Focus on accomplishments in your resume: this is common resume writing advice that almost everyone has heard. After all, past performance is the best predictor of future results.
Accomplishments help hiring managers understand the potential benefits and results you could produce for them should they choose to hire you. A new employee is an investment, and hiring managers want to know that when they hire you, it will be a profitable investment.
How can you prove this to them in your resume?
Simple: include elements that will show them how you will make them money, save them money, increase efficiency, boost productivity, strengthen their competitive edge, grow the business, improve customer relationships, or solve other business problems.
What Is the CAR Format Resume Writing Approach?
The best and most efficient way to tell the stories of success that provide employers with the predictors they need to understand your future potential is what is known among professional resume writers as the CAR format resume writing approach.
No, I’m not talking about the car sitting in your driveway. And I’m not talking about an auto technician resume or an automotive service manager resume. Instead, the C.A.R. method is an acronym for the three absolutely crucial elements of a competition-killing, results-generating resume: challenges, actions, and results. This is also often called the CARS format resume approach (challenges, actions, results, and strategic impact). You may also hear it referred to as the STAR approach.
Together, these form the framework of CAR method success stories that will transform an “okay” resume into an irresistible resume that compels employers to pick up the phone. Why? Because they can’t wait to talk with you and learn more about how hiring you would benefit their company.
Avoid This Common Resume Mistake
One of the biggest mistakes on resumes is also one of the most common mistakes: Boring resume job descriptions that focus on the responsibilities and functions of the job performed.
Knowing the importance of including accomplishments, some job hunters take the next step and include a few accomplishments. But, accomplishments alone are not enough. To make an accomplishment meaningful, it must explain the context in which it was achieved. Accomplishments listed without the results, benefits, and value-add they produced for the past employer mean even less.
This is what makes the CAR format resume writing approach so powerful.
Using this technique, you will rewrite your resume’s employment section to tell a compelling “story.”
For the maximum impact, your accomplishments should be presented as concise “success studies” complete with challenges faced, actions taken, immediate results, and strategic importance.
By conveying your career accomplishments in this “story” manner, you make a connection with the reader. You also become far more memorable than all the other job candidates.
Examples of the CAR Technique
This “before” resume example (below) illustrates the mistakes that many people make when writing their resumes. Boring bulleted lists describe the job functions for which this person was hired.
There is also no real way to understand the accomplishments as the situation in which they were produced is not described.
This resume will fall flat when used in the job market. It looks just like every other one. It doesn’t stand out and get attention.
Rewriting the resume to showcase the challenges, actions, and results would make it far more compelling.
The example below shows the CAR format resume writing approach in action. Where many people would list job responsibilities, this resume job description launches into a story that sets the context for the accomplishments to come. The reader quickly comes to realize that this job candidate has success revitalizing mature companies that have stopped growing. This fact alone will get this job seeker attention from other potential employers facing this same type of challenge.
The resume goes on to describe this job hunter’s many achievements and the quantified results that have been delivered through his work for the previous employer.
A resume written using this CAR format is irresistible. Hiring managers who are seeking a candidate to help them revive the performance of their company will be drawn to this candidate and won’t be able to pass up calling him to learn more. Note also the design techniques that we’ve used to make what could be an overwhelming amount of information easy to read. The eye is drawn from key point to key point.
Here is another similar example resume. The before version included some good information, but it was presented in a boring and hard-to-read-at-a-glance format that didn’t go far enough in describing the situation/challenge. It wass also very light on results. This client insisted that it was impossible to quantify results.
The after version shows again what a difference professional resume writing and the CAR technique can make.
Not only did we unearth quantified results, we worded the accomplishment bullet points to focus on the benefits and value-add produced by each accomplishment.
In this final example resume written using the CAR format, you immediately understand that this is a job candidate capable of growing and scaling a company. This sample also shows a technique that is very effective when you wish to show the “scope” of the position but don’t want to bore the reader of your resume with a dense paragraph filled with responsibilities.
The accomplishments and results presented in context give the hiring manager or recruiter who reads this resume, an immediate understanding of the strategic impact this candidate had on the company. Again, an employer seeking a candidate to help them grow their business to the next level of success will find this candidate irresistible and will feel compelled to pick up the phone and call him for an interview.
For more inspiration on how the CAR method can be used to turn a dull resume into a winner, take a look at the many professionally written resume examples on our site showcasing the work of the Distinctive Career Services’ writing team.
But, there is no reason to struggle to apply the CAR approach yourself. We invite you to schedule a Discovery Consultation to learn how working with a skilled professional resume writer will benefit you: often through a faster and more successful job search that may end in landing a job at a higher salary simply because your resume has done such a great job of proving the outstanding returns you will deliver on the investment an employer makes in hiring you.
This article was originally published on this blog on May 16, 2011. It has been updated and refreshed October 2, 2023, with modern resume examples.