Jan 25 2011
It is very common to hear career coaches, hiring managers or executive recruiters advising candidates to use the CAR interview technique – in fact, I first heard about it from an AESC member search consultant at Russell Reynolds. But why is this particular interview technique so popular?
Well, the CAR interview technique (Context – Action – Result) is cited so regularly because it is considered an effective way to demonstrate how you apply your working style, skills and knowledge to a range of career experiences. Therefore assisting executive recruiters and hiring mangers to understand how an executive candidate will react in any given situation.
In summary, the idea is to use career experiences to demonstrate your fit for the executive job at hand.
Context: First explain the surrounding context for which you were required to act upon.
Action: Describe your actions to remedy the problem or to create new opportunities.
Result: What was the outcome of your actions / how did the organization benefit?
Question: Describe one challenging situation you had to overcome?
CONTEXT: When I started at Toy Stores Ltd in 2003, our selling strategy was too reliant on retail store income and we were losing out to online vendors. Current employees were very resistant to change as it was the way they had done things for a long time.
ACTION: To see how we could proceed, I surveyed all employees and conducted market research. With the research clearly demonstrating we needed an online sales point, I suggested we move forward while addressing all the employees concerns. I built a new team with current employees and new technical staff and we created an online store.
RESULT: The online store saw an increase of overall sales by 300% in the first 2 years, bringing Toy Stores Ltd. back to profitability and ensuring the business was prepared for the future. All employees welcomed the results with great personal satisfaction because they were involved in the process from the start.
Line from Job description we attempted to answer: ‘Proven experience in mentoring & developing leaders/teams’
While I am sure you can come up with much better examples in your own careers, the idea is to demonstrate skills, behaviour and knowledge that applies directly to the position they are advertising, allowing executive recruiters or hiring managers to visualise how you will perform in the role.
Create your CAR examples by choosing key competencies from target job descriptions and find experiences in your career where you have demonstrated your ability to succeed in each area.
Also, remember to look for culture fit statements such as, ‘works well with diverse teams’ or buzzwords such as ‘proactive, solution-oriented or flexible.’ Using these or related terms in your CAR examples will allow you to demonstrate your fit without it seeming forced – the story format avoids the need to say ‘I am this...’.
Learn how to answer the most common interview questions here
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The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Master Your Next Executive Interview
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to: