The CAR Model

The CAR model provides an effective way to structure competency questions. These are the questions that ask about a specific competency, eg describe a time where you led a group (leadership skills), or ask about your skills and qualities – you would then pick the competencies to talk about and consider using the CAR model to structure each of these.

Here are the details of the CAR model:

The CAR Model – similar to the STAR model which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

CAR = Context, Action, Result

It helps you structure your answers – even if they are relatively short answers it is good to follow a structure that you have thought through in advance.

On application forms there is often quite a low word count so you will need to be very concise to be able to use the CAR Model – do not give too much background detail in Context, focus on the most relevant Action(s) and summarise the Result concisely.


This gives some background to introduce the scenario to include factual details such as date, place, people, etc. Context can help add weight to the answer – eg assisted the senior partner on a £1m shipping case sounds better that assisted on a shipping case.


This is the main part of the answer and therefore will have the most in it. How did you do it? What action(s) did you take? Make sure you bring it back to your personal actions, even if you were part of a group or team in the scenario. Make sure you talk about those actions that display the skills and attributes you know the recruiter is looking for.


Always conclude with the results you achieved, the outcome you arrive at, the conclusion you reached, what you learnt from this experience. This should be a short end to the answer to wrap things up. Quantify the results wherever possible to add more weight to the answer, eg increased the numbers of people attending the events by 20%, saved the charity £500 per month in costs. This is not always possible but always consider whether it is – remember to consider scale/context.


– Describe a time when you used your organisational skills to good effect.

C = Whilst I was working on a children’s summer camp in the States as a sports coach, I was asked to manage the weekly sports day. [This encompasses both the S and T in the STAR Model (you should therefore start by describing the SITUATION you were involved in or the TASK that you were asked to complete.)]

A = I consulted with the children as to which mixture of sports they would most enjoy doing. I then called a meeting of the sports coaches to discuss this feedback and to draw up a schedule of events. I then had to manage the team of coaches to ensure that each sport was run properly and that they children could move in groups between the sports against a tight timetable.

R = The children often reported back that the sports days were their favourite part of the week. The camp continued to use the format of the sports days that I designed after i left.


*Some competency questions will sometimes ask for another element to this model and it can sometimes be seen incorporated within the model itself. This is “Reflection”, which essentially means you can go on to say what you learnt from the experience and/or the skills you feel you developed.