Answering "What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?" In An Interview

what sets you apart from other candidates

It's a question one will hear in just about every interview for any type of industry or position: "What sets you apart from other candidates?"

This can be a tough one to answer. On one hand, you probably don’t want to be too cocky or overconfident in your answer. On the other hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short and seem like you don’t know what your assets are. How do you stand out as a candidate?

In this guide, we'll be covering how to answer this age-old interview question, how to avoid an ineffective answer, and a few examples of how you should answer. Let's start by taking a look at why hiring managers ask this question.

Why Do Interviewers Ask "What Sets You Apart from Other Candidates?"

When you hear this question, keep in mind that the hiring manager isn’t trying to get you to badmouth other prospects or point out their flaws.

Pro 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.

What they are trying to do is get some insight into what strengths and experiences you believe are valuable, and how they would benefit the company as a whole. This is simply an opportunity to let your hiring manager or interviewer know why you belong in this company.

Avoid A Bad Answer By Following These Guidelines

There are a few things you should keep in mind when answering this question:

What Should Be In Your Answer

When tailoring and rehearsing your answer, consider these key things that you should implement into your answer:

Now that we know what not to say and what to say, let’s take a look at some sample answers to get your creative juices flowing!

10 Example Answers To “What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?”

1. I think my positive attitude is one of my biggest assets, especially when it comes to a professional setting. In this industry, I've seen a lot of people in my position and other positions become burnt out and less likely to make sales or work well with the general customer base. When I come into work, I enter a completely different frame of mind. I know that for each and every hour I'm in this building, I'm setting an example for the company. I take care of my mental and physical health outside of work so that when I'm here, I'm at 100%.

2. I’m very good at self-management and self-discipline. This is a high-stress industry, and I think it eventually becomes too easy to stop trying as hard to be the best one can be in this position. I know it can be easy to stop being as organized or good at management after a while. I strive to avoid this frame of mind and make organizing my work and managing my team the first priority.

3. Communication is key to this role. I believe my communication skills, as demonstrated by this interview, are on point. Through being excellent at communication, I’m also quite good at dealing with coworker conflicts in a positive way as well as communicating needs for the product production with the appropriate teams. I never leave anything up to assumptions, and thus my past projects have been relatively error-free and launched quickly.

4. When I read the job description, I noticed that the company specifically mentioned that they were looking for someone with [insert skill] experience. As you can see on my CV and resume, I have [number] years of experience in this field. I think what really sets me apart from the other prospects is my ability to combine that experience and tailored skill with team-building skills. I definitely value lasting coworking relationships and rapport, and I always seek to build those relationships with every team member at all levels. My passion for this industry and the people that make up this industry are what make me a valuable addition to any team.

5. I have a great willingness to learn. I think many prospects may expect to be hired for this position and not continue to cultivate their skills, but that is a priority of mine.

6. You may have noticed on my resume that the majority of my work history has been as a [insert position] while it is a role that has given me a great understanding of how [elements of the industry] work. In my previous roles, I was responsible for not only managing teams and tracking projects, but I was also responsible for overseeing business accounts and payroll. I also interacted with customer accounts and billing as well. I grew a deep understanding of the current environment for [industry] and can implement my experience in this position. I am confident that my work experience will be beneficial to this company and I am very happy to begin this new timeline in my career.

7. I’m a quick decision-maker. In this industry, I think that’s an irreplaceable skill. As you can see from my past projects on my resume, I’ve had to make hard decisions and make them quickly. Most of them turned out to be the right decisions, and the ones that weren’t, I actively worked with my team to remedy the issue and learn from it.

8. I don’t think many people in this position may have the commercial awareness or business acumen that I have. I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, and I believe my ample experience has given me insight into the biggest and smallest aspects of how a company in this industry operates and succeeds.

9. I’m extremely motivated. I think that can be hard to find. I’m also a quick learner. Although I’m new to the world of [industry], I’m definitely not new to customer service. I noticed in the job description for this position that interacting with customers is a major element. During my time as a volunteer for [business], I realized just how much I loved helping people in a professional setting and making sure that not only are the customers well taken care of, but their experience will be a positive one.

10. Not everyone can be a people person or a leader. As you can see by my resume, I’ve been in many successful leadership positions. I think management was what I was made for, and I’m excited to bring my leadership skills to this position.

We hope this guide was extremely helpful for you in your upcoming interviews. Remember to practice, stay focused, be patient and good things will follow. Which one of our examples was your favorite for answering this common interview question?

Job Seeker FAQ

Common job interview preparation questions and answers.

Should I bring up soft skills in this answer?

Soft skills are great to mention but what makes you more appealing to the employer is when you mention a previous accomplishment that makes you stand out. This will be better than mentioning any type of unique skill that you could cover. Be sure the accomplishment is something that fits in with what the employer is looking for in the role. For example, saying that you have organizational skills is simply not going to impress your prospective employer. It lacks depth.

What if I say that I'm a good fit for this role?

You need something that goes a bit deeper than that. You'll need to think about what your potential employer wants to see out of the position. Then try to argue or support why you think you go above and beyond the simple "job requirement" type of answer. Again, accomplishments and merits are a much better way of supporting that you are a potential employee that can execute and accomplish what they need to be completed.

Is there a similar interview question to this one I should be watching out for?

"What makes you unique?" is another interview question that sounds similar but is different.

Should I copy the examples in this writeup?

Try not to use these specific examples as your answers. Instead, think through the structure of the response and how you would draft up your own answer. This can be harder for students, versus those who have been employed for a longer period of time. But students should have merits or projects they can mention, as well.

Why do some people feel that bringing up a personality trait is a good way to stand out as an applicant?

They feel this is a great way to mention competencies. But it simply is not as great as mentioning an accomplishment. You have a much greater chance of success in your job search when you focus on quantitative metrics versus qualitative.

Is this a behavioral question?

No it is not. Behavioral questions often start with, "Tell me about a time".

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
What do you know about our company
What motivates you
What makes you unique
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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