What questions do you ask prospective employers?

If the E-Learning Heroes jobs boards are any indicator, there are a ton of e-learning and instructional design positions out there, waiting to be filled. And in my opinion, demand for talented designers/developers is only going to rise as companies continue to look for ways to deliver learning and performance solutions that are more accessible, scalable, and cost-effective.

So what does this mean for you? It could mean that you have a growing pool of jobs and employers to choose from. While this is good news in general, for some of us the prospect of resumes and lengthy interviews is a big ole’ job-hunting buzzkill. 

But the interview process doesn’t have to be a grueling, anxiety-filled, elimination challenge. Rather, I like to think of it as a matchmaking conversation. Your prospective employer wants to get to know you and what skills and knowledge you bring to the table. More important, interviews are a chance for you to get to know them and find out how they can support and nurture your career as well as how the company culture and values align to yours.

But how do you really know that you and a prospective employer are a good match? And what questions should you ask to find out? Here are some ideas of questions that will help you decide whether a role or company is right for you.

General Questions

  • What’s a typical day like? This will give you insight into what it actually looks like to do the job on a practical level, instead of just looking at the responsibilities on a macro level, as they’re often listed in the job description. 
  • Why did the last person leave this position? If they were promoted that’s a good sign. If they quit, that could be a red flag.
  • What do you love most about working here? Both the person’s reaction to this question as well as their answer should give you a good idea if the company is right for you.
  • What aspects of your job keep you up at night? This question can shed some light on what might be stressful about the job or work environment. If the person interviewing you will be your boss, it could also help you understand how you might be expected to support them.
  • What key challenges do you see for this position in the next year? Usually the answer to this question will either highlight what organizational issues they want you to step up and address (which could be big wins for you if you do so successfully) or point out constraints you might come across in the role (short deadlines, lack of resources or budget, office politics, etc.). Either way, you’ll have a better idea of what’s in store for you.
  • How flexible are you about schedules and working remotely? If you have children, or even if you don’t, it’s nice to work for a company that’s flexible and understands that sometimes you might need to leave early for an appointment or work from home while you keep an eye on a sick kid. The answer to this question says a lot about whether the company trusts employees to get their work done or if they have a “putting in the hours” mindset.
  • Do you support continuing education opportunities, like training or Association for Talent Development (ATD) memberships? In fields that are constantly changing and evolving, like e-learning, continued learning is super important. It’s a good idea to make sure your future employer values continuing education as much as you do. Asking questions about how they handle membership fees and whether or not they allow you to attend training or industry events on company time will also give you insight into the company culture around continued growth.
  • What is the position’s salary range? Let’s be real—even if you love your job, we’re all working for a paycheck, so that’s a pretty important piece of information to get! In addition to the salary, it’s a good idea to ask about the benefits the organization provides.

Instructional Design–Specific Questions

  • What tools and resources will be available to me for building courses? It’s important to find out what authoring apps and other resources (media libraries, media budget, graphic designers, e-learning developers, etc.) you’ll have to do your job.
  • Do you have an LMS administrator? This question is especially important if you don’t want to manage the LMS as part of your job.
  • What is the basic process for building courses here? This will give you an idea of where they’re at in their e-learning creation journey. If they’re just starting out, they might not have a well-defined process, while if they’ve been doing it for years, their process may be clearly laid out.
  • Have you implemented any blended learning? It’s a good idea to find out how much they’ve integrated their online learning into their overall training programs to get a better sense of where the organization is in their adoption of e-learning.
  • Can I see samples of your e-learning? In addition to getting a look at the kinds of courses they’re creating, seeing concrete examples may give you an opportunity to talk about ways you can help them improve their courses.

Of course, these questions are just the tip of the iceberg! I’d love to hear about the kinds of questions you like to ask in a job interview, so tell me all about it in the comments section below. And be sure to follow us on Twitter, where we post the latest and greatest news about everything e-learning.

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