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Essential skills to look for when hiring for a trainer position

The role of the trainer has changed significantly over the last few decades; our corporate landscape demands employees who not only can do their jobs, but also that they are well equipped to contribute to the ongoing success and resilience of the company.

In our contemporary learning and development (L&D) professionals, we need to look for someone dynamic and creative in their approach, who thinks beyond the classroom, and can harness the potential of each employee under their guidance.

It’s an often complex task that requires a candidate with a versatile approach.

Essential skills to look for when hiring for a trainer position

When considering how to begin our hunt for new L&D staff, it helps to take a look at what is required of the contemporary L&D professional. What does their day look like, and what aspects of that role are considered essential for success?

Identify the areas you can hone in on during the recruitment and interview process, design questions and tasks which will uncover those traits as well as identify if they have the appropriate personality for a training position.

Your training staff are in some ways the ultimate reflection of your company’s values. Alongside teaching operational instruction, they also pass on the required attitude with which tasks are to be undertaken.

You’re looking for a professional who can not just train your employees, but inspire them to help lead your company to success.

Emotional intelligence

While different roles require a varied balance of soft skills, a strong base of emotional intelligence is essential in a training professional. The L&D role requires trainers to work with people who come from a diverse range of backgrounds, who each have their own idiosyncrasies of personality, alongside having a variety of learning strengths and weaknesses.

As with any role which requires a high level of personal interaction, you cannot overstate the importance of empathy.

Take nurse educators for example: how do you recognize a high degree of emotional intelligence when hiring for this kind of position? People with a high emotional intelligence have a tendency to display excellent communication skills — they can explain a subject matter clearly, but also actively listen to the responses and needs of others, reacting in a way which shows they’ve taken their conversational partner’s concerns into account.

They have an understanding of good relationship management, using their own emotional experiences alongside reflecting upon the emotions of others in order to take a considerate approach to any challenges.

How does this translate to hiring for any other training position?

A candidate with a high level of emotional intelligence also tends to take a solution-oriented approach to problem solving. They review issues in a systematic, straightforward manner, but also use their emotional experiences to discover a solution that is both practical and positive.

It’s important to note that candidates who exhibit significant emotional intelligence are also skilled at networking, and understand the value that a diverse range of opinions can bring to activities which require teamwork.

Classroom leadership

The training professional you invite to join your business is, in many ways, one of the leaders of your company. Their influence upon your employees will help shape not just the direction in which your company grows, but also how strong and sustainable that growth is.

When hiring your L&D professional, remember that they also need to have the appropriate skills and personality to help them function as an authority figure.

It behooves you to consider what makes for successful classroom leadership. Your trainer certainly needs to be able to control their teaching environment, while allowing room for creative thought and productive discussion.

This means your L&D professional must be skilled in the application of discipline, keeping to a strict code of conduct that allows them to efficiently and successfully accomplish tasks that can sometimes be quite complex. They also need to be willing to consider approaches that are not necessarily traditional, acting creatively to find solutions to difficult teaching situations.

Read more: 4 Awesome tips for successful classroom training

A degree of entrepreneurship is also vital. Just like great business leaders, classroom leaders understand the importance of a diverse range of ideas, and will invite their students to contribute to the process of problem solving.

This is often coupled with an infectious enthusiasm for the subject they’re teaching; they do more than teaching facts, they also foster a passion for the learning process itself.

When your employees leave the classroom, your L&D professional should have them fired up to apply the skills they’ve acquired.

Design and presentation

If we look at the day-to-day duties of the trainer, we start to understand that their job doesn’t begin and end in the classroom. They must plan, execute, evaluate, and adapt training programs that suit each department of the company. This means that you’re looking for an L&D professional who utilizes a mixture of creative and analytical skills.

Producing a new training program is an instructional design challenge. Your ideal trainer should be able to effectively package the information they’re teaching, taking into consideration their audience’s needs as they introduce the technical details of the curriculum. Their design approach should allow for adaptability, ensuring they create programs that are flexible enough to account for changes in roles, business standards, technology and legislation.

Read more: Adaptive learning – perfectly tailored to the individual

A skill that is almost non-negotiable in your new trainer is presentation ability. However, this shouldn’t be mistaken for a constantly enthusiastic personality style — a certain amount of the “entertainer” approach can help keep employees engaged, but they must understand how to balance it out with other appropriate styles of presentation.

They should tell inspiring stories, and considerately connect with individual members of the training group. They should know how attention can wane and take great care in the pacing of their communication accordingly, interspersing their lecturing with visual tools.


As our approach to business develops, so too does our need for professionals who can efficiently help employees to produce their best results. Whether you’re hunting for an individual to help mold your small company, or finding a new voice to add to your diverse team of skilled L&D professionals, the right candidate will have a toolbox filled with adaptable skills, imbued with emotional intelligence. The essential skills for your trainer, are the skills you’d want for any leader of your company.