Bravo! You know you need an instructional designer or learning consultant for your organization—you’re already well on your way to success. This post will help you choose the right learning consultant for your project—because not all instructional designers are created equal.
Instructional Designer (or ID) is one of many titles you’ll encounter if you’re searching for a learning or training consultant. There seem to be more and more for hire every day. The eLearning industry is growing rapidly, and so are the consultant ranks. This means you’ll have more choice, but it also means you might experience more confusion when hiring.
Here are 5 things to consider when looking for the most appropriate instructional designer for your needs:
1. Check for project management experience
Are you expecting your learning consultant to provide a project management framework s (in addition to designing learning deliverables)? Then you’ll want to look for someone with proven experience in managing projects or coordinating project deliverables. Save yourself a lot of time by choosing someone who can provide the structure needed for your project, or who can easily work within an existing one.
2. Think Goldilocks, not unicorns
Too much or too little? You want someone who is just right for your business and your team.
As with the project management tip above, choose someone who has a similar working style as your team. Try to avoid looking for the “unicorn” candidate—that non-existent person who would have a magical (but perhaps unrealistic) set of ideal combined qualifications and experience.
For an example of what just right might look like, consider how they interact with you through email, over the phone or in-person. Are they long-winded or to-the-point? Are they responsive or do you need to follow-up before hearing back from them? Choose a consultant who will align with your organization’s frequency, amount, and style of communication.
3. Listen carefully—they should ask you these questions
The needs analysis stage is an essential one. Nobody can create the perfect learning for you without understanding your objectives. If they seem to zero in on the project details too soon, you may not have found the right person. A good instructional design consultant will build a needs analysis interview (similar to a ‘brief’) into the first steps of the project, and ask questions like this:
4. Analyze samples of their past work
Always ask to see samples of their work or their instructional design portfolio. Better yet, ask for 2-3 specific samples that are related to your project. For example, if you’re looking to hire someone to configure or administer your Learning Management System, ask for workflow documentation samples or other operational or strategic work.
If you’re looking for an eLearning designer, ask for a variety of eLearning samples. If you’re hiring an ID to create eLearning modules, ask them for project samples and get them to define their contribution to the project (%) and what they would do differently if they had more time and money. This is the best interview question in my opinion, and one of key questions I was asked by Limestone Learning (and they know their stuff—they’ve worked with hundreds of consultants throughout Canada)!
Tips for analyzing work samples:
5. Ask them to analyze your work
This step is a sure-fire way to identify the best candidate. As some point in the selection process, give the consultant access to one of your current courses (in various stages of completion). Ask them questions like “What would you change? What would you do differently?” and then gauge if their responses align with your needs.
There’s no single formula for hiring the right consultant, but how well the candidate matches your organization’s culture and their experience designing similar deliverables will indicate if they’re the right fit for your project.
All in all, don’t hesitate to ask for proof of the skillsets you’re looking for in a learning consultant—we’re used to it! I always welcome the opportunity to share more about my work.
Good luck on the hunt!
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Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 17+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.