How to Use the CAR Interview Method (With Helpful Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may use the CAR method to provide thoughtful answers during a job interview. This method involves telling a story and providing context to explain your experience, skills and knowledge in your industry. Understanding how to structure answers properly may help you get the hiring manager's attention and secure a position. In this article, we explain what the CAR interview method is, share how you can use it and provide examples of interview answers that use this method.

What is the CAR interview method?

The CAR interview method is a technique that involves establishing a challenge, action and result to help you answer questions effectively. This method provides a useful way to structure interview question responses, especially for behavioural questions. Using the CAR method provides context to your responses that may allow the interviewer to understand how the skills and abilities you used in your previous work environment can provide value to their workplace. The CAR method creates a story with a beginning, middle and end that may be more memorable so that your interviewer can remember you and your qualifications.

Related: How to Create an Effective Interview Structure (With Tips)

How to use the CAR interview method

Here are the steps you can take to use the CAR method during a job interview:

1. Prepare

Before the interview, it's important to review potential questions that relate to the position, company or industry. Look at job descriptions and the company's website to identify some key skills and characteristics that employers might look for in their job applicants. This information can help you tailor your responses for each job interview. You can consider some of your biggest professional accomplishments and find a way to use them for your responses. There may also be some resources available online that provide information on the company's interview process and common questions to help you find specific questions to practise.

2. Describe a challenge

While preparing your answers, start each response by providing a description of a challenge that you encountered while working. While explaining the situation, highlight the importance or potential negative consequences of the challenge. Be sure to provide context about the challenge so that the interviewer understands the situation.

For example, if the interviewer asks about your biggest accomplishment in a previous job, you might start the answer by describing a challenge that affected your performance. In your answer, you may explain how the challenge had the potential to affect your entire team's performance. Then, you can describe the achievement that involves overcoming the challenge to enhance your performance and support your team effectively.

Related: How to Handle Interview Nerves: 15 Useful Tips and Examples

3. Share the actions you took to overcome the challenge

The next part of your response includes the actions that you took to overcome the challenge. You can highlight your valuable skills when describing the actions that you took to resolve or improve the situation. Consider mentioning alternative ideas or strategies that you used to show your creative thinking and decision-making abilities. Use the actionable parts of your response to showcase how you can apply your experience in other contexts and work environments.

Related: How to Tell if a Job Interview Went Well (12 Positive Signs)

4. Describe the result

To complete your answer, describe the results of your actions to show how you overcame the challenge. Demonstrate how the results benefited your performance, team or workplace. By doing so, you may showcase the value that you can add to their workplace. You may also share what you learnt from the experience, like if you gained industry knowledge or developed useful skills. Consider quantifying your achievements by adding numbers to measure your success.

5. Practise using the CAR method

Before your job interview, practise using the CAR method to formulate answers to potential questions. For each part of the CAR method, aim to have between one to three sentences to answer the question thoroughly and within an appropriate time frame for an interview. A response is typically around a couple of minutes long to make sure that your response remains concise. When practising responses, try to use more recent experiences so that they're more relevant to your current knowledge.

Related: How Long Do Interviews Last? (With Interview Types)

4 examples of CAR interview questions and sample answers

Here are four examples of interview questions with sample answers that follow the CAR method:

1. What's your proudest achievement?

Challenge: 'In my previous role as a customer service worker, I often handled customers that were unhappy with their products or services. While working with these customers, I felt that my conflict resolution skills didn't allow me to handle their issues effectively. While I tried to resolve their problems, I wasn't sure how to listen to their issues and provide support while they showed feelings of anger and confusion.'

Action: 'To strengthen my conflict resolution skills, I researched professional development courses. I found a course that taught students strategies to resolve conflicts, enhance their problem-solving skills and provide support to dissatisfied customers.'

Response: 'After completing the course, I was able to work with customers to identify the cause of their issues and handle conflict. Management noticed my increased work performance and promoted me to a management role, where I provided training on conflict resolution and problem-solving. Because of this, our workplace's customer service department received 25% higher customer satisfaction rates.'

Related: How To Answer 'What Is Your Greatest Achievement?' Interview Question

2. Describe a time when you resolved an issue in the workplace.

Challenge: 'While working for a software development company as an engineer, my team and I often felt that the software testing process was too lengthy, which often caused our team to miss project deadlines. Our testing process involved older software that often required troubleshooting, rebooting and network repairs.'

Action: 'After reviewing the software's architecture, my team realised that we could adjust the architecture to enhance its usability, functions and performance speeds. We devoted an entire workday to enhancing the software, inputting new technology and securing the network's data.'

Result: 'Once we finished improving the software, we tested the performance speed and usability. It allowed us to lower our project completion time by 30%. Because of this, we were able to produce deliverables by the deadline.'

3. What's your greatest weakness?

Challenge: 'In my last position in a small company, my office often had issues retaining employees, which caused us to be understaffed frequently. Because of this, my team often had to multitask to perform the business operations and meet deadlines. While handling several responsibilities at once, I had difficulty asking for help from my coworkers since I knew they also had several tasks to complete.'

Action: 'When we were nearing our fiscal year-end, our workload was steadily increasing. Before I would begin falling behind, I took the initiative to ask my manager for additional help in each department. I explained that I often have issues asking for help and that I want to grow my teamwork skills.'

Result: 'After sharing my struggles, my manager lightened the workload for each member of our team. They also conducted team-building activities to help our team enhance our collaboration skills. This helped to ease the stress for the entire company and allowed some team members to rely on one another frequently.'

Related: Examples of Weaknesses: Top 7 Things to Share in a Job Interview

4. Describe a time when you used leadership skills in the workplace.

Challenge: 'While working as a cashier at a grocery store, there were new staff members joining our team frequently. They were often students that had little to no work experience. Occasionally, customers would grow impatient with them as they were developing their customer service skills and food service knowledge.'

Action: 'I asked management if I could provide a brief training course to the new employees to provide them with tips, strategies and methods to handle customers effectively. I developed handouts that explained various food-handling techniques and demonstrated how to perform conflict resolution.'

Result: 'Management provided a copy of the handout to each new employee. A few weeks after the training, our team reduced the number of customer complaints by 50% and created a positive work environment. This experience taught me that it's important to take initiative and help others succeed in their roles.'

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