CAR Stories

CAR stands for Context – Action – Result.

Sometimes these are called SAR (Situation – Action – Result) or STAR (Situation/Task – Action – Result) or PAR (Problem – Action – Result) stories.  They are stories (true ones!) of you in action.  You at your best.  You demonstrating your qualifications for a new position.  Your CAR stories paint a picture of how you do what you do and the value you bring to an organization.  They differentiate you from others.

  • Context – What was the challenge/situation/task/need/problem/opportunity?
  • Action – What did you do and how did you do it? What skills were used?  Be specific and detailed.
  • Result – What positive tangible results did you produce?  What benefit/outcome?  What value did you bring to the organization?

Here’s an example:

Context: The wastewater treatment plant operators lacked basic understanding of how the treatment process worked, which meant I got called in to make decisions they could be making on their own.
Action: I created a list of the concepts I thought every operator should understand.  For each one, I developed a way of explaining it that would make sense.  And I created examples of situations they might encounter in their day-to-day work so we could discuss how that concept related to their decision-making.  I created handouts and a leader’s guide for me.  I then scheduled short training sessions with each shift, and conducted the training.
Result: The operators were enthusiastic during the training, and expressed great appreciation afterwards.  The questions they asked when I was on my walk-around showed they had understood the material we covered.  I was able to focus on improvements rather than day-to-day operating decisions.

When do you use CAR stories?

  • Creating your resume when you apply online: Mini CAR-stories are the proof/evidence that you can do the job
  • Creating your resume and professional bio for networking
  • Performance reviews and salary discussions
  • Networking conversations
  • Job interviews: Anytime an interviewer says, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” you respond with a CAR story

CAR stories get away from generalizations and demonstrate what makes you distinctive.

Here’s an example from a La Salle alumnus, who said he was good at anticipating conflict and potential resistance to change, and turning it around to a positive.

Context:  I decided to revamp our budget templates.  We had a single, enormous file with multiple tabs and redundant data sources.  It was extremely difficult to update, and it required enormous amounts of manual effort.  It had been developed by the Plant Controller in our Belgium plant.  He was outright hostile making any changes in the budget template.

Action: To eliminate the notion that I was not taking his input seriously, I flew to Belgium, twice, to meet with him to discuss the best ways to improve the template.  I also had several meetings with the plant controllers at our Raleigh, North Carolina and West Wareham, Massachusetts plants.  By getting the insights of all of them, I was able to get their buy in on how the templates should appear.  More importantly, we were able to streamline the budget process by eliminating redundant data requests and worksheets that never were reviewed.  I listened to each of their concerns and insights, and I incorporated them into a proposal, which I discussed with each of them.

Result: In doing this, I tempered the anger of the Cork Plant Controller by making him justifiably feel like an integral part of the budget preparation team.  Additionally, by getting multiple viewpoints in the development of the package, the template ultimately became far more streamlined and effective in telling their budget story.  Finally, through the use of macros and visual basic language, I was able to reduce the update time to almost nothing.  Previously, it would take days to consolidate the totals from each of the plants.  Now, with macros, the updates were instantaneous.  Communication was key to making this a success.

Now, you’re not going to put all that on a resume, right? So you create a mini-CAR story, keeping in mind the skills and experience you want to highlight.

If this alumnus wants to highlight his skill and experience with making processes more efficient, he would include the following bullet in the Work Experience section of his resume:

  • Streamlined budget templates by involving plant managers in redesign, creating buy-in and reducing update time to almost zero.

If, however, he wants to emphasize his “super power” of anticipating conflict and potential resistance to change, and turning that around to a positive, he would write his mini-CAR story to emphasize that skill:

  • Overcame initial hostility to upgrading budget templates by seeking input from the plant controllers, resulting in a streamlined process that incorporated their concerns and insights

The same CAR story can be told in a number of different ways, depending on what skills you want to demonstrate.

If you want to learn more about CAR stories, or need assistance with yours, contact Debra Franke at 215-991-3582 or