Last September, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent – the lowest it had been since 1969. It rose in December, but only to 3.9 percent. Low unemployment is good news, of course – except for the increased competition for talent among businesses. If your L&D team is growing, it’s important to ensure that you find the best candidate for the job – and that you position your organization so that that person will accept the job. Here are some tips to help.

What to Look For

Your L&D team may have developed a competency model for other departments in your organization. Do the same for your training roles. For example, the Training Manager Competency Model™, based on years of research, identifies seven core responsibilities and foundational leadership competencies that are essential for a training manager. Use the competency model to guide your job description and interview questions as well as your evaluation of resumes and applications.

Broadly, Michelle Kohn, CPTM, head of learning and development for the Americas region at professional services firm Arup, says that training professionals should have the following traits and skills:

She stresses emphasizing real-life experience rather than relying solely on formal education and looking outside of a particular industry if necessary (that’s where the “lifelong learning” characteristic comes in).

John Meyer, founder and president of FieldPros, Inc. and LearnSearch, says that training professionals should also have “solid business acumen,” including “knowing how learning experiences impact the business objectives and company mission.” (In fact, strategic alignment is one of the core responsibilities in the Training Manager Competency Model.)

“Most corporate learning is based on compliance or skill-building,” he adds, “so those who have a sense of humor and can incorporate fun into the learning experiences will draw learners into wanting to participate rather than being pushed to participate.” Other prerequisites include technical skills, experience working across multiple delivery methods, the ability “to diagnose business needs and formulate learning strategies around them,” and good problem-solving skills.

However, Meyer cautions against over-relying on hard skills at the expense of looking for “intangibles,” like “internal sales abilities.” Like Kohn, he says not to assume that “degrees and accreditations translate to experience.”

The Interview Process

During the interview, Kohn asks candidates what they like about their current job, how they’ve handled a difficult client, and how they manage multiple responsibilities and deadlines. For instructional designers, Kohn says to make sure you review their portfolio and ask them to explain their design process. For trainers, ask them to give you a presentation. Training managers should be able to explain how they manage their time, develop staff or handle difficult situations.

Meyer recommends asking questions like these:

  • How do you garner buy-in with your audience?
  • If you were to join the training team and asked to report on short- and long-term training needs, how would you approach that task?
  • How do you deal with change of scope of your project midstream?
  • What is your opinion of the emerging technologies, systems and methodologies impacting the L&D marketplace?
  • What KPIs have you used in the past to determine the effectiveness of training?
  • How do you go about determining the relevance or strategic importance of legacy curriculum/content?

Employer Branding

In such a competitive job market, it’s important to remember the adage that a job interview goes both ways: You’re interviewing the candidate, but the candidate is also interviewing you. “Demonstrate your professionalism from the moment they apply to a position, through the interview process and … leading up to employment,” says Meyer. These experiences demonstrate to the candidate what working for your organization will be like. Even if they don’t get the job, candidates “will evangelize their experience with your company to those they know.”

Show candidates that your team has a seat at the table, Meyer adds. Organizations where L&D is a strategic initiative and “entrenched in outcome generation or the business” will appeal to job candidates. He and Kohn both say to show candidates where there are opportunities to learn and grow at your company. After all, learning professionals typically love to learn!