How to Use C.A.R.T. Stories for Job Interview Preparation
In career services, we think of ‘stories’ as vivid examples from your work experience that support your core message to potential employers: you are the right fit for this job. Every interview question, including the trickier questions about a negative aspect of your career (a gap, your biggest weakness, a difficult client, etc.) is an opportunity to circle back to the key question: How are you the right fit for this role?
Interviewers want to see that you are a match for the role based on your qualifications, personality, and compatibility with the company culture.
Personality cannot be taught. Interviewers are looking to see if you can be an agreeable team member and interact with the team easily.
What aspects of your personality make you a strong candidate for the role you are considering?
Compatibility with the company culture shows them that you can thrive in a specific environment (a horizontal or vertical hierarchy, a dynamic start-up or an established organization, a collaborative or competitive environment, an organization with rapid change or an organization with set processes, etc.).
How is your company research informing your choice of organizations to interview with?
Qualifications and competencies can be illustrated with one of the most common formats for before-and-after scenarios – C.A.R.T. (Challenge – Action – Result – Tie-back).
Challenge (situation, problem, obstacle)
Describe what was not functioning well or what the company was missing. Be tactful in phrasing this to avoid revealing too much about the company’s shortcomings or blaming any particular stakeholder.
Action (strategy, approach)
What did you do to improve the situation?
This can be a quality improvement or a measurable result. You can use quotes from your performance reviews here, put the increase/improvement in percentages, and quantify the scope of work (number of people on the team, growth metrics, new clients, new revenue streams, or new programs).
Explain how you can use a particular skill in the company where you are interviewing.
Here is an example to illustrate how a candidate excels at developing training programs.
Challenge: When I joined Company XYZ, almost all the team members (CEO, managers, senior recruiters, and proposal writer) were involved in training new recruiters, in one way or the other. This extended the onboarding process, affected everyone’s schedules, and sometimes made the training overwhelming for the new hires.
Action: I used my background in education and writing to streamline the training. I collected everyone’s training notes and materials, drafted a concise training manual, researched Learning Management Systems (LMS), and recommended an inexpensive online LMS to upload the manual and video lessons.
Result: The LMS and training materials were approved by the leadership and were used to train new hires in a two-day, self-paced course. The company selected two trainers to support the new hires during the training. The new process improved accountability and saved around 8 hours of each team member’s time per month. It also ensured business continuity: the course was available to every new team member in a centralized system.
Tie-back: I know that your company is going through growth at the moment. I can identify opportunities to streamline hiring and onboarding, and introduce scalable training tools to save you time.
C.A.R.T. stories are a structured way to help you outline and internalize your success stories. Write down 2-3 C.A.R.T. stories per each of your main competencies. When an interviewer asks you about your past roles, you will be able to offer a memorable illustration of how you work and achieve results.
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