Optimizing Your Interview Process for Hiring Instructional Design Contractors

Optimizing Your Interview Process for Hiring Instructional Design Contractors By Nicole Darby

Learning and Development teams regularly turn to consultants to help with specialized projects or short-term peaks in staffing needs.   Today, L&D teams are finding efficiencies with utilizing contractors on their projects. Whether it’s to meet the demand of college new hire season or a rollout of a new HR system, contract support is a great way to expand a team to meet short term goals. As managers, you have developed solid interview techniques when hiring team members. But when you are hiring instructional design or eLearning contractors, it’s a good idea to revisit your interview plan and adjust for the unique project.

Why Should You Adjust Interview Techniques?

When you are hiring an employee, you are looking not only for today’s skills but also for additional elements such as long-term potential, career aspirations, cultural fit, and their commitment to the company’s goals and values. However, contract roles are created and staffed for unique reasons and, by nature, are usually short-term. Therefore, your interview and selection techniques need to shift based on the nature of the position.

Understand the Challenges with Hiring Contractors

Unlike hiring for full time, permanent employees, the contractor hiring process moves fast. The most sought-after contractors stay busy and are seldom available.  Therefore, it’s important for you as a hiring manager to move quickly after an interview to extend an offer and start the onboarding process.  It is even more vital to work with a reputable and trusted staffing firm like TrainingPros. We select candidates to present to you based on your specific project needs and by reviewing portfolios and discussing project details with consultants. We can also provide insight to you on previous TrainingPros client experiences with the contractor. This helps you move forward with confidence.

In my experience, the decision-making factors for most instructional design contractors are (in this order):

  • Rate
  • Workload/time involvement
  • Type of work
  • Stakeholder support
  • Creativity versus established process

What does this mean for you as a hiring manager? It means you must move quickly. When you ask to see the resume of a qualified consultant, review it quickly and move to interviewing right away. That consultant may not be available next week. In fact, the more skilled the consultant, the more quickly they secure their next project, so hesitation works against you. It also means that you need to be very specific about what the project involves in terms of skills needed, time involved, meeting time required, and stakeholder support.

Defining Your Need for Instructional Design Contractors

Most companies today seek instructional design consultants through a service such as TrainingPros for multiple reasons. These might include:

  • Your procurement group requires you to go through approved vendors.
  • Your company recruitment team doesn’t speak “L&D”.
  • Services like TrainingPros have experience working with these consultants. We have insights on their work with our other clients. This takes out much of the guesswork.
  • And the biggest reason to choose a company like TrainingPros: We do a lot of the legwork for you! You’ll skip the process of sifting through resumes and doing the initial vetting. We bring you the best candidate that is available for the project.

When you are ready to request a contractor, be prepared to discuss the answers to these questions with the Relationship Manager.

  • What is the project scope and requirements?
  • What is the timeline and anticipated deliverables?
  • How many hours per week are you expecting in terms of workload?
  • What specific tools are required (such as Articulate, Vyond, etc.)
  • Are there specific instructional design skills required? (Don’t ask for someone that is great at needs analysis if your team will be doing the analysis.)
  • Will the contractor have a project manager, or do they need to manage their own timeline?
  • Regular meetings – how much time will be spent meeting versus working independently.
  • Is this virtual, onsite, or hybrid?
  • Do you require portfolio samples prior to the interview?

Interviewing ID Contractors

Once you’ve prepared to request a contractor, use these same requirements to compose your interview questions. Skip the question that you ask people interviewing for full time positions such as:

  • What experiences and skills make you a great candidate for this position?
  • What has been your most meaningful work experience?
  • What do you look for in an employer?
  • Describe a major workplace problem you’ve encountered and how you handled it.

Instead, prepare very specific questions based on the requirements:

  • Do you have examples of projects where you worked with (specific tool)?
  • Describe projects in which you utilized (specific ID skill)?

But be prepared with follow-up questions such as:

  • Were others involved in that project?
  • What specifically did you work on versus what others worked on?

Next, be prepared with some very specific project-centric questions:

  • This project involves (give a good description). How would you approach this project?
  • What do you think might be the biggest risk to this project?
  • What will it take for you to meet our defined timeline?

6 Things to Look for in the Interview:

  1. Adaptability: Consultants must be able to highlight their proficiency with adapting to different organizational cultures and identifying opportunities learned from each engagement.
  2. Problem Solving: Assessing how the candidate has managed risks and unexpected issues and executed problem-solving strategies lends crucial insight into how they deal with setbacks and resolve challenges.
  3. Analytical Skills: Successful consultants possess strong analytical skills to quickly assess information. Ask questions to evaluate how they gather data, analyze it, and communicate findings and recommendations to stakeholders.
  4. Consultation Approach: Ask questions to determine how they handle diverse client needs, manage expectations, and provide actionable insights. Ask them to explain their methodology on a project like yours. Ask questions that explore how they collaborate with clients, SMEs, and stakeholders.
  5. Technical Skills: Consultants should be able to demonstrate the extent of their experience with the specific technical tools required for the project.
  6. Self-Management:  If your consultant has to manage their own project, ask questions about how they approach managing their own projects, how they work with virtual team tools, and how they keep their stakeholders informed of the project’s progress.

After the Interview

Once you’ve interviewed the candidate, be prepared to move quickly. Is this candidate the right candidate? If so, make an offer right away. Many consultants will receive 2 or 3 offers per week. If you wait even one day too long, the consultant will be under contract on another assignment.

Is the consultant close, but you are not quite sure? Call your relationship manager and talk it over. Your relationship manager will discuss your hesitations with you and help you decide what to do whether it’s go with the consultant or find a new choice. However, do something quickly to avoid losing the consultant. Hesitating almost always results in losing the consultant.

You’ve Selected a Contractor, Now What?

The next step is to prepare for their first day. TrainingPros has a great onboarding program that will help you prepare for your project kickoff. In addition, read how to win with instructional design contractors.

Are you considering hiring an Instructional Design Contractor? Our consultants had a 96% success rate in 2023, which is far above the industry average. Let our industry experienced Relationship Managers help you find the best consultant to start your project with confidence.

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Nicole Darby

Nicole is a serious introvert who knows how to extrovert as needed but needs ample time regrouping by watching foreign films (she loves anything with a subtitle) and playing the “old-school” arcade game Galaga. Happy Places: any tropical beach, time with her son, and helping women/youth actualize their dreams.
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Nicole is a serious introvert who knows how to extrovert as needed but needs ample time regrouping by watching foreign films (she loves anything with a subtitle) and playing the “old-school” arcade game Galaga. Happy Places: any tropical beach, time with her son, and helping women/youth actualize their dreams.

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