Help Wanted: Hiring eLearning Professionals


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DevLearn 2016 presentation by Jeff Goldman & David Schwartz.
Given that the role of the eLearning professional has a wide range of possible responsibilities, hiring a person who has the exact set of skills and experience to meet the specific needs of your organization can be daunting. How can you ensure you find individuals who have the expertise needed to function successfully on your team and really hit the ground running?

In this session, you’ll explore the particular competencies you’ll want to look for when hiring a new eLearning professional. You’ll find out more about where to look for qualified candidates and what experience, education, certifications, and training you’ll want your new hire to possess. To help you dig deeper on your candidates’ skill sets, you’ll discuss what to look for in a candidate’s work, approaches to reviewing portfolios, and what questions to ask—including how you can use behavioral interviewing to craft interview questions specific to the position and your department’s needs. And while it’s great to know how to find new talent, it’s even better to not need to hire at all. You’ll finish this session by looking at actions you can take to develop and retain the talented eLearning staff you already have.

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  • David

    What skills are required?
    It really depends on what your needs are.
    Are you in need of:
    Instructional design – that is, the person will analyze a performance problem, determine if training is the correct solution, work with SMEs to gather information and content, do task analyses, create learning objectives, develop storyboards or scripts, etc.
    Instructional development – that is, the person will actually develop modules in authoring tools like Camtasia, Storyline, Captivate.
    Project management
    Graphic design, and to what level
    Video creation and editing, and if you need them to use specific tools like Final Cut Pro or Premiere, make that clear
    Voiceover work – talent or just recording/editing or both
    Someone to work with your learning management system to upload courses, run reports, enroll users, etc.
    Job aid creation as opposed only to training
    Evaluation of the effectiveness of training provided

    This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but should give some idea of the areas to consider.

    Be sure that the role you are filling is actually named appropriately, or at least be sure that the job description actually describes all of the major types of tasks the role is meant to complete. Sometimes “instructional designer” is used as a catch-all inappropriately, when the manager does not really know what the designer is actually supposed to do. Interview someone in a role similar to the one you are trying to fill, if you don’t know.

    The key here: until you really know what you want the person to be able to do in the job, it will be difficult to know what skills will be required. So due diligence will help you greatly. This will also help in the interviewing process to help you determine candidates’ skill levels.
  • David

    As discussed, you’ll need to know what specific competencies you require in the position. Then, depending on those, you may want some formal education specific to the role. If the person needs to very well-versed in adult learning principles, or you have a need for them to use multiple instructional design models, a requirement for a formal instructional design or instructional technology degree, or a certificate in a specialty area, can help assure that you get more qualified candidates,

    Formal project management skills are required? A PMP (project management professional) certificate could be a minimum requirement.

    If you have very specific software that must be used, you could require evidence of experience, which could include formal training or education.

    However, there are excellent self-taught people out there.

    All that said, nothing tops seeing and learning about actual work that a candidate has done. And we will cover how to be sure you learn what candidates have done as we go on.

    One last point about education for your employees: for those not formally trained, getting that education as a benefit of employment can be a real incentive that will help with employee retention, which Jeff will discuss in a little while.
  • Jeff
    Where to look for quality candidates
    University ISD programs - Many have online job boards for current students and grads. They can produce high quality candidates.  
    UMBC ISD, Indiana University Bloomington (examples of programs with job listings and list servs).
    Find your local ISD programs - The eLearning Coach has a comprehensive list of programs in the U.S. -
    Canadian ISD Programs list by The Institute for Performance and Learning -
    Associations, guilds, user groups (job boards - membership usually required)
    eLearning Guild job board - Free for members
    ATD Job Bank - Cost for posting $450 and up
    SHRM (Society for HR Management) - Cost for posting $450 and up
    Articulate user group (international) - Free to post
    SoMe Networks (LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter, etc.)
    Post through Twitter accounts that advertise positions (e.g., @eLearningJobs)
    Share opportunity within your Personal Learning Network (PLN) (e.g., FB, Twitter, Yammer, LinkedIn connections, etc.)
    Post to LinkedIn Job Board - Costs vary - “The title of the job and geographical location determine the cost of a job posting.” -LI site
    Audience - Any other places not mentioned here? Yammer? Intranet/SharePoint?
  • David

    Behavioral interviewing involves having the candidate respond to questions about their history: specific situations and what they did. This tends to really get at the candidate’s actual skills, and you will hear less about what the candidate thinks a right answer is.

    The heart of this is that one of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. By asking about what candidates did, you get a good view of their behavior. The trick then is to craft questions to get at the skills you are seeking.

    If audience is receptive, ask for a volunteer who has hired someone fairly recently. Ask, “What’s the most difficult aspect of hiring a new employee?” Wait for their answer. Then ask, “OK, tell me about a time when you had a job candidate you wanted to hire, but you could not meet their salary demands. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome?”

    This is the difference between regular and behavioral interviewing.

  • The first example is trying to get at how tenacious the candidate is, how tactful.

    Now, a regular interview question might have asked, “How well do you work with SMEs?” or something like that. What kind of response would you expect? Now look at the first example. It is specific, and it is not asking what they think, not asking for an idealized view of how they work. Instead, it is asking for an actual time when there was a problem with working with a SME, and we want to know how they handled it.

    Note that your questions should not lead to the “correct” answer. In the first example, adding “…and how you got that information.” You really want to know if the candidate has been able to work with difficult SMEs successfully, so don’t suggest that their example should show success.

    You will find initially that people might not know how to respond. If they start to tell you generally about how they do something, bring them back. “Think of a specific situation…” Tell them there is no rush, to take their time.
  • Jeff
    Ask Audience – How many of you require a portfolio from candidates?

    What should be in an acceptable portfolio?
    What to ask regarding portfolio
    Your role in producing a course (designer, developer, graphic artist, game developer, all? Think again about what u need)
    If you need someone with certain skills, make sure you see examples where they applied those specific skills. I have been impressed by the design and ISD skills represented in a course only to be told someone else wrote and designed it and the candidate worked strictly from storyboards. This is fine if all you need is a developer and not a designer.
    I typically need someone that can research and learn the content to be taught, but find many candidates rely on SME written content and convert as-is. Reality is, that does not suffice and we need much more on the ISD end than those candidates can offer.
    To see related design plans or support materials
    Learn their process (e.g., CDP, project management, storyboarding, evaluation, etc.).
    Demonstrates their role in the process (design, dev, research, graphics, etc.)
    May reflect their ability to work with eLearning project team and SMEs.
    Ask to see a variety of styles (See their range, but do not eliminate candidates b/c certain style is acceptable at former org vs. your org)
    For example - Some organizations discourage/restrict, or encourage, levity, use of cartoons, storytelling, etc.
    Can they adapt to your org’s style? Ask to see courses they made more in line with your org’s style or ask their perspective on developing in that style.
    Ask when they may use one style over another (e.g., when they may use humor and when not, when they may use pictures versus illustrations or clip art).
    Ask to see more than traditional WBT (e.g., job aids, mLearning, informal learning, simulations, etc.) - Other solutions are often needed.
    Should it be used to prescreen?
    Request a link to a portfolio, but take into consideration they may not be able to post past courses online due to it being proprietary info own by their current or past employer.
    Request a very brief course to be developed given content treatment???
    I have seen this done, but with very brief topics.
    Can be good to huge ISD skills, dev skills, creativity and time management.
    Take in consideration, they probably also have current job responsibilities that make this a difficult task and access to personal eLearning dev tools needed may be limited.
  • Jeff
    Developing, and keeping, your eLearning staff
    Conferences - Can be tough financially, but return will probably pay off in new KSAs. Even if finding local conferences and making sure they are given time to attend.
    Training - Just like conferences, there may be a cost, but return i worth the investment. Encourage staff to also find free and low cost training. This is often found in free webinars and other online resources - including the Guild.
    State of art software and hardware -Not just to have efficient and effective tools, but most eLearning staff like learning, and using,  new tools. It's exciting to be “playing” with new toys.
    Free tools -
    Top tools -
    Association memberships
    Away for them to learn and develop
    To network, especially if only eLearning staff in org
    Telecommuting (better recruiting and retention)
    More productive staff / Less distraction
    Happier and often feel trusted and appreciative of the being given the opportunity to telecommute.
    Recruit staff from any location, not limited to your immediate area
  • Help Wanted: Hiring eLearning Professionals

    1. 1. STR202 Help Wanted: eLearning Professionals Jeff Goldman, Johns Hopkins Health System David Schwartz, Johns Hopkins University Las Vegas, NV • November 16 – 18, 2016
    2. 2. Help Wanted: eLearning Professionals Jeff Goldman Senior eLearning Designer Johns Hopkins Health System David Schwartz Instructional Design Technology Manager Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety & Quality Johns Hopkins University
    3. 3. We will cover What skills are required What educational background is needed Where to look for qualified candidates What should be in an eLearning portfolio Using behavioral interviewing Developing and retaining eLearning staff
    4. 4. What skills are required? It depends  What are your needs?  Competencies could include:  Instructional design (is specific experience with one model important to you?)  Development – specific tools such as Storyline  Project management  Graphic design  Video creation and editing  Voiceover  LMS management  Job aid creation  Evaluation
    5. 5. What educational background is needed? Again, it depends
    6. 6. Where to find candidates Local ISD Programs Associations, User Groups… Social Media
    7. 7. Using Behavioral Interviewing What are behavioral interview questions? Those that require a candidate to respond with an example of a situation, her/his behavior in that situation, and the outcome of the situation. They are excellent predictors of future behavior.
    8. 8. Example Behavioral Questions Tell me about a time when you had difficulty getting information from a subject matter expert. Tell me about a time when you had a very tight deadline on a project.
    9. 9. Getting the information…  Persist with the candidate in seeking a specific situation, the candidate’s behavior, and the outcome of the situation.  Allow the candidate to think. Let there be silence.  Take notes.
    10. 10. Portfolios Courses Support Materials Other Learning Solutions
    11. 11. Retaining eLearning Staff Conferences and Training State of the Art Tools Memberships Telecommuting
    12. 12. Questions?
    13. 13. Thank you Jeff Goldman Senior eLearning Designer Johns Hopkins Health System David Schwartz Instructional Design Technology Manager Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety & Quality Johns Hopkins University Feel free to download this presentation’s resources here.