There's been a good deal of interest in my previous posts on the Challenge, Action, Results - or CAR - approach to building an interview-winning IT resume.


I'd like to expand on that previous information, and give a detailed sense of how CAR can help you analyze your career, uncover your unique value proposition, and create a resume that can win the interview. In addition, thinking Challenge, Action, Results can help provide a critical framework to excel throughout the interview process.

In my IT resume writing service, I find that most of the resumes I review focus too much on either career actions or career results. But, whether the resumes that cross my desk focus too much on actions, or too much on results, very few resumes give a strong sense of the initial challenges.  It's those challenges that define what you've done - and give the reader a clear sense of the potential you bring to a new opportunity.

Technical professionals - including Software Architects, IT Managers, IT Directors, and CIOs / CTOs - frequently focus too much on actions - without giving enough weight to the critical achievements that differentiate careers. Resumes in this category can tend to be very text heavy, process oriented, and often difficult to read. In addition, these IT resumes may give the impression that you're at a lower level in your career than you really are . Finally, too strong a focus on actions gives the impression that you're not looking at IT strategically - as part of a clear enterprise strategy.

On the other hand, Enterprise Software Sales professionals and Sales Engineers frequently stress achievements - but may not give the reader adequate context for those achievements. Numbers are important; I work to include as many quantifiable achievements as possible in every IT resume I create. But those numbers are more valuable, and far more impressive, if the reader fully understands the challenges you overcame. In these IT software sales resumes, there may be great numbers - but without any background to demonstrate that you've worked effectively with C-level clients of Fortune 500 organizations, or that you've successfully used consultative sales techniques to close complex contracts with (very often) long sales cycles.

So whatever the focus of your technical career, it's essential to think about the major challenges you've worked through.

There are two approaches to using CAR to focus your resume. The first is to use Challenge, Action, and Results as an explicit resume strategy for your major accomplishments. Here's an example:

Challenge: Lack of alignment between internal IT organization and business stakeholders.

Actions: Interviewed business users and gathered requirements. Led focus group discussions to identify IT project roadmap opportunities. Established steering committee / working groups to facilitate communication between business groups and IT and to prioritize IT project roadmap projects.


  • Increased ROI for IT spend by 65% through elimination of low priority projects.

  • Ensured rapid, appropriate issue escalation / resolution through implementation of multi-level backend support system.

As you can see, this approach cuts through the clutter, and clearly demonstrates the value the candidate can bring to a new opportunity.

I don't use this approach explicitly that frequently. To make CAR work as an overall resume strategy, a client's career needs to have been strongly focused on clearly definable, very specific challenges, and that's not always the case.

But Challenge Action Results can help gain critical clarity on what you've done throughout your career.

It's easy in a busy IT career to move from one challenge to the next, to get things done, and move on to the next issue. That's one of the reasons that so many resumes that cross my desk primarily consist of disjointed bullets that don't tell a coherent story. But while these "nugget" resumes may give some great information on your career and accomplishments, the lack of overall structure and resume architecture makes it very difficult for the hiring authority to determine how you can solve his (or her) most pressing issues.

Defining the challenge is often the most difficult - but also the most critical - aspect of creating a strong IT resume.

That's why it's so critical to focus on the major challenges you've encountered and overcome. When I'm interviewing a new client, I'll frequently ask about overall mandate. In most IT roles - especially at the leadership level - you've been hired to transform a given aspect of enterprise operations. That may be reducing IT costs through virtualization, growing uptime, or overcoming a negative relationship between IT and external departments.

Of course, this mandate may not be explicitly stated. But if you can think back over your career, and clearly define the primary mission that you had to accomplish in each role, you're ahead of the game on creating an IT resume that will clearly detail what you've done for your previous employers, and what you can contribute in a new opportunity.

To create an interview-winning IT resume, look for the commonalities, the major threads in the story of your career.

As your career advances to the IT Manager, IT Director, or CIO / CTO level, it's very probable that you've built a reputation for solving certain problems better than your competition. Those challenges - those skills - are a major first step in defining your personal brand, the value proposition that you bring to each new opportunity.

Once you've defined the challenges you've overcome, you'll have a clear structure to focus the actions you've taken throughout your career. With this information, you'll be able to determine which results have been most critical - and rank those achievements within a clear resume architecture.

CAR is also interview preparation

As I mentioned earlier, CAR does more than create a strong resume. That very process - the time you've taken (whether on your own, or working with a professional IT resume writer) is preparing you to answer the most critical questions in the first, second, and third interviews. After working through these steps, you'll be able to clearly define and express your value proposition - both at the level of strategic challenges and at the equally critical area of tactical execution. Those interviews stay top in mind with interviewers – and are much more likely to get calls back, and ultimately job offers.

If you'd like more information on how I can help you use CAR to create a powerful IT resume, – or if you would like to take advantage of my free, 15-minute resume review and consultation, you can upload a copy of your current resume and I'll get back in touch with you as soon as possible - within one business day at the outside - and often within a couple of hours.