The Rapid Elearning Blog

e-learning portfolio post

I had a couple of questions this week about elearning jobs. First, someone asked me what they should expect when hiring an elearning course developer. And on the flip side, someone I know was looking for work and wanted some tips on how to get a job.

Here’s my take and some things I’ve done in the past as a hiring manager and when looking for work. Also, I just updated a lot of the event info for this year. Be sure to check out if we’ll be in your area.

Expect an E-Learning Portfolio

For the manager:

Some people are good talkers and do great at interviews. They’re pros at answering your behavioral questions. They may also have a strong resume listing good work experience and education. All of those things are great and important to consider, but can they really do the work? How do you know?

I like to see a portfolio of projects. I want to see what they’ve worked on and know what exactly they did in those projects.

e-learning portfolio

For the job seeker:

If you don’t have a portfolio, how can I see the type of work you’ve done? Often people will tell me that they can’t share what they’ve done because it’s proprietary and they don’t have the rights to show it. While that may be true for some, I’ve found that to be mostly hogwash and an excuse to not show work.

Even if it’s true that you can’t show your real projects, it’s still not an excuse for not having a portfolio. If you can’t show real work, remove the proprietary content and use lorem ipsum text, if you have to. Or participate in the weekly elearning challenge. That’s an easy and quick way to build a portfolio.

This may sound harsh and it’s your prerogative to not have a portfolio. But the reality is that the job will attract other job seekers who do have a portfolio and are better prepared to get hired. Your education and experience don’t entitle you to anything. The only thing that matters is if you can use your skills to help the hiring organization meet its needs. And a portfolio is one of the best ways to demonstrate your work experience.

Look for Diverse E-Learning Examples.

For the hiring manager:

As you know, elearning is more than a bunch of bullet point screens. If that’s what you need, you can hire just about anyone. If you want a good elearning developer you should look for one who can do more than great looking bullet point slides. Some of what I look for:

  • How they got past bullet points with unique layouts or small interactions
  • Types of interactive content and learning activities
  • Scenario driven content
  • Software training: simulations or screencasts
  • Creativity

e-learning portfolio examples

For the job seeker:

When assembling a portfolio, pull together diverse elearning examples with different types of courses and interactions. Don’t expect the hiring manager to click through 30 slides to get to the one interesting interaction. Pull the interaction out and show just that.  Don’t show twenty click-and-read compliance courses that are all essentially the same. Also, don’t lock the navigation. That guarantees that the reviewer won’t click past the first slide.

One last point on this: looks matter. You may have the most instructionally sound course to show, but the ones that get the eyes are the ones that look good. Something to keep in mind.

Hire for Desired E-Learning Skills

For the hiring manager:

Understand what role you’re trying to fill and then craft questions to collect the information you need to assess whether the person can fill that role. It also allows you to be consistent in the process across candidates. I like to create a rubric so that I’ve consistent and can compare candidates based on the same question.

This appears to be an obvious point, but often the interviews get sidetracked. And sometimes the hiring staff gets enamored with the person’s personality or other things and never gets around to finding out if they’re really qualified.

skills e-learning portfolio

For the job seeker:

I used to make a two-column list. On one side I listed what the organization identified in the job announcement. And on the other, I listed my response and my experience. This helped me prepare custom resumes specific to the job application. It also helped me with practicing my interview answers.

Collect some job posting and make a list of what they want and then compare what they want to your skill set. Even if you’re not looking for work, this is a great way to identify areas for personal development.

Assign an E-Learning Project

For the hiring manager:

Some people are good talkers (our industry is filled with good talkers) and sometimes it can be hard to assess whether or not they actually have the skills you desire. When I get to the next round of interviews, I assign a simple project. I tell them I don’t expect a polished module. I just want to get a sense of what they can do and then walk through what they did. It’s a way to establish some context for talking together and for them to show off what they can do.

Here is what I like to know:

  • Why did they take the approach they did?
  • What part did they like best? Worst?
  • Where do they feel they best demonstrate their skills?
  • If they could do it again, what would they change?

Some people put in a lot of effort and some put in the bare minimum. Again, they can do what they want. But to me it says a lot when a person who’s competing for job does the bare minimum to impress you.

I’ve had people tell me that it’s ridiculous that I expect them to build a simple module for the interview. That’s fine because it helps weed out candidates. Again, this may seem harsh, but as a hiring manager I usually have more than enough qualified candidates, so if someone is kind enough to make the screening process easier on me, that’s great.

For the job seeker:

e-learning portfolio presentation

If you made it to this point in the process you have a great chance of getting the job. Now it’s time to impress the hiring manager. Here are a few key things to consider:

  • Do your best. You’re competing against other qualified people.
  • Looks matter. Even if it’s a simple project, make sure it looks tight.
  • Focus on activities and interactions.
  • You probably don’t have time to build a whole course, but be prepared to talk about what you’d do if you did have the time and resources.
  • Humor is good and can make you stand out. But it can also make you stand out for the wrong reasons in our hyper sensitive culture.

The key in all of this is to find the best person for the job. Hopefully these tips help. And for the person who’s looking for a job, you want to be the one who stands out.

If you’ve recently hired an elearning developer or gone through an interview for an elearning job, what tips to do you have? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

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Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

14 responses to “How to Hire an E-Learning Developer or Get an E-Learning Job”

April 19th, 2016

Yes, have the portfolio! Use that to demonstrate your capabilities. If an interviewer tells you to build a piece of custom training, though, be prepared with a rate sheet unless what they ask for is quick to develop and generic. There are definitely organizations that use the hiring process to get free work done.

Thanks Tom, exactly what I needed right now! 🙂

Really good advice for job seekers and employers. One thing I would add for the job seeker. Not all jobs will lend themselves to telecommuting. Working from home is nice but some development positions this is not always a possibility.

I was just thinking I need to do the same, create a portfolio. My question is, what is the best way to publish your content so you can show it off? Is there a website that is best suited for this type of thing? Or do you suggest taking your own laptop and showing it from there?

Right on. Been saying this for years as people often give the “I can’t show you as it is proprietary” line, which is utter you-know-what…

April 19th, 2016

@Mark: good point. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone.

April 19th, 2016

@Dawn: I have a follow up post on some ideas for portfolios and how to host them. Ideally you can get a simple domain and install WordPress or something similar. Then you can upload to your site. Some people use WIX and similar sites which are great for creating the site, but you don’t have a way to upload your course, so you need another place for that.

La traduzione (autorizzata) dell’articolo è disponibile a questo link:

If a prospective client asked me to build even a simple module pro bono to prove myself, even after viewing an extensive portfolio, I’d assume they are either looking for a more junior candidate, or that they lack confidence in their own ability to vet work product.

I’d be happy to talk through a project upfront — maybe do some sketches sitting around a table, so they client can see how I think — but being asked to do “homework” is just crossing a line.

My time is valuable, and I’m not OK with giving it away for free. There’s plenty of demand out there for skilled elearning developers (and that demand keeps growing), so I’m comfortable politely declining such a request.

Just offering that as another point-of-view, from the other side of the table.

Really great post this week!

Another reason for jobseekers to list the employer’s wish-list against their own skills is to see if the job is something you’d actually enjoy. Do they want stuff you can do blindfolded but hate? Things you’ve dabbled with and would love the chance to develop? We often do everything we can to look like we fit the JD, without doing our own assessment of the job, organisation and employers, to see if we really want to work there ourselves.

Thanks again for sharing!

April 20th, 2016

@Liz: I appreciate your perspective. And as you said, it’s your prerogative to decline. Which I fully understand. I am always sensitive to the time constraints people have. I never ask for this at the forefront when we do initial screenings. I wait until we have a handful of qualified candidates. I tell them to do what they can in the time they have. Some people have put together outlines, some customer interview questions, etc. I leave it completely up to them. And then we use what they submitted to continue the interview.

I also expect that some will have no time to do the projects. They have the opportunity to discuss this with me, which reveals a lot about how they communicate and would deal with confrontation and uncomfortable situations. There are plenty of times I’ve moved people forward without the project requirement.

Here’s why I don’t agree with your position, though.

1) Many people are stuck building the same type of course over and over at work. Much of their work portfolio doesn’t exemplify their skills. This gives them an opportunity to show off. In fact, there are some (who I couldn’t hire) that did such a great job that I have been able to refer to other companies, or brought them on later when I had another position.

2) I’ve interviewed plenty of candidates who have great portfolios, but it turns out that while they worked on the project, they didn’t really do the great part of the portfolio. That really becomes apparent with the projects. In fact, most of those people bow out when I ask for the project.

3) It’s not homework. It’s the candidates way to separate themselves from others. It demonstrates their skill, attitude, and desire to work for the company. A good elearning developer could easily earn over $100K with benefit. I’m not making that investment without due diligence. If the candidate doesn’t want to make a similar investment, that’s fair enough and makes it easier for me.

I’ve always been a little confused about what’s proprietary and what I can share in my own portfolio. I’ve also been nervous to build a portfolio because I don’t have my own personal license to eLearning software. I use Articulate Storyline but under my company’s license. Do you think this poses any legal issues in building a portfolio to get hired elsewhere or to build a sample project as part of the interview process?

April 22nd, 2016

@Stephen: that’s a good question; I’ve seen some lawsuits over the years around creatives who have a portfolio of client content. Who owns the content? The client in most cases. However, the creator has some rights to show their contributions.

1. As a freelancer, you could write in the agreement what can/cant be used for a portfolio.
2. Employees can remove things that identify the organization or reveal proprietary content.

As far as software use, I assume that’s up to your organization. I’d ask if it’s OK to use it for personal projects. If you are actively looking for work, you can always download a 30 day trial.

May 8th, 2016

I found this blog post and the following comments, questions, and advice very helpful.

As an applicant for an instructional design position, I would definitely request to review examples of the prospective employer’s past elearning projects completed for the employer (whether by employees or consultants) and then ask the employer what they like and/or didn’t like about the end products. This will help the applicant determine if their expectations are in line with the prospective employer’s.

Many ID jobs in the public sector, higher ed, state government, and non-profit, do not pay $100K or close to it, so frankly they are not going to get the extensive skill sets of people earning 6 figures from a private company or through independent contracting.

I agree humor is effective in learning if it isn’t political, sexual, and religious. This is not due to a “hyper sensitive culture” rather it’s the right thing to do.