10 Answers to "What Makes You Unique?" (5+ Expert Tips)

Did the interviewer ask you, “What makes you unique?” or did they ask something like, “Tell us something unique about yourself.” Confused why they asked this? The question, "What makes you stand out from other candidates?" is an odd one. It makes you question the interviewer's intentions and makes you feel as though you are being asked a trick question.

Hiring managers love to throw this curveball at potential employees in various little packages with different wording, but they all mean the same thing.

It makes sense why they do, though. If you have a unique trait that can benefit the company you’re interviewing for, they will certainly want to hear it!

Expert tip: TalentNow reports that 42% of employers are worried they won’t be able to find the talent they need. And 72.8% are struggling to find relevant candidates. This is good news for job seekers and an important reason why relevant resume, cover letter, and interview answers are key to your future employment.

However, you can’t just say whatever stream-of-consciousness thought that pops up. You’ll need to really think about this question and answer it in a way that gives the hiring manager the info they need in a well-phrased and eloquent way.

We’re going to dive into some excellent sample answers that you can use as a sort of template, as well as why interviewers ask this question, what makes a good and bad answer, and how to pen your own excellent position-snatching answer.

Why Do Interviewers Ask "What Makes You Unique?"

Realistically, the hiring manager is asking you this question it is because they want to know you're qualified for this position over the other candidates.

For example, you may have already told your hiring manager about all of your qualifying skills at the start of the interview: You have experience in marketing, a Bachelor’s degree, and a portfolio of excellent work. That’s all well and good, but ten other interviewees also have experience in marketing, a Bachelor’s degree, and a portfolio of excellent work. So what sets you apart from them in the context of benefiting this company?

Now it really makes sense why you’re being asked this. Hiring managers aren’t psychic and want to know what really makes you so special. If you can’t answer this question, maybe you don’t have unique traits that could benefit the company in their eyes.

It’s pertinent that we prove them wrong here and figure out an excellent answer to this question.

What Is The Interviewer REALLY Trying To Understand From This Question

When we talk about “unique skills and traits” that are outside the common skills you’ll share with similar candidates, we’re looking at skills and traits that are special but can still benefit the company.

For example, you may be interviewing for a position in engineering. You (and ten other applicants) have a Master’s degree, 2 years of experience in software engineering, and a portfolio of work. There are two unique traits that come to mind after being asked this interview question. The first is your intense dedication to perfection and deadlines. The second is your exceptional people skills. Since you’ll be working mainly with a small team and not a customer or client base, mentioning your people skills may not be worth it. Instead, your dedication to deadlines may seem a bit more relational to the company and position.

How to Answer "What Makes You Unique?"

When an interviewer asks this question, it's important to be prepared. In order to best answer this question, be sure the response has one or more of the following considerations built into the answer:

  • Includes a skill or competency that fits the job description.
  • Includes a quality that fits in with the work culture.
  • Includes a passion or desire as a professional.
  • Includes a short "humble brag" that displays confidence and/or a metric that shows prior work experience (e.g. growing a sales line by 20%).

Continue reading to learn how to create an answer to this interview question.

Similar Interview Questions (Use Our Example Answers For Them)

Sometimes the interviewer doesn't ask, "What makes you unique?" but instead they use a variation. In order to prepare for this interview question, you should also prepare for the variations of questioning that you might hear. Here are a few variations to be watchful for:

  • Tell us what makes you unique.
  • What makes you stand out from other candidates?
  • Tell me something unique about yourself.
  • What makes you different from the other candidates we're interviewing?
  • How would you describe what makes you stand out from others?

What Does A Good Answer Look Like (How To Answer)

There are many traits to a good answer to this interview question. Here's a few to help you know how to answer this interview question appropriately:

  • Either short or somewhat long, but should not be an ultra-short answer with no explanation and should also not be extremely long-winded or overexplained.
  • It’s difficult to make an honest answer seem like you aren’t bragging (“I’m the most cheerful person I know,” “I always excelled in my department and got employee of the month,” etc.) so be sure to look at a particularly glowing answer and see how you can bring it down just a notch for modesty’s sake. For example, “I’m the friendliest person I know” is a good answer, but following up with a humorous statement like, “It may seem like I’m bragging but trust me, this personality trait has its pros and cons” helps make you seem relatable rather than conceited.
  • Tell a story. Bring up examples or past events that are interesting, relevant, and memorable.
  • Include skills and personality traits that are relevant to the position. It is also wise to think of very transferrable skills or skills that could change and improve through the time you’re in a particular position.
  • If you’re trying to switch industries, be sure to think of skills that are shared between the industry you have experience with and the industry you’re trying to break into.

Expert tip: Lisa Barrow, CEO of Kada Recruiting told us, "A good tip in answering this question is to start with I was the only one who... or I was the first to... and fill in the blank with what you've accomplished that many others in the same situation didn't or took longer to do. Use the opportunity to respond as a way to share a special achievement that you're particularly proud of accomplishing."

Unfortunately, there are some faux pas to avoid when answering this question...

What Does A Bad Answer Look Like (How Not To Answer)

Avoid answers like these at all costs! This is not how you should answer this interview question:

  • Answers that are way too brief or way too long.
  • Answers that don’t involve an example or scenario.
  • Answers that involve an example or scenario that is irrelevant to the skill, irrelevant to the job position, nonsensical, clearly made up, or inappropriate.
  • Answers that do not have any relevance to the job description.
  • “I don’t have any unique traits.”
  • “I’m just better than everyone else.”
  • “I don’t have any way to prove this, but…”
  • “This doesn’t have anything to do with this job, but…”
  • “I’m extremely competitive and ready to race to the top, this position is just a starting point for me. That’s how dedicated I am.”
  • “I’m really good at [skill that has nothing to do with interviewing position.]”
  • “I’m really good at [skill that is absolutely useless in general.]”

It’s also worth noting that it’s vital to rehearse your answer and think about it ahead of time to avoid blurting out a very not-so-good answer.

What Are Some Ways to Creatively Figure Out What Makes You Unique

There are several things to keep in mind when penning your own answer.

  • Look at the job description and highlight different skill requests and requirements that you possess. Figure out how to shimmy those skills into your answer.
  • Think of tangible examples or events from your past that demonstrate your unique trait. Try to keep these examples professional, but if you can think of a non-professional answer that is still relevant to the skill, try it out. Tell a story, albeit a pretty brief one. If the story is humorous or profound, it will absolutely stick with your hiring manager and increase your chances of landing the job.
  • Don’t use generic phrases like “I’m a good worker” or “I’m a people person.” Expand on those answers to come up with something that is actually unique. We can tell you right now that every other candidate has probably brought up that they are a hard worker. Stand out from them with an answer that is truly unique and memorable.
  • Along with including skills that you possess that the position requires, include relevant personality traits that others may not have. For example, you’re interviewing for a position in development. The key skills required are coding, team management, and project management. You could mention your interest in code and tech innovations and solutions, as well as a willingness to take on the challenge of a new integration. This shows your hiring manager that down the road when the company grows and expands its tech, you’ll be ready and willing to learn how to use it and possibly train your team as well.
  • Always makes sure you end your answer with a reason how your particularly unique skills or personality traits will help the business succeed and grow.
  • Think of universal skills and traits that could benefit any company in any industry, so you can pop out that answer quickly for each job interview you go to. A well-rehearsed answer comes out more fluidly and naturally than a nervous answer you just blurt out of the spot.

Expert tip: Bruce Hurwitz, Executive Recruiter and Career Counselor at Hurwitz Strategic Staffing gave us short and impactful answer templates you can use. Such as, "I have never missed a deadline or come in over budget. I increased sales by X% representing an increased revenue of $Y. I discovered fraud saving the company hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Now that we know what to include, what not to include, and how to start forming your own answer, let’s take a look at ten different sample answers for various industry interviews.

10 Example Answers To "What Makes You Unique?" For Different Departments

You can use any of these long or short answers as a template for your own unique answer.

2 Example Answers to Creative Department Interviews

“I am a very excellent communicator and find that it's easy for me to relate to other people. I this empathy is very important in this industry, both between colleagues and between the creative department and clients."

"I'm not afraid of failure in the least. In fact, I think it is an essential part of the experimental process that gets you to succeed at what it is that you do. For example, I was involved in a project several years ago that was very poorly planned and did not assign deadlines as tightly as they should have. As a result, no one was putting in an equal amount of work. Eventually, the project fell through. When I started working for the most recent company, I came in with a load of suggestions on how management could make the project work and teambuilding. The project was a huge success, and my manager personally thanked me for bringing all of that information to the table. Without failure, I would have never learned from it."

2 Example Answers to “What Makes You Unique?” for Sales Department Interviews

"I bring to the table seven years of customer service experience and excellence. My time in wholesale and retail has made me a candidate with a unique set of skills that have been refined by face to face customer and client interactions. I am a very good communicator, an excellent listener, I take direction well, and I excel in a team environment. These are all skills which I know will fit well with the position you’re looking to fill."

“Something unique about me is that I’m the most friendly person I know. This might sound like a brag, but it can be both good and bad! When I was a young girl, my mom repeatedly told friends and family she had a dozen nieces and nephews, but she’d never seen a kid like me. At my last sales support position, 90% of the customers who called were very angry by the time they spoke with me. I took their anger in stride and worked with them without patronizing them. I spent time to learn where they were coming from and made sure they knew I understood and heard them. Then I worked to solve their issues within the guidelines of our company policies. Technically I wasn’t doing anything different than any of the other hundred customer agents on my particular floor. I really think my upbeat attitude and empathy is why my customer satisfaction scores were 30% above the company average.”

2 Example Answers for Finance Department Interviews

"I really enjoy learning new things and am constantly seeking out new learning opportunities. When it comes to financing, I feel like the technology is constantly changing and new innovations are being put into place to improve efficiency and security. I’m excited about taking on changes and challenges because I genuinely find them fun."

"A unique thing about me is that I have a background in finance that doesn’t involve a megacompany-- this allowed me to learn a lot about what’s new and up-and-coming in the industry. Working at a financial firm startup gave me an opportunity to understand the ins-and-outs of the financial and investment industries, and to take on tasks I might not have at a larger enterprise or company. I think this experience gives me a slight edge over other applicants that are interviewing for this position."

2 Example Answers for Marketing Department Interviews

“Something unique about me, you ask? Well, I really enjoy pulling together all of the resources and people needed to finish different on-site upgrade projects. At my previous position, I was in charge of project management at twenty different client properties. I finished about a hundred per year, and on average four days ahead of scheduled deadlines. I consistently came in 20% under the allotted budget for any given project. I developed relationships with dozens of local suppliers. Through those relationships and rapport, I worked through deals that drove down project costs by a significant amount, around 30%. It all came down to one thing: I love working with people to do what it takes to complete a schedule of ongoing projects, and I will stay dedicated to a project until the end.”

"When solving various problems in my job, I apply both logic and emotional aspects in equal proportion. For example, I'm trained in Search Engine Optimization and I understand how to use analytics to ensure a marketing campaign is successful, but I also majored in design and know how to apply creativity and an aesthetic element to a project as well. I believe there is a right-brain-left-brain solution to almost every marketing roadblock."

2 Example Short Answers

"I'm exceptionally organized and a bit of a neat freak. At my last company, I was able to apply this personality trait to improve our process and increase ROI by 40%."

"My prior experience in customer support has given me unique technical skills that I can apply to this role, as well as people skills."

Expert tip: Ellen Mullarkey, Vice President at Messina Staffing Group told us, "A few years back, I interviewed a woman who responded to this question by telling me that she’d grown an 8-person sales team to a 20-person sales team in just a few years, and increased revenue by an exponential amount.. Even more impressive, however, was that she’d done this all while raising her first child. I could tell from her answer that this was a unique candidate."

Job Seeker FAQ's

Common interview question Q&A from job seekers.

How should I highlight my unique qualities?

Think about what you've been able to accomplish in your career, then highlight what skills you used to get there. Bring up a unique selling proposition by mentioning what you've been able to accomplish first, then support what unique qualities got you to that point.

Should I mention my communication skills?

This is not a skill set that will go far. Try to think about the qualities you have that others don't have. Those are qualities like active listening skills versus communication skills.

What if I feel like I don't have a uniqueness about me?

You do. Try to ask friends or family members. Ask them how they would describe you in a job search. And start from there.

Should this job interview question have an answer that aligns with my personal branding?

It doesn't need to. Ideally, you support more about what you've been able to accomplish at a prior job and then support the question with what personality benefits helped you achieve them.

Should I mention my strengths or strengths in my career?

Certainly any unique quality that you bring up should make the interviewer feel like you are trying to answer the question in a way that appeals to you as a good fit for the job. Meaning, don't answer with anything negative.

Should I mentioned my skills and abilities in tandem?

If you support your answer with a unique perspective on how you accomplished your goals, you will indirectly be speaking about your skills and abilities.

Should I mention anything about my social media? Like how many followers I have?

Probably not. Not unless you are in an interview for a social media manager position. This is one of the most common interview questions that sets aim at stumping interviewers. Just think about your accomplishments and key personality traits, then focus on that when answering the question. Avoid your social media metrics.

Related Interview Questions

If you are looking for related interview questions, the following should be helpful:
What are your leadership examples
Describe your leadership style
How did you hear about this position
Tell me about a time you failed
What motivates you
What do you know about our company
What interests you about this position

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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