February 24, 2022


By Katherine “KC” Coffman

You want to know the best way to bore a job recruiter or hiring manager? Give them a laundry list of job titles and duties on your resume. Oh, and make the list very long so that you can make sure they will throw your resume onto the pile to not call back.

Now, for those job seekers who want to set themselves apart from the competition and leave a job recruiter or hiring manager sitting in their seats and thinking … Wow! I gotta have that individual work here! … then, I recommend writing your resume so that it highlights your accomplishments that not only showcases how you provided value to the organization but are supported by bona-fide metrics and quantifiable results.

My go-to approach on how to showcase your accomplishments in your resume is the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) Model. Normally used by job candidates who aspire to serve in the Senior Executive Service, the CCAR can also be used for resumes, interviews, and yes…even application KSA essays (they’re still around!).

The CCAR format is an effective approach to tell your story in a clear, concise, and compelling way when applying for a federal job, regardless of grade level you are applying for. The goal of using the CCAR format is to provide the human resource staff and hiring manager (or panel) information about your qualifications, experience, and achievements.

First Step

The first step is an easy and effective way to prepare to write your resume. Say your story out loud and record yourself as you describe your experience following the CCAR model. By recording yourself, you can eliminate the proverbial “writer’s block” and the natural tendency to edit your resume as you are typing it. After recording your story, listen to your recording and see what you want to add, clarify, or eliminate. Then record yourself again as you retell your story with those changes. After the second or third iteration, you will be ready to put pen to paper using the following CCAR approach:


  • Describe a specific problem you resolved or goal you achieved, and define the organizational impact of the challenge: division level, organizational level, agency-wide, government-wide, national effects, or impact.


  • Give the hiring manager insight into your challenge by providing a succinct description of the background and setting you worked in to address the challenge. Discuss who you worked with (i.e., individuals, teams, clients, inter-agency, or intra-agency, etc.). Provide specific factors that made the challenge substantial by describing the resources, laws, deadlines, or other factors that impacted the complexity of the situation. 


  • Provide a clear description of your strategic thinking and vision, and discuss the specific actions you personally took to address the challenge and achieve results. Hiring managers want to know what you did, so embrace the noun “I” rather than “we.” And include evidence of your innovation and creativity, technical skills, leadership skills, and how you leverage diversity. Likewise, provide a clear summary of your duties and actions and avoid a laundry list of duties and actions.


  • Metrics and quantifiable results are one of the most important components of the CCAR model. This is the one element that is often overlooked by applicants in their resumes. Remember that hiring managers are looking for people to solve problems and achieve results. This is where your resume can make an important impact by emphasizing the measurable results of your actions and the process you followed. Demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of your actions by clearly providing specific measures and/or outcomes that had an impact on the organization. Show your measurable results in terms of improved customer service, increased efficiency, reduced costs, or money saved.

Second Step

After you are satisfied with your story, the second step is to type your story following the CCAR format to highlight your experience and enhance your qualifications. This step also includes reviewing and editing your resume. Check spelling and grammar, flow, and spelling out acronyms. 

Finally, be sure to have a friend, family member, supervisor, mentor, or other trusted advisor to review your resume.

Please follow us on Twitter @FedCareer and join our Federal Career Connection page on LinkedIn or find us on Meetup at meetup.com/mbc-cnm.To get updates on upcoming workshops and career coaching sessions, visit https://federalcareerconnection.org/events/

Katherine “KC” Coffman
Certified Executive and Leadership Coach
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