(Last updated on February 7th, 2019)
If you’ve ever been in a job interview, you know it’s tough to come up with answers to certain questions right off the bat — especially if you’ve never heard of them before.
‘What makes you unique?’ is a common job interview question that sometimes even the most qualified job seekers have trouble answering. In most cases, interviewees fluff not because they don’t have the necessary credentials or skills required for the job, it’s because they have given no thought to the question before the interview, and hence don’t know how to frame their answer the right way.
So, it’s always a wise idea to prepare your pitch beforehand so you know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
In this guide, I will give you five ideas on how to answer the ‘what makes you unique?’ question but before that, you need to know why interviewers ask this question and what they want to hear from you.
What’s the Intent Behind the Question?
When you’re asked ‘what makes you unique?’, the interviewer is actually asking: Why should I prefer you over other candidates? What is the unique thing about you that makes you the best man for the job? Think of this question as an opportunity to communicate how you’re different from the rest, and what you bring to the table that the next ten candidates don’t.
This question – when answered correctly – can help you secure an edge over the other candidates who boast nearly the same necessary qualifications required for the job – at least on paper.
In short, you need to give them a strong reason to hire you; you need to deliver an answer that grabs their attention and positions you as someone who will benefit the company like no one else.
One of the worst ways you can answer this question is to talk about personal stuff that has nothing to do with the role you’re applying for. The recruiters aren’t the least bit interested in knowing where you like to hang out on the weekends or that you have five pets at home. It may sound interesting but – needless to say — it won’t help your case. So, talking about irrelevant personal stuff is a definite no-no.
Here’re five great ways to tell what makes you unique based on things employers really want to know.
1. Talk About Your Background
Is your background a little different from the other candidates? Is there something you’ve done in the past that differentiates you? Is there something you have studied in the past that is not a necessary requirement for the job you’re applying for but may turn out to be very useful?
If the answer is a “yes” to any of these questions, then you need to figure out how you can apply your background to the job you’re striving for and how you can use it to the benefit of the company.
If you’re struggling to come up with something, take a piece of paper and write down each and everything you’ve learned throughout your career from all the studies, courses, jobs, and internships you’ve done in the past and. Now, think about how you can apply each one of them to the job you’re after.
Pro Tip: Don’t talk about something that’s irrelevant or brings no value to the designation you’re interested in.
2. Highlight Past Experiences
Do you have professional experience under your belt that will make you valuable in the role you’re applying for?
Another way to answer the question effectively is talk about your relevant past experience(s). The key here is to not just mention all the previous jobs (or internships) you’ve done, but you should also summarize what you learned working in those positions and how you will apply them into the new position.
Here is more information on how to answer questions about your work experience(s).
Also, you should try to incorporate relevant examples from your past experience(s) in your answer.
3. Mention Specific Skills
Do you’ve any specific (and relevant) skill that isn’t listed as requirements but may bring value to your employer? Is there any course or specialization you’ve done in the past that makes you the perfect man for the job? It could a soft skill – such as communication, leadership — or a hard skill, it doesn’t matter.
Having more than necessary skills can give you an upper hand over other applicants, and you can use this to advantage when answering the ‘what makes you unique?’ question, too.
Again, you should not only mention the skills you’re proficient at but also demonstrate how they will help you in the new role.
Also, you should avoid clichés that make you seem like just another candidate. Instead of saying, “I’m over-delivering,” give the employer a glimpse of how you helped your past company reach a specific goal before the timeline.
4. Brag About Workplace Wins
Has there been an occasion in the past when you were awarded a professional honor for your services, or you helped you past company close a profitable deal or achieve an incredible milestone?
If you’ve many years of professional experience in your resume, it’s likely that you’ve some personal workplace success stories too. And you can use them as a proof to let employers know how you can drive great value for their business.
Also, support your answer with statistics, figures, or percentages as they not sound impressive, but also tell exactly how much the company benefited from your work.
5. Highlight Key Personality Traits
Are you passionate about your work? Are you a go-getter? Do you remain optimistic in the worst of times? How well do you gel with other people at work?
We’re all unique in our own way, and every one of us has some good (and bad) personality traits. Why not use them to your advantage when answering the question?
But just saying, “I remain calm and optimistic in difficult times” isn’t enough, and won’t convince employers to hire you. Instead, you should add more details to deliver a job-winning answer. You can talk about how your optimistic efforts helped your previous company move out of crises, or how you effectively dealt with a potentially damaging situation at work. And, if you can spruce it up with statistics and figures, it becomes a standout answer.
Now you know how to deliver a striking answer when recruiters say, “Tell us what makes you unique,” you should also be aware of the answers that can get you in trouble.
Sample Answers to The ‘What Makes You Unique?’ Question
“I believe my diverse skill set allows me to solve intricate problems better than most people. For instance, at my previous job at Company X, I led a sales team of 9 employees, and we helped the company generate a record-breaking $1m in annual profit last year. I will bring everything I learned during that tenure to this job so that I can help your company achieve even greater heights.”
“I believe my background is a perfect match for this job; my electrical engineering degree combined with a relevant 2-year experience that I’ve under my belt makes me an ideal man for the role. I already have a vast knowledge of how industry operations take place, which, I think, gives me a slight edge over the other applicants.”
Type of Answers You Should Avoid
Here’s are the type of answers you should avoid:
- Answers that go against the interests of the company.
- Answers that have no relevance to the role you’re applying for.
- Answers that talk about personal stories instead of work stories.
- Answers that make you seem self-centered and egotistical.
- Answers that criticize the other job candidates.
A single wrong answer to a tricky interview question can hurt your chances of securing your dream job.
Hence, it’s important that you prepare for a few common interview questions well in advance.
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