Good storytelling is essential to boosting your candidacy when it comes to interviewing. This is easier said than done. That’s why it’s time to introduce the C.A.R. technique: a fantastic way to supercharge your interviewing chops and leave the competition in the dust.
So what does the acronym C.A.R. stand for?
C = Challenge
A = Action
R = Result
So what does the acronym C.A.R. stand for? C = Challenge, A = Action, and R = Result.
Together, they form a framework for your work experience that is logical and useful to the recipient. It’s easy to master, and it can be your best tool for making an impact during an interview.
C = The Challenge
This is all about context. Talk about the role you had, the company you were working for at the time, what made the challenge important (Remember: the more impossible the situation, the better. It’ll help your story get remembered).
Challenges can be around everything from new business innovations to fixing a broken system to pulling off “a first time ever” to deploying a major rethink. You can also talk about this in the context of management, promotions, and even failing at something, particularly if you’re targeting a start-up (and provided you can demonstrate that you learned from the process and can make sure it doesn’t happen to your new employer).
A great set-up is critical to any story. Almost every candidate forgets this when they’re probed by an interviewer. Doing so can be deadly. Start your storytelling with tactics only, and you’re going to lose your listener. That’s because they’ve stopped listening and are now just trying to establish their own context for your story.
A = The Action
This is your great big hero moment. It’s all about the steps you took to achieve a positive end result. You get to brag about yourself and talk about how you addressed the challenge/opportunity. Talk about the three to five things that you personally drove that made the biggest contribution. Feel free to add color about what made it hard or where you failed/made midstream corrections. This is the part of your story that demonstrates that you’re a “figure it out” kind of person.
If you’re a manager, be careful about using “we” in The Action part of your story, lest you leave them wondering whether the accomplishments belonged to you or someone else. Getting hired is about pride in ownership and highlighting what you accomplished. The company isn’t hiring your organization; they’re hiring you, and you’d better come packing ideas and initiative.
R = The Results
Finally, we get to the payoff in your chosen story. Here’s where you pull everything together for the interviewer’s listening pleasure and get a chance to shine. At this point, you need to underscore how you impacted the business with your ideas and drive. If possible, take it to the bottom line and show growth in metrics and KPIs that matter to your industry — in digital that might be uniques, page views, subscriptions — or to any revenue, profits, cost savings, retention, or increased productivity. Data is a great way to underscore your impact. Just remember: stories beat data, so you need to deliver a complete C.A.R. to gain maximum impact.
In interviews, stories beat data, so you need to deliver a complete C.A.R. to gain maximum impact
Just thinking about the C.A.R. technique will not make it work. You must practice. Why? Because you need to be able to lay out the most pertinent info and deliver a full and complete recitation of your C.A.R. in three to five minutes, out loud to another person.
Sound impossible? It’s not, as long as you try this next exercise:
1. Identify one job description you’re perfect for
Choose from the list of companies you’re vying for (better yet, with whom you have an interview already lined up). We want to get you comfortable customizing stories based on the role and company you are interviewing with.
2. Name your Top 5 greatest hits that pertain to that job
These are the top five work experience examples you’d like to share in that face-to-face interview with a future boss. It’s extremely important to make your selection based on what’s most relevant to the job at hand. Recency matters here: when applying to a job, know that if all of your most relevant experience is from a decade ago and you work in an industry like technology, it’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t be called in anyway.
3. Then apply the C.A.R. Technique
Take each “greatest hit” and break it down based on the Challenge you faced, the Actions you took, and the Result you achieved.
Speaking of practicing, the best thing you can do is to identify a job hunting buddy during interview prep time. Both of you can work through your greatest hits using the C.A.R. technique and then test each other by conducting mock Skype or in-person interviews. If you want to up your game considerably, start recording yourself. Once you’ve seen yourself on video and can start course correcting, your interviewing chops will improve immensely.
Repeat as Needed
You need to employ this strategy every time you interview, but don’t be rigid. Allow your greatest hits to flex using the C.A.R. technique depending on your given audience and the unique needs of the company, the role, and the hiring manager.
Going forward, the C.A.R. Technique will be your secret weapon for delivering succinct and compelling messages that will be remembered and get you hired. Over time, you’ll find that the C.A.R. Technique will provide a framework for success that will allow you to stay on track, even during the most grueling interviews. You’ll know that you actually delivered the goods by a well-thought-out convincing argument for why you’re the one.
When you deliver an example of your work experience using the C.A.R. technique, it’s like providing a mini case study of your work with a discreet beginning, middle, and end. Any interviewer with business acumen will understand this. Using the C.A.R. technique can really differentiate you from other candidates because most people, when pressed about their experience, will usually only talk about “The Action,” or what they did. Fewer still bring their story forward to include their impact and even less set the stage at the beginning. Master the C.A.R. technique, and it’ll be your secret weapon for job interviews for the rest of your career.
The follow-up thank you note isn’t extinct. We’ll show you how to craft a great one.
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