When I started my job search, I felt confident. I was ready. I had a full portfolio with several assets, I optimised my LinkedIn and I ditched my teacher Resume for a fresh, Instructional Designer CV that I had engineered to specific jobs, following Jay Lash’s method.
It worked! I was contacted by a few companies who had liked my profile, thought I had potential and were impressed by my experience. I was excited.
As you can guess, I didn’t get any of those jobs. Not only that, I didn’t even make it past the first round of interviews.
I knew I had to change something and that’s when I came across IDOL Academy Member, Niya Jay’s recommendation of Andrew LaCivita’s YouTube Channel and his Interview Intervention book. That made me reevaluate my methods and I started approaching interviews differently.
If you’re struggling with your interviews too, here are the most important things I learnt that finally helped me get past the first round.
I never really took the time to understand the interviewers. What I realised is that Hiring Managers are not trained at conducting interviews. They have full-time jobs with multiple projects and pressing deadlines and working out methods to select the best candidate is not necessarily part of their skillset. As a result, at times, inadequate questioning techniques from their part could lead to miscommunication of ideas. The fact that they gave up an hour of their time and invited me for a meeting showed that they thought I was qualified. Now I had to convince them that I was skilled enough to be great at the role even if their questions didn’t focus on that. It was therefore up to me to shine a light on my skills and experiences whenever I could.
SKILLS AND EXPERIENCES
The IDOL Course Academy gave me the skills I needed, and I was ready to talk about them. What I was missing was real Instructional Designer experience; that’s what I was told in my feedback. Kristi Oliva’s How to Build a Portfolio without a Job blog is a great start to gaining real experience. Alternatively, volunteering with non-profit organisations could give candidates something to talk about. However, I changed the way I viewed ‘experience’. I worked out that what mattered to interviewers was not necessarily how many eLearning Projects I was involved with, but whether I have actually performed tasks involved in the role. In my teaching jobs and during the development of my portfolio I did analyse problems, I did collaborate with SMEs and I did make decisions where I had to compromise. Now, I started talking about these companies, clients, projects, deadlines etc. more professionally during the interview, projecting confidence.
The internet is full of advice on interview tips and questions. Niya M. Jay’s Interviewing Blog Post is specifically about ID Roles and the ‘My eLearning Website’ gathered 20 Instructional Designer Interview Questions that could be helpful. However, I was asked a lot of situational questions during my interviews and I found browsing through my 13-year-career to find the best example in a matter of seconds hard. I often came out of the interview beating myself up for not selecting a better, and sometimes more obvious answer. So I took out a notebook and started writing my own situational questions. I filled up two pages and then I spent some time gathering evidence from my career. That way I was not only ready to give great examples, but I was prepared to highlight my positive contributions too. That sheet was next to me during every interview after that.
As I mentioned before, I realised that it was my job to convince the Hiring Managers of my skills and experience. I had known about the STAR Method, but in my first unsuccessful interviews, I didn’t realise that I was supposed to use the framework even if they didn’t ask a situational question. When they asked me if I felt confident at a certain task, I said “of course” and gave a generic explanation of why. They didn’t ask for examples, but no wonder that they were not convinced that I was experienced enough; I didn’t back it up with evidence. In my future interviews, I took every opportunity to illustrate my experience whether they asked for it or not.
Coming from an Educational Background where teaching roles are almost identical, it took me some time to grasp the importance of understanding the significance of company values. Companies, especially in the private sector, want somebody who would bring a missing skillset, solve their unique problems and fit in with the culture. In some cases, these are more important than the candidate’s qualifications or experience. Therefore, I started gathering good questions to ask the managers, not only to find out more about the role, but also to show them that I understood their challenges. This also allowed me to share some ideas with them and help them imagine what it would be like to have me on their team.
Recognising my mistakes and coming up with these solutions was the hardest part. Once I had that worked out, it only took a few hours of preparation and a shift in my mindset to nail those first interviews and impress the Hiring Managers. It pains me to think how many job openings I had wasted before changing my approach. If you’re in a similar situation, learn from my mistakes instead of wasting your own opportunities. And good luck with your interviews!
Written by: Ivett Csordas
Ivett is a teacher turned Instructional Designer. She has over 8 years of experience in secondary schools and 5 years in EFL classrooms. As a life-long learner, she is passionate about sharing knowledge and creating meaningful learning experiences. Her niche is breaking concepts down and anticipating potential learning obstacles. Before the pandemic, she loved watching plays in the theatre and going on backpacking adventures. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.