The basics in preparing for an interview include focusing on your first impression, dressing appropriately and ensuring that your interview materials are in good order. That’s a good start, but there are three more steps that can better your chances of a good interview.
Step one is to fully understand your career history and professional strengths and how they contribute to the skills and talents you will present to employers. Step two involves practicing your interview skills until you’ve mastered them. Finally, step three —what this column will focus on—revolves around developing interview-enhancing C.A.R. stories.
C.A.R. stories are brief narratives that describe professional Challenges, Actions and Results in which you played a direct and valuable role at previous jobs. Establishing several C.A.R. stories centered on your best career accomplishments prepares you for marketing your talents during an interview. C.A.R. stories also help you answer open-ended interview questions with compelling, memorable answers that underscore your strengths and abilities.
Begin your C.A.R. story by describing a professional accomplishment or challenge. Next, share the skills, resources and tools that you employed to overcome an obstacle and reach your goal. C.A.R. stories make a positive impression on employers because they illustrate specific accomplishments in which you played a lead role. The following questions are intended to help you fine-tune your C.A.R. stories for successful interviewing:
C. Challenge or problem you have encountered
- What needed to be accomplished to overcome the challenge?
- How and why did the obstacle arise and how did you discover it?
- How did you initiate action to remedy the situation?
- Describe your specific assignments, responsibilities or duties related to carrying out the solution.
A. Action you took to resolve the problem or situation
- What skills did you use (interpersonal, technological, multitasking, etc.) to achieve a solution?
- Describe your solution and how it was successful.
- How did you execute your goals, plans and procedures?
- Accentuate your creative and innovative approach.
- What did members of your team achieve under your supervision and guidance?
- If the challenge was particularly difficult to overcome, emphasize the inventive methods you used to tackle the problem.
R. Results you achieved
- What did you accomplish?
- Express how skillfully you carried out your responsibilities.
- Describe your contributions and achievements.
- Specify how you realized your results in measurable terms (using related dollar amounts, percentages, profit margin increases, etc.).
- Emphasize who (the company, department, supervisor, local community, etc.) benefited from your results and how.