Answering "What Makes You Unique" In A Job Interview
Did the interviewer ask you, “What makes you stand out from other candidates?” or did they ask something like, “Tell us something unique about yourself.” Confused why they asked this? The question, "What makes you unique?" 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: “What makes you unique?”
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!
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 trying to ask you what makes you qualified for this position over the numerous other candidates that boast the same basic skills and qualifications that you do.
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: “What makes you unique?” 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.
What Does A Good Answer Look Like?
There are many traits to a good answer to “What makes you unique?”
- 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.
Unfortunately, there are some faux pas to avoid when answering this question...
What Does A Bad Answer Look Like?
Avoid answers like these at all costs!
- 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.
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 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 “What Makes You Unique?” for 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 to “What Makes You Unique?” 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 to “What Makes You Unique?” 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 to “What Makes You Unique?”
"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."
Have you ever had to answer this difficult question during an interview?
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
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