Drive Your CAR to a More Effective Resume

I estimate, conservatively, that, over the last 10 years, I have reviewed approximately … um…. 10 zillion resumes.

At least it feels that way sometimes.

At least 90% of those resumes have one thing in common — lackluster descriptions of prior experience.

This lack of quality descriptions of professional experience will be a big part of what Camille Roberts and I cover in our webinar tomorrow (Feb. 2, 2012) at 2 p.m. EST on writing effective federal and non-federal resumes.

I encourage everyone to join us, even if you have the perfect resume already.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ll cover.

Using the key words from a position description is, well, key. However, there is more to it than that.

Almost everyone has the skills required for a position, but very few people have accomplished what you have when using those skills.

Employer wants to see how you used the relevant skills and abilities to add value over the course of your career. In other words: your accomplishments.

This is where using a CAR helps:

C — Context
Give the employer context, information, detail on what you did. For example, instead of writing “Researched and wrote talking points” tell them the topics, if you worked on a team or individually, if there if you were under a strict deadline, etc.

A — Action
Give them relevant details on how you completed the task: Did you conduct interviews, focus groups, write a survey? Did you use statistical software to analyze the data like Stata or SPSS (aka PASW). Was it all in English?

R — Result
This is the most important part–showing what you accomplished. Keep in mind that, although it is good to use quantitative results as much as possible, numbers are not the only way to show value added. How your work was used is also a great way to do this. Was this research you did used as part of a book? Presented at a conference? Used by a senior member of your agency as talking points in testimony to Congress?

If you use this method, your bullet points grow in length AND impact. Nine times out of 10, 2 or 3 detailed descriptions are much more effective than 5-10 short, “one-off” bullet descriptions.

We will expand on this more during tomorrow’s webinar. I hope to you will join us.

You can read about this and TONS more in my new book: The Student’s Guide to Federal Careers (2nd ed.)

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Kathryn Troutman

Hi Paul, if the readers want to build an online CAR, I invite you to try out my

free KSA CCAR Builder.

Just type your CAR story in the fields, and the content will come to your email. This CAR story could be great for an interview question, or to add to your resume for KSAS in the Resume format. Be sure to write a compelling result of your accomplishment!

I recommend this webinar with Paul and Camille! Get inspired to Drive your CAR with Paul and Camille’s inspiration! Samples of CAR KSAs in the resume can be found in Paul’s new book, Student’s Federal Career Guide – 2nd Ed. Available at and

Steve Cottle

Hi Paul, I’ve heard conflicting guidance on the use of numbers to support the Context and Action. For instance, how many focus groups did you conduct? How many participants? I’ve heard everything ranging from “leave it off,” to “only if very significant,” to “always.” Any guidance on when this is most appropriate (outside of using to support “Result,” which I would assume falls closer to the “always” category)?

Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

This is exellent info! I am also interested in slides, as I was in class during the webinar yesterday. Keep great info like this coming!

Paul Binkley

In response to Steve’s question: I have to say that I’m in the “use as much as you can that is relevant camp.” Personally, I think employers want to see information that gives context, shows process, and illustrates the value you brought to the table.

Obviously, you can give too much information, but I think it’s good to start writing your resume that way, and then go back to cut what’s not important.