How to Answer Interview Questions About the Competition

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What makes you better than the competition? During job interviews, it's important to be able to share information on why you're the person who should be hired.

It's not uncommon for employers to receive hundreds of applications from eager job seekers. Employers make hiring decisions by comparing these various candidates who are applying for a position, and sometimes they will ask you to help them to assess what is distinctive or advantageous about hiring you.


Separate Yourself from the Other Applicants

In most cases, you will have no idea who you are competing with for a particular job, so this type of question is really an invitation to summarize your strengths as a candidate with an emphasis on any assets that might separate you from the typical applicant.

Make a List of the Priority Job Requirements

Start preparing by analyzing the requirements for the job that seems to have the highest priority.  A detailed job description within the listing for the position will give you some cues about what the organization values most from candidates. If the ad is short on substance, then look for advertisements for similar positions on major job sites to discern a pattern for employer preferences.

Make a list of the top five qualifications for the ideal candidate. Review that list and try to think of how you have applied those skills, qualities or areas of knowledge to make a strong contribution in your paid employment, internships, volunteer work, academics, or activities.


Best Answers

Be prepared to reference each asset and to describe a situation where you used that strength and any results you helped generate or how your organization has benefited from your actions. 

For example, your answer might begin with an acknowledgment like, "Of course, I am not aware of the other candidates in the applicant pool, but I can say that my skills in Excel are quite advanced.

I have created complex macros to track seasonal variations in sales and expenses which have helped my department to save money."

In addition to addressing the standard job requirements, try to add a strength that is relatively unique, and would add value.  For example, although foreign language skills might not be listed in the job advertisement, you might mention that your Spanish language skills would enable you to establish rapport with Spanish-speaking clients.

Bring a Copy

Along with rehearsing your points prior to the interview, you may also want to type up the list and print out a copy for your interviewer to keep. That way, if they miss any part of your spiel, they'll be able to look back on the document post-interview.