There are two powerful techniques for acing behavioral interview questions: the STAR method and the CARL method.
I'll walk you through their key differences, when to use each approach, and provide example answers to help you understand the strategies in action.
Let's explore the CARL method, which introduces a fresh perspective to answering behavioral interview questions. While CARL shares similarities with STAR in terms of Action and Result, it differs in its approach to Context.
In CARL, Context encompasses both the Situation and the Task from the STAR method. By asking yourself, "What was I hoping to accomplish in this experience?" you naturally include both aspects in your response. This consolidation allows you to kickstart your answer promptly with the action you took.
For instance, consider the common behavioral interview question: "Tell me about a time you went above and beyond at work."
Using the STAR method, you might begin with the Situation and Task, followed by the Action.
However, with CARL, you can start with a concise Context and then seamlessly transition into the Action, focusing on the important parts of your story.
This brevity grants you more time to discuss your learnings, which ultimately sets you apart from other candidates.
When I was a management consultant with EY, I decided to make use of some downtime in between projects to design a training program for new hires.
The true power of CARL lies in its emphasis on Learnings. While answering behavioral interview questions, incorporating meaningful takeaways can make a lasting impression on interviewers.
So, let's dive into three essential questions to help you nail the "Learnings" part of your answer.
To illustrate the CARL method in action, let's explore a sample answer to the challenging question, "Tell me about a time you failed."
Please note that during a real interview, you should avoid explicitly mentioning the prompts "Situation" and "Learning" within your response. However, for the sake of clarity, I'll include them here.
Using the STAR method, my answer might look something like this:
A previous nutrition and fitness presentation I prepared for my colleagues was well received, and I wanted to expand its reach by sharing my entire weekly workout routine with a broader audience.
I aimed to create videos on home workouts since many people were confined to their homes for prolonged periods, and I wanted to extend the benefits beyond my workplace.
I filmed myself working out at home using my phone, made small edits, and shared the videos on platforms like Instagram and other social media sites.
Unfortunately, the engagement was minimal, with fewer than 1% of my connections viewing or liking the content. I felt like I had wasted a significant amount of time learning how to shoot and edit videos.
In the STAR method, the answer technically ends with the Result. However, when confronted with a question like "Tell me about a time you failed," it's essential to continue by sharing the lessons learned and how they shape your future actions. This is where the CARL technique excels.
Now, let's reframe the same experience using the CARL method:
Following a well-received fitness and nutrition presentation to my colleagues, I saw an opportunity to create home workout videos that would benefit a broader audience. By condensing the background information into a concise context, I can focus on the pivotal aspects of my story.
Action and Result:
The actions and results remain the same as in the STAR answer, so I'll skip those and jump straight to the "Learnings" component.
Upon reflection, I realized that my content on home workouts didn't measure up to the high standards set by established fitness coaches out there. Although I initially felt like I had wasted a considerable amount of time, I didn't give up. Instead, I decided to apply my newfound expertise in video editing to a different topic.I took the time to identify the areas where I had a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This led me to shift my focus to career and interview tips for current college students and young professionals. By leveraging my skills in video editing and combining them with my passion for helping others succeed, I found a new avenue to share valuable content.
In high-pressure situations like interviews, it's easy to rely too heavily on acronyms like STAR, focusing on checking off the elements in a mechanical manner.
However, with the CARL method, you ensure that your answer concludes with meaningful learnings, demonstrating your ability to reflect on your experiences.
While the STAR method remains valuable, especially for resume bullet points where results and data points take center stage, the CARL technique offers a fresh perspective. It allows you to showcase your insights, personal growth, and future-oriented thinking during behavioral interviews.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Feel free to experiment with both methods and choose the one that suits your style and resonates with your experiences.
You can check out my Common Interview Questions and Answers playlist!