Hiring managers interview many candidates for each job, so they want to hear what makes you unique from the other candidates. And if you don’t have an impressive, confident answer, it can cost you the opportunity. Coming up, we’ll look at how to answer this question to impress a hiring manager, including word-for-word sample interview answers.
Why Employers Ask “What Makes You Unique?”
“What makes you unique?” isn’t a trick interview question, and there isn’t one “right” answer. However, employers like to ask job seekers this question to hear your own perspective on what you bring to the company. First, there may be something the hiring manager doesn’t know about you, and so they want to learn a bit more about you than what’s on your resume. Maybe you have a unique ability, some soft skills that other candidates don’t have, etc. Even if not, this question is a chance to show that you understand the job description and the employer’s hopes/needs as they hire for this role, and then demonstrate why you’re qualified.
I’ll share full sample answers coming up, so don’t worry if this sounds difficult (it’s not).
How to Answer “What Makes You Unique?” in an Interview
To keep your answer clear and concise, I recommend responding to this interview question with one single skill or trait that makes you unique. You can mention unique technical skills/hard skills, soft skills, key personality traits, experiences, personal attributes, or any other factor that makes you an exceptional candidate… and different from other job seekers You could also mention a reason that you’re passionate about this industry/work, if that’s true. Whatever unique trait or skill you name in the job interview, pick something that’s true, so that you can talk strongly and confidently about it.
Don’t say you bring exceptional communication skills if you’re an average communicator. The hiring manager will see right through that. Your answer is going to be far more impressive if you take time to prepare ahead of time and pick a genuine reason that you feel you’re unique for the role.
This means you NEED to:
- Study the job description.
- Think about your past experiences/accomplishments/skills and what aspect of that may make you the best candidate.
Next, let’s look at some example responses to help you formulate your own answer.
Watch: How to Answer “What Makes You Unique?”
Sample Answers to “What Makes You Unique?”
Example Answer 1:
One trait that I feel makes me unique is my ability to get along with all types of people and personalities. I’ve worked in retail customer service, all the way up to managing large enterprise client accounts in my last job. I can relate to a construction worker just as easily as I can connect and relate to a corporate lawyer or doctor. I saw that your job description for this role emphasizes communication skills, and I’ve read about the variety of clients that your business serves. So, that’s one reason I feel I’m a strong candidate for the role, and may have some unique skills and background that other candidates don’t bring.
Example Answer 2:
One of my unique skills is that I’m a former software developer. I moved into product design because I’m more passionate about this area, but I’m still able to write code and scripts to automate tasks, and I still approach challenges and obstacles through an engineer’s mindset, meaning I perform tests and I make decisions based on data. This data-driven approach sets me apart from many other designers and makes me a unique candidate for your Senior Design Lead role.
Example Answer 3:
One of the skills that makes me unique is my public speaking ability. I enjoy giving presentations, I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people at my college. I was a part of my college debate team, too.
I also led weekly intern meetings during both of my internships before I graduated, and I genuinely enjoy talking in front of a crowd. So as I look to find my first full-time, permanent position after graduating, I look forward to finding ways to use this skill in my career. I saw your job description for this role mentions giving sales presentations to clients, so that’s one area where I feel I’d immediately excel.
Example Answer 4:
I have an unusual combination of soft skills that I feel makes me unique. I’m constantly seeking to improve, learn from my mistakes, and challenge myself. And I’m exceptionally organized in terms of tracking my results, progress, and any trends in my work and output. So through this, I’m able to find potential learning opportunities and lessons, spot potential problems before they become larger issues, and steadily improve.
I use challenges as a learning experience and try to turn the occasional small mistake into a huge positive, rather than dwelling on it as a negative. In past jobs, my managers often complimented my ability to learn quickly, perform well without needing constant supervision, and remain calm even when something didn’t go my way. So that’s the unique skill set that I bring to the role.
Example Answer 5:
I think that my unique skill is project leadership. I have a natural ability to lead numerous tasks and projects, whether as the direct team leader or project coordinator. I think this comes from my combination of strong organizational skills and interpersonal skills. I’ve always enjoyed leadership and working in a team environment and hope to continue finding companies that value collaboration.
I reviewed the job listing and it seemed to me that your company values hiring people with a collaborative mindset, and people who can grow in the organization and take on more leadership over time, so this role seemed like a great potential fit.
Note: Even if an employer doesn’t directly ask, “Why are you applying to this job?” it’s a nice touch to end an interview answer by explaining why you felt their job was a good match. Doing this shows research, thoughtfulness, and preparation. You can see this in the sample answer above, which ends by saying, “…so this role seemed like a great potential fit.”
Sample Answers to “What Makes You Unique?” Based on Different Skills:
“What makes me unique is that I have a really well-established and well-practiced problem-solving methodology. However, my systematic approach doesn’t prevent me from brainstorming highly creative solutions when the situation calls for them. My skill in this area has seen me promoted to numerous team-leadership roles, as I’m able to generate ideas and delegate tasks to get a problem solved faster. As a result, I’ve ended up saving a great deal of money for the companies that have employed me.”
This works because: In a setting where problem-solving is a vital part of business operations, it’s really useful to employ a systematic methodology that can get problems solved faster and cheaper. Since it’s easy to get bogged down in protocol when applying set methodologies, it’s a relief to hear that this doesn’t limit your creativity. Also, the fact that you’ve been promoted to leadership roles for troubleshooting tasks inspires confidence in your abilities.
“What makes me unique is my heartfelt belief that success in this industry and this role is dependent on outstanding teamwork. I see immense value in diverse perspectives and ideas and believe that every single team member has value to offer. That’s why I make it my business to set the stage for strong collaboration by helping team members find their voice and realize their potential, by motivating others to act, and by building my teammates up through constant feedback, celebration and support.”
This works because: This answer works because it shows that you know how vital teamwork is to success in this role and in this industry. It’s clear that you speak with a leader’s voice, but that you’d also make a good teammate, because your focus is not just on doing your part but on motivating others to do theirs. You sound generous, supportive and likeable, all good qualities for a close collaborative role or even a role as a leader.
“What makes me unique is my sense of professionalism and work ethic. My career is of the utmost importance to me and, as such, I take immense pride in my work, believing that the work I produce is an expression of the kind of person I am. I believe that there is always room to develop, up-skill and sharpen my delivery. I compete with myself day in and day out, always striving to do better than I did before. In fact, I only see it as a job well done if I know I’ve grown and improved on my past performance.”
This works because: This answer indicates that you don’t view work as just a thing that has to be done, but rather as a source of pride and accomplishment. It highlights your intense drive to expand your skills and improve the quality of your work. It shows your humility and how, while seeing yourself as a professional, you never stoop to boasting or resting on your laurels. Instead, you display a strong work ethic by always striving to better your performance.
“What makes me unique is my ambitious drive and inability to function without continuously striving for and achieving new goals. Having worked at two industry-related businesses in the past 10 years, I’ve been promoted six times thanks to my diligent self-challenges, adherence to setting and achieving each of my goals, and ability to act on initiative with minimal guidance. In the shorter term, my ambition makes me well suited to complex, high-priority tasks, as I’m driven to meet briefs and deadlines, while constantly upping my skills and standard of work in the process.”
This works because: This answer highlights how you are unable to function without continuous challenges and goals, a clear indication that ambition is inherent to your nature. This answer reassures by showing that this drive doesn’t get in the way of your ability to work, as you’ve mentioned that it helps you to meet briefs and task deadlines. It’s obvious you’re a self-starter, self-motivated and able to get the job done with minimal management.
“What makes me unique is my passion for learning and experiencing new things. It’s a passion that’s made me highly adaptable. I get excited about discovering new trends, mastering new tools, and adapting quickly to diverse tasks and situations without skipping a beat. I have a strong belief in my ability to master any skill or succeed on any task, no matter how new or challenging it may seem to me. This belief makes me highly versatile and successful in a fast-paced setting because I don’t waste time doubting myself or stressing about the newness of things, I simply get them done.”
This works because: This answer clearly links a natural passion (learning new things) to a desirable quality (adaptability). It’s also impressive how you link this ability to trends, new technologies and a fast-paced environment, as these are the definition of most modern workplaces. It’s refreshing to hear that you understand how wasteful a lack of confidence can be. Your own confidence shines through.
Now that we’ve looked at some sample answers, I want to share one critical step that you should ALWAYS take when answering this interview question…
Relate Your Answer to the Employer’s Job Description
Throughout the interview process, your goal should be to show the hiring manager that you’re ready to step into this new position and be successful. Many job seekers don’t realize this, or don’t do this enough.
So when describing what makes you unique, you should really be thinking, “What makes me uniquely qualified for this role, compared to other applicants?” Then briefly explain your unique qualities that will be a positive for this company’s position. Showing relevancy to an employer’s job is more important than overall skills/accomplishments.
So when you answer a job interview question like, “What’s something unique about you?” always try to pick a skill or personality trait that you can relate to the company’s needs. Even if you are changing careers or seeking an entry-level position, look for transferable skills you can point to. Then, to give an even more unique answer, end your response by explaining how that trait/skill will help you perform one or more of the tasks that the job description emphasizes.
You’ll notice this in some of the sample answers above.
For example, the first sample job interview answer above ends with the phrase:
I saw that your job description for this role emphasizes communication skills, and I’ve read about the variety of clients that your business serves. So, that’s one reason I felt I’m a strong candidate for the role…
This interview question isn’t just about you; it’s about how you can help the employer and the hiring manager. You’ll out-perform most other job seekers in the interview if you explain to the hiring manager why your skills are a fit for their job description, specifically. That is one of the best job search tips I can give you overall, and it goes far beyond answering this one interview question. For all of my best interview tips, read this article.
Sample Job Posting for “What Makes You Unique”
Let’s take a look at the sample job posting below to see how you can relate your answer to a specific job description :
Requirements: Excellent written and verbal communication skills, ability to create compelling SM content, strong PM skills, ability to manage multiple projects and priorities simultaneously, creative thinker, innovates bright new ideas for SM campaigns, SM analytics experience, and ability to make informed decisions based on SM data analysis.
This role has a number of skill requirements so the question “What makes you unique?” should be answered in a way that incorporates all of these skills but is also concise, as follows:
“What makes me unique is my ability to stay focused, effective and creative under pressure. I’m able to generate consistently strong original ideas for social media posts and campaigns, even while managing multiple social media calendars and goals at once. I collate advanced analytics from a wide range of sources to set the right goals and generate the right impact at the right time. I draw on my innate talent for communication to adapt to diverse audiences and strike a chord through my messaging, whether that messaging is aimed at social media audiences or my team.”
Avoid Vague, Non-Specific Answers
When answering this interview question, it’s best to give detailed, specific examples of what makes you unique. Notice how in the sample answers above, narrow and precise skills were named. For example, speaking to large groups of people. Or taking an engineering-minded approach to product design. Go back and review those sample answers above if you skipped them previously.
The bottom line is:
In general, when answering, “What makes you unique?” you want to avoid general claims like, “I’m a hard worker” and instead be more specific. Why does this matter? First, every job seeker claims to be a hard worker. They make many general claims like that. Hiring managers are tired of hearing it and it’s become rather meaningless. Second, a general, non-specific answer doesn’t paint a clear picture in the hiring manager’s mind of how you’ll help them if you’re hired for the position. Give more specific examples to show why you’re truly the best candidate. Instead of saying, “I’m a hard worker” (which is not unique at all) you could say:
One thing that makes me unique is my organizational skills. I get excited about anything to do with organization. I love creating systems, templates, and other tools to save time and make me more effective at work. In my last job, I used this to save two hours per day by creating a new scheduling and follow-up system for interacting with customers.
This answer demonstrates much more to a hiring manager than a general claim like, “I’m very organized.” Employers will believe your claims and understand your claims more if they hear concrete examples, so try to give an answer like the example above. In fact, the concept above is some of the best interview advice and career advice I can give you in general, even beyond this one interview question.
Share more detail and be more specific in your resume, your interview answers, your cover letter (if you send one), and you’ll make more hiring managers see you as an ideal candidate.
Take Your Time When Answering
There’s no need to answer too quickly or rush your response when you’re asked what makes you unique. This is a tricky question and it’s completely acceptable to say, “That’s a great question. Let me think for a second. I want to give you a good response here.” Doing this gives you time to consider the company’s values, the hiring manager’s attitude/personality, any topics or job requirements you’ve already discussed in this job interview, etc. So take your time articulating your answer to this question. It’s not a race to answer, and you can’t take something back once you’ve said it!
Conclusion: Answering the “What Makes You Unique?” Interview Question
If you read the tips above, you now know how to answer, “What makes you unique?” You can share key skills, personality traits, or any other unique professional or personal qualities that show how you’ll be prepared to perform well in this employer’s job. The important thing is to be specific and share concrete examples.
If you’re showing an employer that you understand their needs (from the job description) and showing exactly how you can help them, then you’re giving a good answer.
Related questions and sample answers: