12 Expert-Approved Responses to ‘What Makes You Unique?’ in Job Interviews

Published:

Interview Questions and Answers

Actionable advice from real experts:

picture of Biron Clark

Author

Biron Clark

Former Recruiter

Contributor

Dr. Kyle Elliott

Career Coach

Contributor

Emily Liou

Career Coach

editor

Hayley Jukes

Editor-in-Chief

12 Expert-Approved Responses to ‘What Makes You Unique?’ in Job Interviews

Published:

Interview Questions and Answers

Actionable advice from real experts:

Biron Clark

Author

Biron Clark, Former Recruiter

Contributor

Kyle Elliott, Career Coach

Contributor

Emily Liou, Career Coach

Image of Hayley Jukes

editor

Hayley Jukes, Editor

Hiring managers interview many candidates for each job, so they want to hear what makes you unique from the other candidates. Lacking an impressive, confident answer can cost you the opportunity.

Drawing from my recruiting experience and insights from seasoned career coaches, this guide offers clear strategies and real-life sample answers to help you articulate your unique strengths effectively.

Highlights

  • Reflect on your experiences to find what sets you apart, aligning it with the job role.
  • Understand the company and role you’re applying for, personalizing your response to show how your uniqueness benefits them.
  • Use concrete examples to demonstrate how your unique quality has contributed to your success in past roles or projects.

Understanding the Question: Why Recruiters Ask ‘What Makes You Unique?

“What makes you unique?” isn’t a trick interview question, and there isn’t one right answer. 

Hiring managers often ask this question to:

  • Assess your company fit.
  • Identify what you bring to the table beyond technical skills.
  • Understand your personality better.
  • Gauge compatibility with the team and organization.

The aim here is to get you talking about what you bring to the company. 

There may be something the hiring manager doesn’t know about you. They want to learn a bit more than what’s on your resume. Maybe you have a unique ability or soft skills that other candidates are missing. 

Even if not, this question is a chance to show that you understand the job description and the employer’s requirements for the role, and then demonstrate why you’re qualified.

The main reasons why recruiters ask this question are to get a better idea about your communication skills, to get your perspective on how successful your career has been so far, and to get a better sense of your suitability for the respective job or organization.

Your response gives a snapshot of your career intentions and showcases your unique skills in a way that aligns with the job. It’s not just about what you’ve done, but how you present it—that can set you apart from the rest.

Pre-Interview Preparation: Expert Tips for Answering ‘What Makes You Unique?

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. 

To feel fully prepared before the interview, follow my advice below:

Self-Reflect and Prepare

Look back at your career or the time you spent in college. What were your biggest successes? What were you proudest of? Some of the top skills or accomplishments you could mention include:

  • Innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Adaptability
  • Social intelligence and conflict resolution
  • Exceptional digital technology proficiency
  • Organizational proficiency
  • Creativity and resourcefulness
  • Public speaking skills
  • Consistent conflict management ability
  • Bias for action
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Strong work ethic
  • Excellent follow-up ability
  • Trainability: the ability to acquire new knowledge effortlessly

EXPERT ADVICE

How to Highlight Your Unique Value in an Interview

Take a moment to reflect on the feedback you’ve received and identify the skills that come naturally to you.

Ask yourself, “What do I excel at that others find challenging?”

Use this insight to articulate how you can add unique value to the team, streamline processes, or innovate solutions. Don’t hesitate to share specific examples in your interview to demonstrate your distinctive edge.

Emily Liou, PHR, ELI-MP, CPC
Career Coach & Job Search Strategist
https://www.cultivitae.com/

Take Your Time When Answering

There’s no need to answer too quickly or rush your response when 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, and any topics or job requirements you’ve already discussed in this job interview. 

Personalize Your Responses

The list mentioned above is great but it does sound generic. In order to impress, you have to explain how that unique skill is going to be an asset for the organization you’re pursuing a job with.

Study the job description and always go through as much information about the company as you can find.

Knowing how your skills fit the job and the company’s culture shows you’ve really thought about your role and where you fit in, which is a step above just doing basic company research.

Bill Burnett, Co-Director of the Stanford d.school says

Don’t just tell them you’re unique, tell them how it benefits them. Explain how your unique skills or experiences can address a specific company need or contribute to their culture.

Customizing Your Response: Align Your Answer with the Job Description

To give you even more clarity, let’s take a look at a job ad and how your response can be personalized within its context.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Develop and curate engaging content for various social platforms
  • Oversee and manage multiple social media projects with overlapping deadlines
  • Innovate and brainstorm campaign strategies with a creative team
  • Analyze social media metrics to guide strategy and decision-making

What You’ll Bring:

  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills
  • Proven experience managing projects with a detail-oriented approach
  • Creative and strategic thinking with a knack for developing unique campaign ideas
  • Proficiency with social media analytics tools and interpreting data effectively

This job description for a Social Media Manager asks for:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to create compelling SM content
  • Strong PM skills and ability to manage multiple projects and priorities simultaneously
  • Creative thinking to innovate bright new ideas for SM campaigns 
  • SM analytics experience

This role has several skill requirements so the question “What makes you unique?” should be answered in a way that incorporates all of these skills:

“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. 

As a part of my past experience, I’ve managed multiple campaigns, adapting my style to address the client’s requirements. I’ve employed innovative approaches and measured their impact to give clients data-driven solutions perfectly aligned with their outreach objectives.”

12 Expert-Approved Sample Answers to ‘What Makes You Unique?’

Here are twelve examples of how you could answer “What makes you unique?”

Example Answer: Communication Skills

“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.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer highlights the candidate’s ability to get along with all kinds of people, as well as their customer service experience. It’s specific while also shedding some light on relevant previous work history.

Example Answer 2: Multi-Disciplinary Approach

“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.

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.”

Why This Answer Works

The ability to apply a set of skills from one industry to another is a unique advantage.

Example Answer 3: Public Speaking Ability

Note: This is an example of one of the “what makes you unique” sample answers for students that will be ideal for people lacking professional experience:

“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. 

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.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer shows some confidence in one’s abilities, even if the candidate doesn’t have an extensive history. It’s detailed and very relevant, perfectly aligned with the skill set the recruiter is looking for.

Example Answer 4: Soft Skills 

“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.  

I’m exceptionally organized in terms of tracking my results, progress, and any trends in my work and output.  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.”

Why This Answer Works

The response uses the opportunity to mention not just one unique skill but a number of those: organization ability, performance evaluation, learning, problem-solving, etc.

Example Answer 5: Leadership

“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.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer pinpoints some unique skills and it also explains how these can be used to achieve growth and performance enhancement within the organization.

PRO TIP

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 feel their job is 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.”

Example Answer 6: Problem-Solving

“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.

I believe my critical thinking and problem-solving will work really well within the fast-paced day-to-day settings linked to this job. I’m confident in my ability to think quickly and make optimal decisions bound to turn challenging situations into opportunities.”

Why This Answer Works

Not only does the answer present the interviewee’s biggest strength, it also emphasizes the fact they’re flexible and ready to get their approach properly aligned with the current processes within the organization.

Example Answer 7: Teamwork

“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 a lot 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.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer shows precisely how the candidate’s unique skill applies to the new work environment. It details specific advantages that the entire team can experience as a result of hiring that person.

Example Answer 8: Work Ethic

“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.”

Why This Answer Works

This candidate expresses confidence in the skills they already have. At the same time, it suggests the person is open to new learning opportunities, something that most recruiters value.

Example Answer 9: Ambition

“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.”

Why This Answer Works

Apart from pinpointing unique skills, the answer seamlessly mentions some amazing accomplishments the candidate achieved within their previous line of employment.

Example Answer 10: Adaptability

I have a strong 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/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.”

Why This Answer Works

This answer tells the recruiter that the candidate is willing to do whatever it takes to optimize their performance within the organization. An eagerness to learn is incredibly valuable, being open to new ways of doing work often trumps other specialized skills.

Example Answer 11: Growth Mindset

“My biggest strength is the growth mindset I’ve always had. It has kept me curious and open to new opportunities. Throughout my professional journey, I’ve been eager to learn and evolve. I really enjoy acquiring new skills and finding a practical application for the know-how ‘ve accumulated.

This mindset has enabled me to continue evolving. I’ve used every mistake as a stepping stone that has taken me closer to my ultimate career goal. Even today, I continue cultivating unique skills that make it easier to pursue unconventional career paths reliant on out-of-the-box thinking.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer is especially well-suited to the needs of people looking into non-traditional career paths. It demonstrates an open mind and a desire to keep on learning that can prove to be exceptionally valuable career-wise.

Example Answer 12: Empathy

“I used the time spent away from professional settings to strengthen my soft skills, especially empathy. The volunteering work I did over the past year helped me sharpen my understanding of others, their motivators, and the ways they pursue goals.
I am confident in my ability to collaborate and motivate coworkers to perform to the best of their ability. My skills make me very good at reading people and situations accurately, and identifying opportunities and risks whenever these manifest themselves.”

Why This Answer Works

The answer is a great choice for someone attempting to re-enter the workforce after a break. It tells the recruiter how the candidate used their time off to acquire skills and also demonstrates a proactive approach toward seizing new opportunities.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls: What Not to Say When Asked ‘What Makes You Unique?’

EXPERT ADVICE

Dr. Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES
Tech & Interview Career Coach
caffeinatedkyle.com

Avoid the Trap of Only Listing Qualifications

One of the biggest mistakes interviewees make is only sharing how they’re qualified for a role without highlighting what sets them apart from other candidates.

If you’ve made it to the interview stage, it’s evident that you’re qualified, and now it’s your time to showcase how you’re distinct from the other applicants. Importantly, though, you want to back up your claims with examples and results. Anyone can make a claim, but you’ll be a more memorable interviewee if you back it up with a powerful story.

When answering this interview question, it’s best to give detailed, specific examples. Notice how in the sample answers above, narrow and precise skills were named. The bottom line is:

You want to avoid general claims like, “I’m a hard worker” and instead be more specific. 

Why does this matter? Every job seeker claims to be a hard worker. They make many general claims like that. Hiring managers are tired of hearing that every candidate is a hard worker. 

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 and how you can contribute to the organization. 

Example: Instead of saying, “I’m very organized” and ”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 is more compelling to a hiring manager because:

  1. A concrete example has been provided  
  2. It shows that you have read and understood the job description and role
  3. You’ve explained how your uniqueness can add value and contribute to the company

Share more detail and be more specific in your resume, interview answers, and cover letter (if you send one), and you’ll make more hiring managers see you as an ideal candidate.

Other Interview Resources 

For even more interview prep help and to make sure you nail that first impression, check out these extra resources.


picture of Biron Clark

About the Author

Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions. Follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read more articles by Biron Clark


About the Contributor

Kyle Elliott, career coach and mental health advocate, transforms his side hustle into a notable practice, aiding Silicon Valley professionals in maximizing potential. Follow Kyle on LinkedIn.


Image of Hayley Jukes

About the Editor

Hayley Jukes is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerSidekick with five years of experience creating engaging articles, books, and transcripts for diverse platforms and audiences.