Interview Questions Every L&D Leader Should Ask - Senior Executive

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Learning and Development (L&D) Resources 7 min

Interview Questions Every L&D Leader Should Ask

Building your L&D team? Whether you’re hiring instructional designers, facilitators, or senior leaders, these questions may help you find the perfect candidate.

by Kimberly Valentine on July 24, 2023

With a forecasted 5.4% increase in learning and development (L&D) budgets this year, it’s clear that corporate learning is in high demand. Furthermore, 77% of employees are more likely to stay at a company that prioritizes learning and development. As you scale your L&D team to keep pace with business transformation, finding the right candidates is essential. 

Senior Executive L&D spoke with learning and development leaders across industries to learn their go-to interview questions. As you look to fill your open roles, consider incorporating a few of these questions in your upcoming interviews to find the candidate who will help you take your L&D initiatives to the next level. 

Use the quick navigation links below to jump ahead to the different types of interview questions:

Tell Me About a Time… 

Tell me about a time when you tried to push a new idea through and it didn’t work. What did you learn from it? — Melissa Daimler, chief learning officer at Udemy

When asking this question, Daimler says, “I’m trying to understand what their learning process is, not just when things go well but when things didn’t go well… Do you constantly look for opportunities to learn even when things don’t work out, or are you more closed-minded in how you approach things? I always like to hear what people’s experiences are — good and bad — and what their thought process is and how they learned from them.” 

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a business decision or direction given. How did you handle it? — Erica Toluhi, director of learning and development at Paychex 

“It is important to me to hire leaders who are not just ‘yes’ people,” Toluhi says. “I like to ask this question to determine if the candidate is comfortable with pushing back.” Based on the answer given, Toluhi explains she will ask follow-up questions to better understand how the candidate handles difficult conversations. 

Tell me about a time when you paused and took time to learn something new during a work project or in your personal life. What was the situation? What caused you to stop and reflect?” — Mike Ohata, chief learning officer and partner at KPMG U.S.

This question helps Ohata and his team “gauge an individual’s traits around agility, adaptability, and capacity to learn new skills.” He notes, “As a leadership indicator, we’re also assessing for curiosity.”

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Show Me How You Work

Walk me through an example of how you’ve built a specific learning program, from initial need identification to final launch and impact evaluation. Jim Page, director of learning and talent development at Klaviyo 

Expecting a lengthy answer, Page explains asking this question gives him “a thorough look into their approach — on everything from needs analysis, stakeholder engagement, and program design, to delivery, execution, and measurement. It creates for a wonderful back-and-forth conversation with candidates, which is what would be required with any stakeholder.”

How have you used your specialized knowledge to serve the short and long-term needs of a client? — Leah Houde, chief learning officer at PwC

Houde explains that she leans toward behavioral-event interview questions. “It helps me get a sense of how they think about their design process,” she says. “Do they start with an understanding of the client’s business strategy and then get to the learning/capability-building needs that would support that?” Additionally, she says this question provides insights into a candidate’s creative problem-solving and how they think about balancing trade-offs. 

Give an example of a time when you felt it was necessary to change your communication style or behavior to better meet the needs of another stakeholder or team member. — Mike Ohata, chief learning officer and partner at KPMG U.S.

Ohata explains, “This question is targeted at assessing an individual’s self-awareness and skills around effective communication, especially in an enabling function that requires engaging business stakeholders.”

How do you use learning technology? — Christina Treadway, director of learning and leadership development at Black Knight Inc.

Recognizing the vast number of technology platforms and tools available to learning and development professionals today, Treadway says, “I’m trying to see, what have they used and how have they used it? How familiar and comfortable they are with learning technology?” While how to use specific technology tools can be taught, she notes, “It’s important to be aware of at least some technologies.” 

Do you have a portfolio you can share? — Nick Jones, director at Blue Eskimo, a learning and development recruitment agency based in the U.K.

“This is straightforward when thinking about digital learning and learning experience design, as these roles produce learning assets and can demonstrate design thinking, technical ability, and, importantly, creativity,” says Jones. He notes that even instructor roles may have recording examples to share given today’s virtual training environment. Portfolios, Jones explains, are a way for candidates to weave in their personalities.

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The Senior Executive L&D Think Tank is an invitation-only community for chief learning officers and senior-level L&D leaders at large organizations to share difference-making tactics, trade valuable resources, and seek the counsel of experienced peers in a private, confidential setting. Coming Fall 2023.

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Share Your Interests

What is the footprint that you would like to leave in learning and development? Jodi Atkinson, senior director of global learning at Deltek 

Atkinson explains she’s looking to find out whether or not the candidate wants “to be effective in creating change and bringing something larger to development… Are they a true visionary? Are they someone who has a voice and opinion, someone who can have that impact within the team?”

What are you currently ‘geeking out’ about in the L&D space? Jim Page, director of learning and talent development at Klaviyo 

Page says this question typically elicits a smile from the candidate. “It’s an opportunity for them to highlight their passions and interests in the L&D space, all the while showcasing their ability to stay informed and up-to-speed with emerging trends, technologies, and approaches,” he explains. 

Where does your passion come from in the L&D space? — Jay Fortuna, VP of learning and organizational development at GoHealth

Noting that there are many generalists in the L&D space, Fortuna is looking to find out what motivates candidates. “Do you love building content that looks good and that people want to watch or read? Or do you like getting in front of a classroom and seeing people’s faces light up because you have energy and charisma?” He says this information helps him understand whether the candidate is going to be able to get the right depth of experience in their preferred area in order to be successful. 

What are your greatest accomplishments and why? — Christina Treadway, director of learning and leadership development at Black Knight Inc.

“There’s a gamut of answers based on that question,” says Treadway. Experienced learning and development professionals might discuss a particular program they built, while entry-level candidates may choose to talk about their school accomplishments and what led them to the career field.

Why are you interested in this role, and what makes you particularly well-suited for it?Leah Houde, chief learning officer at PwC

“This gives them a chance to highlight interesting aspects of their experience and put their best foot forward without going line by line through the resume,” says Houde. 

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