The Ultimate Instructional Design Resume Guide in 2023 (With Examples)

Updated on 
January 10, 2023
How to create an instructional design resume video cover photo

Looking for a resume that will help you stand out from the crowd?

In this post, you’ll learn how to showcase your skills and stand out from the competition by tailoring the instructional design resume template I’ve put together for you. Illustrating your skill set in a way that shows how you solve people’s problems greatly increases your chances of being hired.

Ready to get started? Read on!

How do you become a sought-after instructional designer?

eLearning is a massive industry that’s expected to grow to $325 billion by 2025. Instructional designers, or IDs, play a key role in this industry. They develop interactive eLearning experiences for corporations, educational institutions, nonprofits, and other organizations as employees, freelancers, and consultants.

These eLearning experiences can be anything from employee training to university-level courses.

If you want a more thorough explanation of what instructional design is, take a look at this video:

Many instructional designers begin their careers as teachers. But that’s not the only way to get into this industry. It’s an interdisciplinary field that draws on many different techniques and bodies of knowledge (such as education, design, and psychology). Therefore, you can have a diverse background and still become a highly sought-after instructional designer.

Thanks to the range of knowledge and expertise that’s required, working as an instructional designer is a very rewarding role. People with inquiring minds, an innate drive to keep exploring and learning, and excellent communication skills can earn an average annual salary of $85,466 as a full-time ID.

What’s more, instructional design roles have grown remarkably in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates this trend will continue with instructional design positions growing by 11% over the next three years.

In this video, I explain how to become an instructional designer:

But what do you need to consider when applying for a job as an instructional designer?

First, let’s take a look at the skills and qualities you need to stand out.

Core competencies for instructional designers

What skills do you need to have as an instructional designer? Here are the six core skill sets to become a highly sought-after ID.

Communication skills

I recently asked hiring managers in the industry what their top priorities are. 65.3% saw communication as a core skill for instructional designers.

You’ll need to be able to convey ideas to collaborate with others and develop learning content. Strong writing, storyboarding, and verbal communication skills will help you collaborate with clients as well as create the content required of you in your role.

Problem-solving skills

Instructional designers solve many problems: they help businesses operate more smoothly by solving performance problems, they figure out the best way to design and deliver learning experiences, and they get projects back on track if something goes wrong. To thrive as an instructional designer, you’ll need to be able to face challenges confidently.

Analytical skills

Analyzing data, using it to draw conclusions, and understanding if your solutions are effective are the types of analytical skills instructional designers need to be competent in.

Planning skills

Successful instructional designers have the ability to step back and review the demands of the project so they can create a plan for the best course of action. Planning for instructional design projects includes understanding business needs, audience needs, the content itself, and any other operational limitations. From there, instructional designers are able to decide how to deliver it and the tools that will be needed to do so.

Design and development skills

After thorough analysis and planning, it’s time to design and develop the educational content. Research-backed design and development techniques ensure that the audience learns the knowledge and skills necessary for success.

In fact, this is a top skill hiring managers consider when hiring instructional designers–74.3% think eLearning development is one of the top skills for IDs.

What are the qualities of an ideal instructional designer?

Hiring managers and educational organizations are looking for instructional designers with specific experience as well as personal and professional qualities. These professional qualities are crucial for instructional designers to stand out in this crowded market.

Apply instructional design theory to projects

According to 61.4% of the hiring managers I interviewed for my survey, the ability to apply instructional design theory and science to projects is key to landing a job.

For instance, one of the most important principles guiding instructional designers is ADDIE. This acronym stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. As a successful ID, you need to know how to apply ADDIE to your projects.

Outlining the learning experience

To create engaging content, first, instructional designers often outline each of the stages of the learning experience. Gagne’s nine events is a popular tool for this. Explaining learning experiences through this lens and showing how your approach satisfies each learning event is a key quality for instructional designers.

Develop eLearning courses in rapid authoring tools

There is a wide range of eLearning authoring tools used in the field of instructional design. Mastering one or more of these is crucial for designing and developing educational content.

86.1% of hiring managers think that Articulate Storyline is one of the top three technologies instructional designers should be familiar with when interviewing for a job. 49.5% think the same about Learning Management Systems (LMS) and 47.5% about Microsoft PowerPoint.

The three least selected tools are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (17.8%), xAPI (6.9%), and Adobe Premiere/After Effects (4%).

If you want to learn more about key technologies, take a look at this short video:

How can instructional designers stand out?

Instructional design is a crowded field, but the demand for creative knowledge workers is continuing to grow. That said, you can take steps to stand out and land your next role more easily.

In my survey, hiring managers said that they are mostly focused on candidates’ portfolios, experience, and interview skills when hiring instructional designers. Here’s how to apply them.

Creating an instructional design portfolio

19.8% of hiring managers require that applicants have a portfolio with 44.6% saying they play a significant role in the hiring process. 67.3% say this is a top three consideration when they hire for a new role.

That’s why a portfolio that shows potential clients and employers the projects you have worked on is a great way to stand out in the field of instructional design. If you are starting out and have not yet worked on any instructional design projects, consider creating a flagship project. This is a useful way to display your problem-solving and scenario-based eLearning capabilities.

Ideally, your instructional design portfolio should reflect the type of work you intend to find. Highlight who you are, what you are interested in, and the topics you are most passionate about. The projects you choose should clearly show your:

And in this short video, I explain how to choose the best projects for your portfolio:

Show your instructional design expertise

85.1% of hiring managers say that professional experience is a key consideration when they hire instructional designers. Note that this is far ahead of education (12.9%).

There are plenty of ways to showcase your experience. First, include it in your resume. Second, you can write blogs for LinkedIn or blogging platforms like Medium. Finally, you can create concept projects that solve real-world problems (and feature them in your portfolio). Remember that even if you don’t have experience (yet) as an instructional designer, you can draw on your past experience and help connect the dots for hiring managers.

Nail your interview

69.3% of hiring managers look at interviews as a core consideration when hiring instructional designers. While 93% have felt anxious about interviewing, it’s a skill you learn with practice.

Here are my top interviewing tips:

Now you know what hiring managers look for.

But how do you create your resume? Let’s find out.

How do you write an instructional design resume?

Resumes aren’t at the top of hiring managers’ list for what they take into consideration when recruiting IDs. In fact, only 3% think it is important in their hiring decision.

That said, resumes are a core part of any application. While they might not help you land a job, they can help you land your next interview. And that’s why it’s so important to improve your resume.

However, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reading a resume. That gives you a brief amount of time to capture their attention and show you have the capabilities and experience they’re looking for.

One of the first steps is to tailor your resume for each role. It may seem like hard work, but it's necessary if you want to be rewarded with an interview and become a successful applicant for an instructional design job.

An instructional design resume needs to show your previous experience through the lens of instructional design. That’s true even if you are transitioning from a related discipline or industry. Translating teaching, communication, and other related experience into actionable instructional design skills is a crucial element of crafting a resume that will get noticed and selected for an interview.

In this short video, I talk more about resumes:

Showcase your instructional design experience

If you don’t have formal instructional design experience, then your biggest challenge will be to brand yourself as an instructional designer and learning expert on your resume.

You’ll need to use instructional design terms to frame your experience so that you seem credible and experienced to hiring managers.

If you already have experience in the field, then you can stand out from other candidates by positioning yourself as an expert in a particular specialization. You can do this by drawing attention to the skills that you’ve developed the most (for example, eLearning development, storyboarding, analysis, etc).

Demonstrate how you incorporate advanced learning concepts such as ADDIE, Gagne’s nine events, or the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation. Use learner metrics to quantify the impact of the courses you design and note specific accomplishments rather than simply listing broad responsibilities.

Specify achievements

Rather than using bland phrases, specify the outcomes of those educational achievements with quantifiable figures and percentages.

“Implemented eLearning material” might become “Implemented eLearning material that resulted in a positive ROI.” Pinpoint data that accompanies the educational experiences you have developed or worked on will help you stand out from the competition.

Use keywords in your resume

Recruiters rely heavily on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) to screen potential candidates for the vacancies they have. By using the correct terms and keywords in your resume, you greatly increase your chances of passing the initial round of screening and being invited to an interview.

For example, instead of saying “Planned online lessons,” use “Designed eLearning experiences.” The revised version includes keywords that are more likely to be included in instructional design job descriptions (which is what the ATS systems are based on).

Both hard and soft skills are relevant when it comes to using the most relevant terms within your resume. Ensuring you have the right mix that aligns with the description of the role you are applying for helps recruiters and employers match you to their company culture and their vacancy.

Use action words

The language you choose when writing your resume should be action and results-oriented. Avoid passive voice to bring your achievements to life.

Use a range of action verbs such as analyzed, built, coordinated, and evaluated to enhance the presentation of your skills and the reading experience for the recruiter. In doing so, you become far more memorable, believable, and likely to be invited to interview.

It’s important to be specific with your statements and use of action words. Dry statements such as “Planned lessons based on student feedback” should become “Evaluated and improved learning experiences based on learner feedback.”

Background research

Aligning your resume with the role you are applying for is an important part of being selected for an interview. It also helps your resume get moved to the top of the pile by the ATS system.

It’s helpful to conduct a little background research on the company you are applying to. This will give you the information you need to show the value you can bring and the great fit you will be for their company’s culture. Pay particular attention to the job listing when tailoring your resume for the application.

Choosing the right format for your instructional design resume

Because you literally have seconds to capture the attention of the recruiter, it’s important to make your resume scannable, yet memorable. This means putting all of the relevant pieces of information where the recruiter expects to find them. Working with recruiters in this way will bring you more success in reaching the interview stage of the hiring process.

Your instructional design resume should be no longer than a single page. This works with recruiters who are speeding through hundreds, sometimes thousands of resumes each week. Each time you apply for a role as an instructional designer, tailor your resume to fit the role with the company you’re applying to.

And as we’ll discover below, always begin your resume with your name, portfolio link, and any other key information at the top. For instructional design resumes, the link to your portfolio is one of the most important parts of your resume.

You can think of your resume as a tool to get people to your portfolio, which will do a much better job at moving you along in the interview process.

Now, let’s take a look at the specific elements of a resume. Note that we’ve linked to a resume outline at the end of this article, so use these steps to fill in that template.

Instructional design resume header

Clearly note your name in the header section of your resume. This should be followed by a website link to your portfolio and your email address. It is important to be eye-catching, professional, and memorable at the outset.

Experience section

This is the largest part of your resume and should succinctly detail your previous employment. For non-instructional design roles that you’ve held, make sure that you frame the skills and job responsibilities in ways that align with the instructional design position you are applying for.

Each role included in the experience section of your resume should use your job title as the heading. The company and location are included as subheadings and the start and end dates for that position will be noted beneath. The most recent role should have up to five bullet points that detail your key responsibilities and achievements in that role.

Subsequent roles that are noted in the experience section of your resume only need three bullet points of key responsibilities and achievements.

Education

The education section of your resume should include all degrees and relevant courses in descending order of accomplishment.

Your most recent degree should be at the top of the list and include the name of the degree, your field of study, and the institution you studied at. Your graduation date is the final piece of information to include with each qualification.

Skills

Both hard and soft skills that are relevant to instructional design roles should be included in this section. Begin with hard skills that are relevant to the role you are applying for. This could include the software packages you are competent in, coding capabilities you have acquired, or data analysis techniques you apply when designing educational courses.

Additional languages and soft skills are secondary to your hard skills and should be included on an instructional design resume if there is room and they are mentioned in the details of the job you are applying for.

Entry-level instructional design resume

Beginning a new career in instructional design can feel daunting, particularly when it comes to writing your resume. Rather than trying to do everything at once, chip away at the tasks needed to prepare well for a career change. This is the best way to put yourself in a strong  position and stand out to recruiters with your resume and job applications.

In this video, I speak with a teacher who transitioned into the field about a foot in the door:

Although you may not have experience as an instructional designer, many of the skills you have acquired and practiced in other roles will be transferable. An entry-level instructional design resume should showcase your experience in a way that’s relevant to instructional design roles.

One way to do this is to ensure you use the correct terminology throughout your resume and job application letter. For example, if you hosted training workshops for 20 colleagues, it’s better to communicate that experience as “created learning experiences for 20 adult learners” as this is in keeping with common instructional design terminology.

Senior instructional design resume

Recruiters expect to see more instructional design experience and examples of what candidates are capable of when hiring for senior roles. Instructional designers applying for senior roles should have four to five years of experience in a junior role that they can show on their resumes.

Along with the key competencies, qualities, and experience senior roles require, candidates should also explain the additional value they bring with them. Examples of times you have taken initiative with instructional design projects, organized your work in innovative ways, or added value to a project are some ways to show you are ready to step up to a senior role.

Despite the need to illustrate your years of experience and ways in which you add value to the projects you work on, a senior instructional design resume should still be kept to a single sheet of A4 paper. When applying for these positions, it can be beneficial to review the projects included in your portfolio and ensure that they also showcase your additional capabilities.

Instructional design manager resume

Managerial roles in instructional design can command a salary of well over $110,000. To be considered for such high-paying positions, you need to be able to manage your own projects effectively but also lead more junior instructional designers and team members effectively.

Illustrating how you have applied your leadership skills in previous roles while maintaining high-quality work and output as a senior instructional designer will be crucial to ensure you are invited to an interview.

Resume template

Finally, let’s take a look at our resume template.

Our instructional designer resume template covers all of the key elements noted above. It’s also ATS-friendly so that when you upload it to a job application, it will fill in most of the required text fields for you. Download it today and personalize each section so that you can start applying for instructional designer roles with confidence.

Remember, resumes that are crafted to match the role being applied for have a greater chance of success. Emphasize your strengths in ways that align with the role and highlight the reasons you should be successful with your application.

Over to you!

Writing an engaging and eye-catching instructional design resume takes time, patience, and a little creativity that’s not unlike the instructional design process.

Use your skills as an instructional designer to lead the recruiter’s eye through your experience, qualifications, and skills in a way that makes them want to invite you for an interview.

Instructional design is an engaging and rewarding career. If you take the time to tailor your resume for each position you apply for, you’ll have a much better chance of landing a role in this sector.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to become an instructional designer, download the Become an ID checklist today:

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