Answering Interview Questions With The CAR Method

When you’re answering an interviewer’s questions, you want to get to the heart of the matter quickly. Meandering is a quick way to lose interest and appear unprepared. Using a framework is key to presenting your situations in a quick and effective manner. Consider embracing the CAR method to deal with popular interview questions!

Short for Challenge, Action, Result, the CAR method allows you to quickly set up the situation and discuss how you handled it and what happened afterward. The result is a fast, logical explanation of what you can do, and it’s an easy technique to master. Career coach Madeline Mann believes CAR is even more effective than the popular STAR method due to its ability to cut through backstory and get right into the meat of the question. So next time you’re preparing for an interview, give the CAR method a ride!


Sometimes also called the “Context” step, the C of the CAR method is where you lay down the situation itself. If you’re asked to “tell me about a time” in some capacity, this is where you would set the scene.

Don’t overload the interviewer with too much context. They don’t need a rundown of every player involved. Instead, offer enough to describe what made this a challenge and why it was something important to overcome. Indeed says that by properly setting up the scene and what your role was, you’ll be able to show how you went above and beyond, AKA, the reason why you’re choosing this particular event.

“Your research of each potential employer will come in handy here: knowing the types of problems that this company faces will help you identify similar situations that you have encountered in your experience.” –A Portland Career


With the backstory set, you can quickly get into the Action. Every good story needs some action, and you wouldn’t be telling this story if it didn’t make you look like an active and skilled participant. This is the area where you can truly highlight your skills.

The Hired Guns’ Allison Hemming says to talk about three to five things you personally did to contribute to the outcome you’ll discuss later. While you don’t want to go overboard, this is your chance to brag about your accomplishments and highlight the types of skills and attitude you’d bring as a problem solver to the new organization. While telling your tale, try to avoid too many “we”s in your action stage, lest they think you were merely part of the solution rather than a major cause of it. Madeline Mann adds to make sure to include why you chose this path of action as well.

“Take some time to think through how you contributed to solving a problem or achieving a goal. Employers don’t only want to know what happened—they want to know the specific role you played.” –Kat Boogaard


Finally, the climax. We set the stage up in Challenge and explained our hero’s (you!) Actions and mindset. When the dust settled, what was the Result? This is where you highlight how what you did had a tangible, ideally positive effect. Your potential employer is looking for results when they hire someone for this position. This part of the story shows you can get them.

Kat Boogaard writes that it’s important to quantify your results wherever possible. Attaching numbers is a great way to add credibility to your results and helps hiring managers better visualize exactly what you’ll bring to the table. But not every accomplishment has numbers that can quantify your success, so be sure to highlight specific examples of positives that occurred due to your actions.

“Include key words or phrases that may be in the employer’s job description or common job descriptions for the role to display that you have an understanding of what the position requires and that you can accomplish those requirements while adding value to the company.” –Indeed


CAR is a three-step method on its own, but some take it a step further and make it the CARL method. This extra L is a chance to explain what you learned from your tale. If CAR is the movie of your story, then L is the retrospective later.

Allison Hemming writes that your CAR story is a mini case study. Telling a story under this framework already puts you above other candidates thanks to offering an effective layout and having a beginning, middle, and end. Quickly discussing the lesson at the end further shows self-awareness and how you grew from the experience.

Wrap up

See how easy it can be to tell a story in the CAR method? By focusing on what interviewers are really looking for, a quick explanation of how you handled a challenge, you can cut straight to the important parts with an excellent flow. Being a good storyteller is crucial to growing in your career, and mastering a framework like CAR is a great way to get there.

Before You Go
View Current Job Openings
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Follow NexGoal on Twitter
“Like” NexGoal on Facebook
Connect with NexGoal on LinkedIn

Related posts