R.A.T.S. is How Employers Prioritize the S.T.A.R. Method
The S.T.A.R. method is used when responding to behavioral style interview questions such as, “tell me a time when you worked on a cross-functional team or when you demonstrated leadership qualities…etc.” The acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. Frankly, it’s used to filter out the uninspiring responses that some interviewees would otherwise offer up to prospective employers. Consider these weak responses: “I am a team player,” or “I often take the initiative.” Using this framework stops you from saying these generic answers. It forces you to share a specific example that illustrates a time when you worked on such a team or demonstrated leadership qualities.
Yet, many interviewees emphasize the wrong S.T.A.R elements. Too much time is spent painting the picture i.e. explaining the Situation and Task rather than illustrating the specific Actions taken to complete the Task; even less time is being spent on Results.
Yet, the organizations into which we are hired flourish or wilt based upon Results. So let’s prioritize the elements of the S.T.A.R. method. The antigram of STAR is RATS and that is how you should allocate your time in responding to a behavioral interview question. Select the best stories that have impressive Results and expand upon them so that your interviewer can extrapolate the impact you may have on a team or the firm.
Then allow enough time to talk about the Actions that you took to produce those results. If you lay out how you accomplished your tasks you are providing the interviewer with data on your strengths and how you use your noodles (translation: how you think). My advice here is to highlight two to three actions you took to accomplish a Task.
Finally, in terms of the Task at hand and the Situation, both are meant to add context to your Actions and their Results. So while I agree that you should certainly lead with the Situation and Task when applying the STAR Method you should not spend most of your time on them. Instead, strengthen your candidacy by focusing on the Results you garnered and the Actions you took to accomplish those Results.