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.
“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).
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:
Next, let’s look at some example responses to help you formulate your own answer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…
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.
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.
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!
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:
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked 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.
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