as you're upfront about it, in the interview process, I have run into a couple of interviewers who were like, well, this isn't a leadership position, or, well, you know, we aren't hiring for that kind of thing or so are you saying that you're not going to be happy in this role, and in a few months, or, you know, people that were a little bit judgmental about me being open about my professional goals, but that helped me because I don't want to work for data in place, right? I don't want to, you know, just bide my time until I retire. And so it's, it's good to be forthright about that. And then as far as, like, my personal goals, I've always had the PhD that I've been working towards, and that's, you know, anytime you're, you're in learning, right? We're in the business of learning. And anytime where we can incorporate things that we're learning, to help us do better with learning. Hiring Managers love it, right. And so, in my experience, my PhD has never been a detriment. It's never been something that was, you know, taken as a negative. It has always helped me in those types of situations. So and I think it's interesting over time that regardless of what my personal and professional goals are, because the goal post keeps moving, right, and that's great. And I'm so happy that I've been afforded that opportunity to keep moving it but I've always come back to this learning doesn't have to suck and that's super exciting. So we're at about a half an hour mark, I don't want to make this too long. I just wanted to give kind of a sampling of my own stories. I recommend that you practice because I didn't practice this, these answers. So they're really off the cuff. They're pretty stream of consciousness. And but, you know, they're my story. And I hope that they'll inspire you, give you some ideas, remind you of some things that you've you've done or some experiences that you've had, I always find that it's helpful to hear other people talk about their work. And then I remember something that I was like, Hey, I did a project like that once, and it gives me extra. I also recommend writing down the highlights, writing down the answers to questions like these if you're prepping for an interview. Because the stories will be fresh in your mind, when you have that interview, you can, you know, or you can keep those notes on one screen and have your interview on the other screen if you have two monitors or something like that, or you can print them out or write down some basic thoughts. It's really about just collecting all of your experiences, and being able to tell the stories of some of the best experiences and worst experiences that you've had. And to really get your point across, you know, STAR method, if you haven't heard of it, the STAR method of interviewing for behavioral based questions, which these all I think all are situation task action results. It's basically how you set up the story. You give the context and then you tell what the problem was and what you did to solve the problem. And what was the outcome? Google the STAR method for interviewing if you haven't heard of it? So there you have it, the answer to some of the questions in the ATD blog. I hope it was helpful. Thanks again for joining me on the blog. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with friends and review us on your favorite podcast platform. I hope you'll tune in again soon.