Answering "What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?" In An Interview
It's a question one will hear in just about every interview for any industry or position: "What sets you apart from other candidates?"
This can be a tough one to answer. On the 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 your assets. 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 resumes, cover letters, 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:
- Don’t bad mouth or insult the other candidates in your answer, either personally or judging by their appearance, age, race, sex, etc. (This should be an obvious one.)
- Don’t sell yourself short for the sake of being humble.
- Don’t brag or go on and on about how incredible you are, even if you are overqualified for the position.
- Don’t make the answer super short. Go into detail, but don’t rant for ages. Please get to the point and stick to it.
- Don’t point out “flaws” in the company that you believe your expertise could fix. This may seem okay to do in some situations, but humbleness is key more often than not. If you must, think of how you can point out a current issue with the prospective company and how your skills paired with the skills of your team can help improve that issue.
- Don’t opt out of the question with something like “I’m quite humble and don’t feel as if it’s good practice to put myself above others.”
- Avoid listing skills, traits, or other things that are not relevant to the prospective position. For example, if you apply for a finance position, don’t bring up your excellent art skills as something that makes you different. It doesn’t flow well and will make it seem as if you can’t think of a skill that matches the job description.
What Should Be In Your Answer
When tailoring and rehearsing your answer, consider these key things that you should implement into your answer:
- Always stay on topic and don’t rant.
- Have past work and project examples ready, including evidence of volunteer work and academic achievements relative to what the current company would like from someone in your prospective position.
- Research the job requirements as much as possible and connect to them.
- In your answer, slip in a description of the project you’ll be hired for. If you can link your answer to something the hiring manager is trying to find a solution for, your answer will be more cohesive.
- List out your qualifications and pick the most valuable assets you have to include.
- Brainstorm how you can “outdo” the other prospects in your answer without bad-mouthing them.
- Really think about what makes you unique, and if that unique trait is something the company may find value in.
- Believe in yourself. You really do need to believe that you’re the best person for this position. If you can’t summon that kind of confidence, either you really aren’t the right fit for this position, or your hiring manager will detect your lack of confidence and see it as a liability for the company.
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 in a professional setting. In this industry, I've seen many 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 I'm setting an example for the company for every hour I'm in this building. 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 organize my work and manage my team as a priority.
3. Communication is key to this role. I believe my communication skills, as demonstrated by this interview, are on point. By being excellent at communication, I’m also quite good at dealing with coworker conflicts positively and 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. 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.
6. You may have noticed on my resume that most 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 managing teams and tracking projects and 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 benefit this company, and I am thrilled 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 for 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. 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 it 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 is 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 beneficial 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 unique skill that you could cover. Be sure the accomplishment 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
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
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