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Three Things We Learn from the SAO Biscuit and the Humble Chair

CareerSupport365 | Three Things We Learn from the SAO Biscuit and the Humble Chair

Many of the more experienced Hiring Managers or Recruiters use competency based interviewing or behavioural interviewing to determine if the job seeker is right for the job.

So it pays to know about interview technique.

3-legged chair | CareerSupport365 | Three Things We Learn from the SAO Biscuit and the Humble ChairCompetency based interviewing or behavioural interviewing techniques typically seek evidence based answers.

The premise is that past behaviour is likely to predict future behaviour; or that because you have experienced something in the past, you’re more likely to handle a similar situation in the future.

In the same way that the minimum number of legs a chair must have to be stable is three, then the minimum number of legs to an effective answer for a behavioural or competency based interview is also three.

What are the three legs to an interview answer?

They are based on the iconic Australian biscuit – the SAO.


S stands for Situation

A stands for Action

O stands for Outcome

An interviewer might ask a question such as:

“Tell me a time when you faced a tight deadline. How did you meet it?”

The job seeker/interviewer can effectively answer the question by structuring their answer along the lines of…


A deadline needed to be achieved only last week, when we were presented with a revised marketing budget. We were faced with getting the same results with less money and a whole awareness campaign for a product relaunch needed to be re-thought. All in 2 days.


I am the leader of the Marketing team. Immediately upon hearing the news, I convened a team meeting in which we scoped out a strategy. This took about 4 hours addressing all components of the awareness campaign. (I can go into those in more detail if you’d like.)

Once we completed this, we collaborated with the social media agency and worked across one full day, rebalancing the campaign towards more Google Adwords, LinkedIn, and Facebook advertising. We completely cut our TV spend and we redirected every marketing dollar toward digital media.


CareerSupport365 | ladder | Three Things We Learn from the SAO Biscuit and the Humble ChairThe deadline was met, and although the team was exhausted, the Management were all happy that the launch went ahead, albeit with only a social media awareness campaign.

So far, after only several days of going live, awareness of the new product has increased and exceeded our expectations.

Mix it up:

The SAO and Model can be delivered in any combination of S-A-O or O-A-S or A-S-O.

It doesn’t matter, just as long as the answer, like the chair, has 3 legs.

Just like a ladder, 2 legs to an answer are unstable. S-A without an O is incomplete; as is A-O without an S; and O-S is without an A.

A few tips on interview:

  1. While you may have been brought up to be humble, it’s best you are clear about your own role in your answer.
  2. Date stamp the Situation. For example let the interviewer know when the Situation happened.
  3. Make sure you break down the Action into bite sized steps.
  4. Ensure you tie the Outcome into answering the interviewer’s question.
  5. Don’t answer the question saying, “well here is the Situation… This is what we did… and this is the Outcome.
  6. Be much more subtle and fluent in your answers – speaking professionally, yet colloquially.

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About the author:

Greg Weiss is the Founder of CareerSupport365. He has almost 30 years success in HR and in career coaching people.

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