Training needs analysis interview questions

training needs analysis interview questions

Recently, I earned my master’s in education. It has been extraordinary to augment over 30 years of training development experience with academic theory and thought work. With that, I want to talk through some of the areas of instructional design and training content development that thrill and excite me. First, there is learning analysis. I think this is one of the most skipped steps in training design. Many skip this step and wonder why their training is ineffective or does not render the intended return on investment (or ROI). One key to solid analysis is asking the right questions. That’s why this post provides training needs analysis interview questions you can easily tailor to your needs. They’re meant to help instructional designers or content creators come up with their own questions.

Let me be “judgy” and assert clearly that you cannot begin writing training or instructional content without an in-depth understanding of your audience. 

In my exploration of instructional design, I can tell you understanding your audience is essential when it comes to instructional design.

It helps create learning experiences that really click with the learners’ specific needs, preferences, and how they tick.

The first thing you’ve got to do is a detailed audience analysis. If you’re a fan of the A.D.D.I.E. method of curriculum design, you are familiar with this step within a larger structure. 

Your analysis phase involves collecting all sorts of important information, such as demographics, what learners already know, how they like to learn, their goals, and what motivates them. 

Understanding Learner Demographics?

Yes. You’re asking about data on different groups of people as one subset of your training needs analysis interview questions.

This information often covers details like gender, education, job type, where they live, and their ethnic background. 

These are questions you’ll approach carefully. Some of the data you may receive voluntarily from the manager or subject matter expert (SME). Ask leading questions that don’t compromise the integrity of your research.

Instead of asking, “How old are the learners?” try just beginning with “Describe your learners to me – I want as many specific details as you can provide.

Other training needs analysis interview questions.

Some of these questions could be tricky.

However, they can help trainers and instructional designers gather valuable insights into different demographic groups’ unique needs and preferences, allowing for more targeted and effective training programs.

Training needs analysis interview questions will be your most effective tool for building a meaningful and relevant training class.

In this post, I am going to focus on traditional questions you’d ask managers to SMEs. Then advance to learner-centric questions that will help you create content that resonates with the learners.

I will include training needs analysis interview questions suitable to ask a SME and questions you might ask a learner directly – should you have an opportunity to interview them.

The first one is the most tricky. The question of age. Ask these questions to ALL potential learners or SMEs. Do not single out anyone specific to age, nor should you make assumptions about any learner regardless of age.

  • How comfortable are you with technology?
  • What learning preferences do you have based on your age?
  • What is your favorite technology medium now?
  • How would you rate it if you had to compare technology now with when you started your career?
  • Could you share your stage of career experience?
  • Generally speaking, are there any generational perspectives or preferences you believe are important to consider in our training program?

These questions are not as insulting as would be something like, “Back when you started working, did you have technology?” Let’s move on to questions relating to the learners’ education.

Training needs analysis interview questions about experience.

Furthermore, considering learners’ prior experiences and knowledge levels helps designers avoid redundancy and ensure that content is appropriately challenging and engaging.

Building on learners’ existing knowledge and skills allows designers to create a scaffolded learning experience that gradually increases in complexity and depth, maximizing learning outcomes and retention.

The best part is it serves to acknowledge learners’ misconceptions or gaps in understanding, enables designers to address these areas proactively, and provides targeted support and reinforcement.

  • How would you describe your level of experience in [specific area]?
  • Can you explain how your professional journey has influenced your learning preferences?
  • Are there any life experiences you feel are particularly relevant to your learning needs?
  • How would you rate your proficiency level in [specific skill or competency]?
  • Can you provide examples of projects or tasks where you’ve applied this skill successfully?
  • Are there any areas within this skill where you feel you need further development or refinement?
  • How many years of experience do you have in [specific industry or field]?
  • Could you describe some of the key challenges or trends you’ve encountered in your industry?
  • Are there any industry-specific certifications or qualifications you believe are important for your professional growth?

Next are questions about Education Levels:

  • What is your go-to method for enhancing job performance? Is it actively seeking out information? In other words, what would you say is the approach that consistently allows you to excel and stay ahead in your field?
  • If you are comfortable, would you share the learners’ highest level of education completed?
  • How confident do you feel in your current knowledge and skills related to [training topic]?
  • Are there any areas where you feel you need additional training or support?
  • Do you prefer formal structured learning environments or informal self-directed learning experiences?
  • Are there specific formats or delivery methods for learning (e.g., online courses, workshops, conferences) that you find most effective or engaging?
Interview questions training needs analysis interview questions

Data about the job:

  • What is your current job title and role within the organization?
  • What specific tasks or responsibilities do you perform regularly in your role?
  • May we observe you as you perform your work?
  • Are there any new skills or knowledge areas that would help you perform your job more effectively?

Leadership Reinforcement

I think this is an important area to include because it can help you measure ROI post-training implementation. In my experience, learners may say, “I need my supervisor to allow me to change some processes so I can apply what I learned in training class.”

  • How can your supervisor help you see the connection between your individual development and the organization’s overall success?
  • In what ways do you believe your supervisor can best support you in applying the knowledge and skills gained from the training?
  • How would you prefer your supervisor to offer guidance and assistance as you implement new practices or procedures learned in training?
  • How can supervisors assist you in developing personalized action plans or goals based on your learning objectives and areas for improvement?
  • What role do you envision your supervisor playing in your professional development journey beyond formal training programs?
  • What specific expectations do you think your supervisor should have regarding the integration of training content into your daily tasks?
  • How valuable is feedback from your supervisor in reinforcing the application of new information learned during training?
  • What type of feedback would be most helpful to ensure that you apply the training effectively in your work?
  • How can your supervisor ensure you have access to the necessary resources to support your learning and implementation efforts?
  • How frequently do you expect follow-up discussions with your supervisor to assess your progress in applying training concepts?
  • What additional support or guidance would you like to receive from your supervisor to ensure sustained implementation of training outcomes?
  • What specific forms of recognition or encouragement would be most meaningful to you in acknowledging your efforts to apply training content?
  • Do you believe there are opportunities for peer learning and collaboration that can enhance the application of training content?
  • How can your supervisor foster a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration among team members to support learning and development efforts?

As a worklace instructional designer you need two perspectives – that of the SME and that of the “boots on the ground” learners. The investment of the latter is crucial. 

Far too often, we create training without considering them or getting their perspective. The result is training becoming something “done to them” and not something they are genuinely invested in. 

 A perfect example as you think about training needs analysis interview questions

My kid is an example. 

I had the pickiest eater any mother could have. When he was a toddler, I could count on one hand the foods he would eat and still have several fingers left to wiggle around. 

It wasn’t until someone told me to let him help me pick and prepare meals before I learned the power of investment. 

Once the child started helping with cooking, he ate without complaining. He enjoyed tasting the food he prepared. Though he only made meatballs, added spices, or stirred, he loved being involved.

The same is true for your learners. 

They want a role in making the “sausage” they will consume. 

Advocate passionately for their inclusion in the interview process.

All this -seemingly unnecessary knowledge – allows you to design learning experiences tailored to the specific needs and preferences of your learners.

You can get this kind of insight through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or just by observing. This step is super important because it helps you figure out who your learners are and what they’re looking for in their learning journey.

training needs analysis interview questions

Training needs analysis interview questions revolving around learning preferences.

Understanding learners’ learning styles and preferences is essential for designing engaging and effective instructional materials.

Some learners may prefer visual learning through diagrams and charts, while others may prefer auditory learning through lectures or podcasts.

By incorporating a variety of instructional methods and multimedia elements, such as videos, interactive simulations, and hands-on activities, designers can accommodate different learning preferences and engage learners more effectively.

  • Do you prefer learning through visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or reading/writing methods?
  • Can you describe a learning experience where you felt most engaged and why?
  • How comfortable are you with using technology for learning purposes?
  • Do you prefer traditional classroom settings or online/virtual learning environments?
  • Do you prefer learning in a group/team setting or individually?
  • How do you feel about collaborative learning activities compared to independent study?
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback on your learning progress?
  • What type of assessments do you find most effective in measuring your understanding of the material?

    You can use various learning assessment techniques, such as designing activities in which students “teach back” what they’ve learned through skits, poems, four-corners activities, or even training session debates.
  • Do you prefer a quiet, structured learning environment or thrive in more dynamic, interactive settings?
  • Are there any specific environmental factors that affect your ability to concentrate and learn effectively?
  • How vital is real-world relevance and practical application of learning concepts to you?
    This is a no-brainer for adult learners, but I’m including it anyway.
  • What strategies or techniques do you find most effective in keeping you engaged and motivated during learning activities?
  • Are there any specific instructional methods or approaches that resonate with you more than others?

    Examples are lectures, interactive discussions, visual learning using visual aids such as diagrams, charts, infographics, or videos that help learners visualize complex concepts and processes, audio-based learning by building in snippets from podcasts, and flipped classrooms, where instructional materials are reviewed independently before class, which is then dedicated to interactive activities. This needs to be a TCB blog post!

Finally, I think…

In summary, knowing your audience is essential for designing effective instructional materials that meet the diverse needs, preferences, and goals of learners.

You have so many people to think about and design for. You need to know them. My advice is not to skip analysis and interviewing them.

This quote says it best:

“Designers who refer to analysis findings and carefully select assessment methods that include a variety of techniques, may find that learners are more likely to become actively engaged in the course content” (Peterson, 2003)

By conducting thorough audience analysis interviews and gathering information about instructional requirements, learning styles, goals, motivations, and prior knowledge, designers can tailor content and instructional methods to create engaging, relevant, and impactful learning experiences.

Ultimately, understanding your audience allows you, as an instructional designer, to design learning materials that resonate with learners, foster deeper engagement, and facilitate meaningful learning outcomes.

That’s what it is all about, right? What’s missing? Please share in the comments below.


Peterson, C. (2003). Bringing ADDIE to Life: Instructional Design at Its Best. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 12(3), 227-241. Norfolk, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved May 15, 2024 from