How to Create a CAR Method Resume (and Why You Should)

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April 18, 2024
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Edited by
Camille Trent
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19
min read

3 key takeaways

  • The CAR method is an acronym that stands for challenge, action, result.
  • Using this framework illustrates the impact of your previous work.
  • Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you apply the method to your work experience and professional summary.

Your resume is often your first impression in your job search. Employers use it to determine if your background is a match and whether you should move forward to the interviews. 

It seems like an impossibly big job for a single piece of paper. But a CAR method resume can help. It’s an acronym that stands for challenge, action, result and is a framework you can use to build your most impressive resume. This guide covers:

  • What the CAR method is and how it works
  • How to use the CAR method on your resume
  • A tool to easily apply the CAR method in your resume

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

What is the CAR method?

Whether you’re creating a functional resume, a reverse chronological order resume, or any other format, the typical approach is to simply state your relevant information like your work history, education, and notable accomplishments.

The CAR method pushes beyond that. Rather than highlighting duties, this framework focuses on impact by looking at three key pieces:

  • Challenge: What was the problem you needed to solve or the goal you needed to accomplish?
  • Action: What steps did you take to address that problem or goal?
  • Result: What happened as a result of the action you took?

This helps you dig deeper into your past experiences so you can go beyond sharing what you did and emphasize why it mattered.

What is the CAR method resume?

While a typical resume might share a laundry list of tasks, achievements, and skills, a CAR method resume emphasizes the relevant ideas, solutions, and results you offered previous employers. 

For example, a typical approach to your job history section might look something like this: 

Marketing Coordinator | Feb 2021 - Jan 2024
Pied Piper| New York, NY

  • Planned, wrote, and distributed weekly newsletters
  • Managed company Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts
  • Coordinated company events
  • Collaborated closely with sales and customer support teams

While this approach to your work experience explains what you did in that role, it’s not compelling. There are no details, examples, or quantifiable results to capture the attention of recruiters. 

Here’s a look at similar responsibilities after applying the CAR method:

Marketing Coordinator | Feb 2021 - Jan 2024
Pied Piper| New York, NY

  • Developed and executed a weekly newsletter strategy that reengaged inactive subscribers, improved email open rate by 28%, and added 1,600 new subscribers within one quarter
  • Created a detailed social media plan that led to a 20% increase in click-through rates across Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and doubled audience size within six months
  • Bolstered company brand and reputation by coordinating and hosting strategic company events, including an annual user conference attended by more than 1,200 customers and industry partners
  • Collaborated closely with sales and customer support teams to overhaul and improve the demo experience and increase sales and conversions by 18% within three months

It’s not hard to see the difference. While the first one explains what you did, the second specifically spells out the challenges you addressed, the responsibilities you took on, and the impact you made. 

In short, it better answers the question every recruiter or hiring manager has when reviewing applications: Does this person have what it takes to succeed in this job?

How to use the CAR method on your resume

Resumes are full of sentence fragments and bullet points, which makes it challenging to explain your career and qualifications in a way that’s clear and engaging for the reader. The CAR method helps you hit the most important points, without getting too long-winded or bogged down in details.

And while it might feel rigid, it can be applied to your document in a number of ways. For example, you could use the framework to reflect on your entire career, a single position, or even a specific project or achievement. 

With that said, there are two sections of your resume where it’ll be the most applicable:

  1. Your work experience
  2. Your professional summary

Those are two areas where you’re already focusing on what you’ve done or achieved, so they’re the most obvious places to work through the acronym. Here’s a closer look at how to use the framework to tell a story about your skills, experience, and accomplishments.

How to use the CAR method in your work experience

The bulk of your resume is dedicated to listing your past positions and listing out your primary responsibilities and notable accomplishments. In most roles, you likely faced challenges that required solutions—making this a perfect place to use the CAR method to your advantage.

The framework matters but, even more importantly, you need to focus on relevance. You might have  impressive skills, accolades, and training under your belt. But if they’re unrelated to the position you’re applying for, they won’t pique a hiring manager’s interest. Be willing to cut them as needed when tailoring your resume for a role.

Before you get started on listing out your own qualifications, take a fine-tooth comb to the job description and make note of any skills, qualities, or responsibilities that get a lot of emphasis.

How to tailor your work achievements using the CAR method

When you’re ready to start hashing out your work experience bullet points, here are the steps to take:

1. Create a list of your responsibilities and accomplishments

Pick one of your previous positions to focus on and start by writing a list of the major things—any task, solution, recognition, accomplishment, or more—you handled or achieved while in that role.

There doesn’t need to be any order or detail to this yet. Your main goal is to generate a large list of everything related to that previous position.

Take your time with this and revisit resources like: 

  • Emails
  • Your LinkedIn profile
  • Performance reviews
  • Meeting notes

Those will help you reflect on your experience. You want to create a comprehensive list as it’ll make the next steps easier. 

2. Compare to the job description

Now you’re ready to narrow down that list, using the job description as your guide. Return to the job posting and compare it with the list you created, connecting the dots between the employer’s requests and your qualifications.

Highlight the ones that have significant overlap. Those are of particular interest to the company, so they belong on your document. 

Matching Mode in Teal’s Resume Builder is helpful for this prep work. Attach a job description to your resume and Teal will suggest keywords and skills that are worth including in your own document. 

3. Identify the challenge

When you’ve identified your most strongly related qualifications, you’re ready to use the CAR framework to go beyond the simple task and understand the context of each.

Select one of your duties or responsibilities and ask yourself this question: What challenge did this solve? Every single one of your tasks likely met a need or solved a problem, and that’s what you’re trying to identify in this step.

Resume challenge example:

Maybe in a previous position at an agency, you were responsible for generating and sending monthly website analytics reports to your clients. Why was that important? Because it improved visibility into the work the agency was doing and reinforced the value of your services.

You might not explicitly state the related challenge with every single one of your bullet points. However, it's a helpful high-level perspective to keep in mind as you illustrate the impact and importance of your work. 

4. Determine your action 

In this step, you answer this question: What did you do? Did you come up with a more repeatable process for sending reports? Did you automate parts of the workflow? Did you create a portal where clients could access their metrics at any time?

Take some time to think through how you contributed to solving a problem or achieving a goal. Employers don’t only want to know what happened—they want to know the specific role you played.

5. Define and quantify your results

You know what you did and why it mattered. The final piece of the puzzle involves answering this question: What happened? What were the results of that action? What did you achieve?

You want to quantify your results wherever you can by attaching real numbers. But for responsibilities where you don’t have access to related outcomes, you can still emphasize your impact by highlighting other meaningful results for the business.

For example, in that same role with an agency, emphasizing your results within a bullet point could look like this:

  • Developed and implemented a targeted digital marketing campaign for a client in the consumer goods industry, resulting in a 30% increase in website traffic, a 25% boost in online sales, and a 20% rise in social media engagement within a three-month period.

Or it could look like this:

  • Collaborated with cross-functional teams to develop and execute integrated marketing strategies that enhanced brand storytelling and resonated with the target audience, resulting in strengthened customer relationships and increased brand loyalty.

That one doesn’t have numbers attached to it, but it still illustrates the significance of your work. 

Struggling to write your own impactful bullet points? Teal’s AI Resume Builder has suggestions, examples, and prompts to walk you through it. You can also use AI to automatically generate and improve your quantifiable achievements. 

Teal's AI helps you write relevant, metric-rich resume achievements.
Teal's AI helps you write relevant, metric-rich resume achievements.

CAR method resume examples for your work history

Developed and implemented a targeted digital marketing campaign for a client in the consumer goods industry, resulting in a 30% increase in website traffic, a 25% boost in online sales, and a 20% rise in social media engagement within a three-month period.

  • Challenge: Low website traffic, online sales, and social media engagement
  • Action: Developed and implemented a targeted digital marketing campaign
  • Result: 30% increase in web traffic, 25% boost in online sales, and a 20% rise in social media engagement

Implemented a new employee training and development program, resulting in a 20% increase in employee retention and a 15% reduction in turnover within the first year of implementation.

  • Challenge: High turnover as a result of lackluster training and professional development
  • Action: Implemented a new program
  • Result: 20% increase in employee retention and 15% reduction in turnover

Identified inefficiencies in the codebase and refactored key components, leading to a 30% improvement in application performance and a 25% reduction in bug reports from end-users within a six-month period.

  • Challenge: Inefficiencies in the codebase
  • Action: Refactored key components
  • Result: 30% improvement in application performance and a 25% reduction in bug reports

How to use the CAR method in your professional summary

Your professional summary or resume summary goes at the top of your document and is a  concise overview of your most important or relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments—and it’s also a great place to apply the CAR method.

It’ll be a little more subtle here, as your summary focuses on your career as a whole and not a specific position or professional experience.

To apply it in this context, zoom out on your entire career so far and ask yourself:

  • What are some of the biggest challenges I’ve solved?
  • What are my most meaningful responsibilities or skills?
  • What are my most notable achievements?

Again, return to the job description to prioritize relevance and then piece together a summary that hits on the key points.

CAR method resume example for your professional summary

"Seasoned sales territory manager with over a decade of proven success in driving revenue growth and expanding market share within highly competitive industries. Expertise in developing and executing strategic sales plans tailored to meet the unique needs of diverse client bases. Skilled in building and nurturing long-term relationships with key accounts, resulting in consistently exceeding sales targets and achieving year-over-year revenue increases.

  • Challenge:
    • Succeeding in highly competitive industries where market share and revenue growth are challenging to achieve.
  • Action:
    • Developing and executing strategic sales plans
    • Building and nurturing long-term relationships
  • Result:
    • Exceeding sales targets
    • Achieving year-over-year revenue increases

Get inspired by taking a look at more resume summary examples.

Build your most impressive resume with Teal

The framework itself is simple, but applying it to your own history and qualifications can seem a little more challenging—especially when touting your own wins and contributions feels unnatural.

Teal’s Resume Builder can help you sing your own praises in a way that feels clear, meaningful, relevant, and authentic. You can:

  • Compare your resume to a job description and incorporate more relevant skills and keywords using Teal’s Matching Mode
  • Access expert guidance and suggestions to write a resume that will help you stand out from the competition
Teal's resume guidance and AI suggestions help you write your best resume.

When you use Teal to execute the CAR method, you’ll end up with a resume that proves you don’t just talk the talk—you have the skills, experience, and proven results to back it up.

Ready to write your strongest resume yet? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does CAR stand for in a resume?

CAR in a resume stands for "Challenge, Action, Result." It represents a concise way to highlight specific accomplishments by describing the challenge faced, the actions taken to address it, and the positive outcomes achieved. CAR statements help demonstrate problem-solving skills and showcase the impact of your contributions in previous roles.

What are the benefits of using the CAR method for a resume?

The CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) resume method enhances clarity and conciseness by structuring accomplishments in a clear format. It effectively demonstrates problem-solving skills, showcases quantifiable achievements, differentiates your resume, engages employers with compelling stories, and leaves a memorable impression, ultimately making your resume more persuasive and impactful in the job market.

What are other ways you can use the CAR method during your job search?

Besides using the CAR method on your resume, you can also apply this structured approach to other areas of your job search including interviews, cover letter writing, networking, and performance reviews.

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a freelance writer focused on the world of work. When she's not at her computer, you'll find her with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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