Federal Careers

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Being able to articulate your accomplishments and your ability to handle challenges is important for your resume, during interviews, and in your annual performance-related accomplishment report / self assessment. Having a format to structure your responses makes it easier to create compelling achievements to:

•      Demonstrate your capability to tackle tough situations. (Past performance can be a strong indicator of future success.)


•      Quantify your impact in your current role. (This is especially important for self-assessments, performance reviews, and raise requests.)

•      Highlight your qualifications for the position you’re pursuing.

In a job interview, use CCAR stories when you’re asked questions such as:

•      “Tell me about a time when you…”

•      “Can you describe a situation when…”

•      “What do you do when…”

•      “Have you ever…”


•      “Can you give me an example of…”

•      “Describe a time when…”

•      “Share an example of when…”

There are four components to the CCAR formula:

(C) – Context

(C) – Challenge

(A) – Action


(R) – Result

Preparing specific CCAR examples ahead of time will help you be more confident in your responses. Write out the answers and practice them with a friend or family member or your career coach. Or record yourself (audio or video) and practice your CCAR stories until they sound natural, not rehearsed.

Here are some prompts you can use to create your CCAR stories (“Describe a time when you…”):

•      Took on a new challenge

•      Collaborated with others

•      Worked under pressure

•      Persuaded someone

•      Finished a challenging project

•      Had a conflict with a co-worker or employee

•      Dealt with an unhappy customer


•      Experienced failure

•      Demonstrated your time management skills

•      Made a difficult or unpopular decision

•      Disagreed with a manager


•      Made a decision with incomplete information

Here’s an example of a CCAR formula used to create a CCAR story.

Interview Question: Give us an example of when you collaborated with others and had a conflict with an employee.

·      Context: In my role as manager at ABC Organization, I added 3 new team members when we took on a new program. My team of 5 had all worked together for more than 2 years at this point, so integrating new staff was a big deal — both for me and the team. As the direct supervisor of the team, it was my job to make sure that the on-boarding of the new team members went smoothly.

·      Challenge: Unfortunately, the new employees were used to different processes and methods for project management, which led to problems on the first project we worked on after the acquisition. Both my existing team members and my new team members recognized right away that there was a problem, and they looked to me for a solution.

·      Actions: The first thing I did was sit down with the new team members to get a better understanding of how they were used to tackling projects. I also shared with them the standard operating processes that our team used for project management. Next, I organized a team-building challenge that had nothing to do with the current project — a way for the whole team to get to know each other, without the pressure of the project that was hanging over our heads.

·      Result: As a result of the team-building challenge, the employees got to know each other better. The specific team-building exercise focused on communication styles, which had been at the root of the project problems. As the team members interacted more, they were able to communicate more effectively to address some of the differences in project management processes. We ended up blending some of our existing methods with ideas from the new team members, which made the whole process more effective. Even though we had gotten off to a rough start, I ended up bringing the project in on time and on budget, and that team of eight has now been together for the past year.

When using achievements in your resume or as part of your self-assessment, they will be shorter than the above example, but you can still use the same basic formula:


·      Successfully integrated 3 new team members from another organization; used effective team-building techniques including a communication styles inventory, ongoing mentoring, and intentional use of ideas all team members. Efforts resulted in bringing $2M project in on time and on budget; the team is still intact today.

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