Do the Write Stuff
If you have ever hired anybody, you know how tricky the process can be. First, you have to locate candidates. Then, you need to down-select to two good candidates. Possibly, you check references. When hiring instructional designers, the best test is to look at a sample of their instructor guides.
An instructor guide (IG) is the document containing the trainer’s notes for how to teach a course. Studying it can provide insight into the instructional designer’s writing, communication, organizational, and technical abilities. To make reviewing more efficient, ask the candidate to send you a writing sample that:
- Is from the IG: IGs should contain more detailed content than participant guides.
- Is from the middle of the course: Skip the introductions. You want to see how they work with the tough content.
- Is 10-15 pages in length: You are not going to read much more than that.
- Contains an activity: Good training courses should involve the audience in multiple ways.
- Contains corresponding presentation slides: If the slides are not included in the IG, ask the candidate to send the related slides so you can see how they complement each other.
Start the review by reading for understanding. You might not be able to judge the accuracy, but you should be able to judge understandability. But don’t stop there! As you review the material, consider the following:
- Sentences or phrases: Phrases often indicate that the designer is not used to creating courses for others to teach. If your training requires multiple trainers, sentences are better at conveying full ideas and increasing the likelihood of consistent messaging across classes.
- Activity directions: Look at how well they explain the activity steps. If you were going to conduct that activity, would those instructions give you a clear enough picture of how to proceed? Activity directions should contain, at a minimum:
- The size of the workgroups
- The total time for the activity
- Any needed materials
- The step by step instructions
- Answers to questions
- Organization: Is the information presented in a logical sequence?
- Layout: Is the content scannable? Would it be easy to glance at the material while standing in front of a class and know what to say or do next?
- Formatting: Do the margins change? Are the fonts the same size and type? Inconsistencies in formatting often indicate a lack of attention to detail or a lack of understanding about marketing or basic visual design principles.
Keeping these considerations in mind when reviewing gives you insights that are better at discerning an instructional designer’s quality than by talking to references or going with your hunch.