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.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.


  1. Travis Withers on April 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Excellent advice!

  2. John_Norris_Sr@norriscapital.com on April 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    This is a very thoughtful and carefully crafted piece that contains some real and valuable insights.



  3. James Bois Smith on May 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    It is definitely easy to get caught up in the situation. Thanks for pointing out the areas of greater impact. I will spend less time on the S and the T!

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