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Resume Essentials for Instructional Designers


Thu Jan 22 2015

Resume Essentials for Instructional Designers

If you ask 50 resume writers how to create an outstanding resume that will get you noticed by employers, chances are you will get 50 different answers. Deciding how to design a resume that helps you stand out and deciphering what information to include can be a daunting task for job seekers—especially when you are pursuing positions in the instructional design field where you and your competition share many of the same skills.   

Instead of spending your energy trying to determine whose resume tips are the most valid or which resume design is best, consider focusing on three key questions: 

  1. What is the employer asking for?

  2. What information would prove that you are qualified?

  3. What information could make you stand out? 

What Is the Employer Asking For 

Most job descriptions will provide you with a hint of the knowledge, skills and abilities the hiring manager is looking for in their next instructional designer. In essence, the job description is like a recipe indicating the main ingredients of a particular job. Follow the recipe and you will have a good chance of landing an interview. 

The components of the job description become a guide helping you determine what sections to add into your resume. Common “ingredients” featured in job announcements for instructional designers are: 

  • required qualifications

  • preferred skills

  • licensures

  • certifications

  • required experience. 

What Information Proves You Are Qualified 

Once you have your sections narrowed down it’s time to determine the content needed in each section. This step frustrates a lot of job seekers because they try to focus on sharing their entire career history, which is impossible in a one to two page document. Deciding what story to tell and what accomplishments to share in your resume is best decided by considering what content will prove that you can do the job. The job description will come in handy here, as well. 


For instance, if you have a solid background in project management and the job description is asking for someone with strong course design skills; the best strategy is to focus on your project management skills in the context of course design. In essence, avoid telling the hiring manager everything you can do; instead, focus on proving that you are best qualified for the job by showing that you have the skills they seek. 

What Makes You Stand Out 

After ensuring that you have the right sections and content, it’s time to focus on communicating your professional brand. In other words, how you stand out from the rest. Ask yourself, what is it about me that sets me apart from every other instructional designer? 

In a highly competitive company, your soft skills rather than your hard skills (certifications, for example) may be the differentiating factor. Key soft skills to highlight for instructional designers include communication, interpersonal skills, customer service and teamwork. For instance, knowing how to design technology-enhanced curriculum may meet job requirements, but having a track record collaborating with faculty or clients to develop technology-enhanced curriculum makes you stand out. 

What’s Next? 


For new professionals who have not defined a professional brand consider working with a career coach and using assessments, such as the Clifton Strengths Finder, Gallup’s StrengthsQuest, or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. ATD also offers a cadre of publications on professional branding, including Marketing Your Career Brand and Defining and Leveraging Your Professional Value. Members may also take advantage of the ATD Career Navigator system, which is a self-assessment tool based on the ATD Competency Model. 

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed by the resume development process consider working with a professional resume writer. Most professional resume writers will hold a professional certification from a national association and have received special training in the resume development process.

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