You have six seconds to get the interview.
Six seconds is how long most recruiters spend reading a resume before moving on. Have you made a good enough impression for them to keep reading? Or are they already considering the next candidate?
When it comes to finding work as an instructional designer, it’s not enough to be good at your job. It’s not enough to have experience or the right attitude or a strong work ethic. Your instructional designer resume (and accompanying portfolio) needs to be so finely crafted that it captures the attention of every recruiter and forces them to keep reading.
We spoke with industry experts to gain insight into the hiring process and the best practices for aspiring instructional designers looking for work. Here are the five must-haves for the perfect instructional designer resume.
To make it super easy to apply, we have also created a template resume you can edit. You can get the template at the end of the article.
1. Your Portfolio on Your Website
There’s some groundwork to cover before you write your resume. To get ahead in the elearning industry, you need a portfolio. As subject-matter expert Kim Scott told us, a portfolio can really make or break an instructional designer job application:
I've had the opportunity to hire, or be on the hiring committee for four instructional designers, and the portfolio and their ability to speak is always what won me over.
You can attach your portfolio as a file in emails, but ideally, you’ll create a website where you can link your portfolio. To start off, you can make a site on a free tool like Wix. While it may seem easier to attach PDF files in an email, professor Antoinette Marie Daniel told us why putting your portfolio on your website is a good idea:
This can help employers so that they can just click on a link to see your work, and it also shows that you have HTML experience at some level.
It also makes you easier to find in a search.
Here are some great instructional designer portfolio samples; take a look, and build out your own portfolio for future employers to peruse. If you haven’t worked as an instructional designer before, fear not; pick a passion project, make some elearning materials for it, and use those samples to fill out your portfolio for the time being.
2. A Format That Highlights Your Design Intuition
The first line of defense against missing your six-second window is using a format that catches a recruiter’s attention. Your formatting is a way to signal to recruiters that you know how to organize information in a way that’s easy to understand, and this is particularly important for an instructional designer.
We spoke with subject-matter expert and instructional designer Sarah Ann Houghton about what separates a good resume from a great one, and this is what she had to say:
Match your skills and keywords to the ones listed in the job description. Be honest, relevant, brief, and positive. Love who you are and what you have to offer.
Some people are seduced by a fancy resume layout or design, but all I need to see are aligned bullets and consistent application of bolded text. Don't say you're detail-oriented—prove it.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what, exactly, you need to include in your instructional designer resume:
- Header with name and contact info
- Objective statement or summary
- Work experience
Everything should be well spaced and should have a logical, readable flow. Begin by putting your name and contact details in the header, and then move on to your objective statement or summary.
3. An Objective Statement or Summary That Shows What You Can Do for the Employer
Your resume should have either an objective statement or a summary, with the latter being more appropriate for those with industry experience. Your resume is basically an advertisement for why someone should hire you, and this section is essentially your elevator pitch.
If you’re new to the industry, use this section to tell a company what you’re hoping to do and what you can do for them.
The second half of that statement is crucial. Here’s an example of an all-too-common objective statement:
- Objective: To seek a position as an instructional designer where I can gain experience and advance my career
OK, great. So the company knows what you want, but what are you offering? Let’s try that again.
- Objective: To seek a position as an instructional designer at an institution where I can apply my skills to optimize educational standards
This objective statement is the better option because it prioritizes the company and its needs, not yours. Even as a new or aspiring instructional designer, you can demonstrate to potential employers that your main goal is to contribute to their success as part of a team.
This section will summarize your career for employers and recruiters. Use action words in this section to describe past activities, and avoid the passive voice. Summaries are best suited to people who already have industry experience.
Of course, simply summarizing your experience in a list isn’t very informative. Remember our six-second window? Employers and recruiters read through many summaries, and you need to make sure yours is the most informative. Listing the action is the bare minimum; the key is to explain the impact your actions had. Subject-matter expert Tony Meluzio offered a great tip for adding value to this section:
I had my resume critiqued and was shocked at the feedback. It was high-level critique, but nonetheless. One thing that stood out was not just stating what you did, but quantifying the impact.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- Designed courses for students with a wide range of learning requirements
- Produced training materials as part of a team of trainers and designers
This is the bare minimum. Quantifying the impact, as Tony Meluzio mentioned, will demonstrate the value that you can bring to a team:
- Designed courses for students with a wide range of learning requirements, based on an initial needs analysis
- Postcourse feedback showed that students gained a more in-depth understanding of the source material
- Produced training materials as part of a team of trainers and designers
- Training materials were instrumental in onboarding new employee’s to the client’s firm
With your elevator pitch taken care of, it’s time to move on to the meat of your resume — the job descriptions in your work experience section.
4. Work Experience
The purpose of this section is twofold. Employers are interested in what you’ve done in your career to date, but they’re also interested in why. If you can demonstrate that you’ve been working toward a goal or a specialty for some time, you’ll present yourself as driven and organized.
Weave a narrative around your job descriptions as you list them so you can showcase your logic to employers. As with the previous section, context is key here. Sarah Ann Houghton offered us another excellent piece of advice when it comes to showing recruiters and employers what you’re capable of:
Some newbies get hung up being experienced with the right tools, but anyone can learn a tool. Prioritize evidence of working with new software, handling unknown subject matter, collaborating with SMEs, and churning out content on tight deadlines.
Adding evidence of the following is also of great benefit to your resume:
If you’ve managed a project in an instructional design capacity, you have a great talking point for your resume. You can also include any projects you’ve worked on as a team member, even if you weren’t in a leading role, and mention what you contributed and what you learned.
This can also apply to projects you participated in within other industries, as many of the skills and experiences are relevant for any project.
Videos/webinars/training materials developed
Most instructional design positions these days have some kind of visual learning aid component to them. If you’ve worked on anything involving graphic design, make sure to include that in your job descriptions. Additionally, any experience you have creating webinars or other types of training materials is highly relevant.
Learning models used
There are three main types of learning models used in instructional design, and you may be required to know any or all of them, depending on the job description. In no particular order, these models are below:
- ADDIE Model
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Kirkpatrick Model
Competency in at least one of these models is essential. If you haven’t applied the practices used in these models in a professional setting, you can include any educational experiences you’ve had working with these models.
Reverse chronological job descriptions
A best practice is to list your work experience, starting with the most recent position you’ve held. Be sure to include your role, the name of the company, and the location. You can also include information like team sizes, budgets, and revenues to add more context around your work environment.
If you don’t have job experience specific to instructional design, relate the job in some way to what you’ll be doing in the instructional design industry. If you worked in retail before studying education, you may have developed interpersonal skills and people-management skills. Maybe you have helped manage a team or have worked in a job with organizational or deadline-oriented responsibilities, all of which applies to instructional design.
5. Education and Skills Sections with Tailored Buzz Words
These sections can and should be kept short and simple. You want the employer to be able to know, at a glance, your educational history and what you learned from it.
In this section, you should list the degree, the university, the and year, in that order. You can also mention any relevant academic achievements, certifications, and coursework as subsections. This should be a short, easy-to-scan section.
The skills you list should reflect the job you’re applying for. It’s important that you tailor your resume to each job rather than using a generic resume; this will demonstrate your interest and commitment to the role.
Here’s some expert advice from instructional designer SD Kennedy on the matter:
Look at the buzz words used within the job description, and incorporate them into your job descriptions on your resume.
Think about what the job requires and what skills you have that can benefit it. Let’s look at an excerpt from a real instructional designer job posting:
The above listing requires skills specific to elearning as well as more general skills, and you should list skills from both of these categories if they apply to you. For example, this particular job requires someone with D2L competency who can provide technical support to solve any maintenance issues on that learning platform. More generally, the role requires leadership skills, technical support, strategy, collaboration with others.
Here is a list of in-demand instructional designer skills, including curriculum design, AGILE learning program competency, and needs analysis. Familiarize yourself with these skills, and list the ones you have that apply to the role you’re seeking.
That’s not all. Subject-matter expert Noelle Graham Allen shared a tip on how to enhance your portfolio further:
Make sure to include the tools that you use — Captivate, Storyline, etc. Also, make sure you have a portfolio with some diversity. Employers want to know that you can create videos and interactive learning.
Include any elearning tools you’re competent with in this section so your potential employers get a full picture of who they’ll be hiring if you get the job.
Free Instructional Designer Resume Template
Creating a great, well thought-out resume is an essential part of earning your dream job. Travis Jordan, Founder of Instructional Design Central really hammered home the importance of a simple but comprehensive resume:
When a resume is simple and well designed it says a lot. This immediately demonstrates that someone can naturally communicate a lot of information in a concise manner. This is one of the critical attributes of a great ID!
Making the perfect instructional designer resume is a lot less daunting when you know all the steps. If you’re ready to create your own instructional designer resume, you can use our free template here!