Land Your Dream Job Using the CAR Formula

You want to:

Write a resume that gets calls or

Easily answer any question in a job interview?

If you’re struggling to find the right words, then…

I’m psyched to teach you one of the most versatile tools in my communication toolbox: The C.A.R. Formula.  

It’s the most effective way to share your impact is to talk about the:

  • Challenges you faced,
  • Actions you took, and
  • Results you got.

Answer Questions Quickly

What do you say when you’re getting interviewed and they throw you one of  these curveballs?

  • Tell me about a problem you solved.
  • Tell me how you deal with conflict.
  • How will you contribute to the team?
  • How will you make an impact in the first 30 days?
  • How will you handle a disagreement with your boss? 

If you use the CAR formula, you can quickly and confidently answer them. Just prepare your answers ahead of time, and review them, so they’ll be on the tip of your tongue. You’ll do this by telling a CAR story.

Answer These 3 Questions

First we’ll go over each section of your story. Then we’ll do a practice exercise.

It’ll be  simple. You’ll fill in the blanks, and your content will practically write itself. 

  • Challenge – Provide context for your achievement and why it had to happen. What challenge were you faced with that’s relevant to your customer or clients? Why did you get involved? Was something broken or not working efficiently enough? Did you notice something and initiate steps to fix it? Were you selected by senior leadership to fix the problem? Did you create a new process the business needed?
  • Action – What action did YOU take the fix the problem?  What were the most influential things (2-4) I did that caused the outcome?  Don’t use “we”. This is your moment to brag and show you are a “figure it out” kind of person.
  • Result – Everybody wants results. Here’s your payoff. Demonstrate who benefited and how things changed as a result of your achievement as concretely as possible. What was the result + why does it matter?   If you weren’t successful, did you learn something important? Tell your reader what you accomplished and provide a relevant result IN NUMBERS use $, % increase or growth, time saved, etc. that explains % of increase or growth.  Did you create a new process, new standards, or guidelines, improved communication, or higher engagement?

When you answer these questions, you’re being strategic. It will help you hit two birds with one stone, using another tip I’ll share with you. Now let’s look at an example.

Tell A CAR Story

Now that you understand the concept, let’s look at what I did to assemble the elements of my story.  I filled in the blanks and this is what I wrote: 

Challenge – Allied wasn’t generating enough high-quality leads. They were getting residential leads but wanted ten commercial roofing leads a month.

Action – I researched seven agencies, and found a PPC agency that had successfully trained Google Ads AI to target commercial roofing customers. They had a proven system for generating leads and creating professionally formatted proposals.

Result – We were able to generate 51 leads in Q4 2022, resulting in $1.5m in bid opportunities.

Practice Exercise: Think about a story whose RESULT is RELEVANT to your audience.

Now bust open a new doc and take a few minutes to fill in the challenge, action, results.  Use as many words as you want to tell the story, but focus on one achievement for now.

Don’t worry about editing the story. I’ll show you how to do that down below.

Distill It Down

Now that you have filled in the blanks on your own example, it’s time to edit your answers into a short story you can use in your resume or on your website. 

Begin your summary with a power word that sums up your achievement. Here are some ideas:

Oversaw Created Represented Initiated
Organized Facilitated Invested Created
Negotiated Generated Positioned Upgraded
Advised Coached Planned Supervised

Here’s what my story looked like when I turned it into a CAR story:

Generated $1.5M in highly qualified leads (Q4 2021) by crafting new marketing strategy (launched Q1), assembling & managing remote team of writers, consultants, & 4 agencies to optimize SEO, PPC.

Good and Bad Examples

These are some good/bad off my own resume.

The bad examples are how I might have written it before learning about CAR.

The good examples were written by a professional resume writer. He distilled my stories down into nuggets that he assembled into my master resume.

Bad: I wrote, shot and edited videos that increased the amount of money we raised at fundraisers.

Good: Helped raise an average of $250-300K at annual gala by co-creating concepts, and personally shooting & editing unique series of annual videos highlighting the benefits experienced by students receiving financial aid.

Bad: I built a new website and produced a new movie that increased our number of customers.

Good: Boosted applications 3X, achieving max class sizes within 2-years post-launch, by revamping school website, scripting and producing compelling high-quality promo movie which served as cornerstone of primary marketing events and was posted on school’s YouTube channel.

Bad: I built a website and YouTube channel that optimized time on page and generated a huge amount of exposure for our organization.

Good: Grew Average Time on Page from 1 to 3 minutes and generated ~4K-hours/month of watch time for homepage &  YouTube channel respectively, by creating streamlined content publishing system enabling same-day web updates for events. Rich and continually refreshed content created strong word-of-mouth buzz surrounding school’s activities.

Bad: I custom developed and built out a mobile application that helped the company create proposals faster.

Good: Project managed build of mobile rapid bid app (using Agile methods) enabling team to create PDF proposals on iPad or desktop on the fly in 20mins (~97% time savings), while reducing bid errors and eliminating labor of 1 FTE.

Bad: I designed and developed a new website that lead to an increase in customer calls.

Good: Designed, built, wrote all copy, & optimized company WordPress site that directly captured interested prospective customer and led to $1.1M contract.

Bad: I built a new marketing strategy from a team of agencies and freelancers to increase our number of highly qualified leads.

Good: Generated $1.8M in highly qualified leads (Q4 2021) by crafting new marketing strategy (launched Q1), assembling & managing remote team of writers, consultants, & 4 agencies to optimize SEO, PPC, & expand reach on LinkedIn (grew company followers 281%). Built email nurturing campaigns in Pardot.

Practice Exercise: Now review your own answers to Challenge, Action, Results and distill your writing down into your own CAR summary using a power word to kickstart it.

Rinse and Repeat

Do this 3-5 times, focusing on just your most relevant and remarkable achievements. It’ll take some work but once you are done, it’s time to… 

Pat yourself on the back, because you are now primed to blow the competition away! 

While they’re rambling, you will get to the point and tell a story that matters to the person you’re speaking to.  

The Best Part

Alright, you’ve used the C.A.R. formula to write your resume or build case studies that show off your achievements. Congratulations, you’ve hit two birds with one stone and you didn’t even know it. How so?

You now have written components you can assemble into a resume, but you also have talking points to use in a job interview.

Stuck in an elevator with somebody important?  You have a story in your pocket that’s ready to share. So…

When somebody asks you to “tell us about a time you were successful” or “tell us about a time you failed and what you learned” the answer is on the tip of your tongue.  

You’ve done the prepwork, now just share your story.

The great news is you can answer almost EVERY question your asked, using this formula. 

It’s that powerful!

In Conclusion

Practice telling your story by giving the context of your challenge, the action you took, and the results you got. That will show the impact you made.

The more you practice the C.A.R. formula, the better you’ll get.  Remember to review your talking points before your job interview or important sales pitch, so you’re ready to quickly answer any questions.  

Want clear, concise, communication tips delivered to your inbox? Share your email and I’ll give you a free CAR worksheet. Or go to File -> Export -> PDF and save this document to your desktop.

Or download a free CAR template »

All my best,

Donovan Rittenbach

P.S. Want to write better? Sign up to get practical communication tips delivered to your inbox every couple of weeks.  

[mc4wp_form id=”3153″]

Subscribe For Copywriting Tips

Make more money. Be more persuasive. Build your dream life.