How to Answer Interview Questions About the Competition

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What makes you better than the competition? Is it your work ethic? Your education? Something else? During your interview, it's important to be able to share information on why you're the person who should be hired for the job.

Separate Yourself from the Other Applicants

It's not uncommon for employers to receive hundreds of applications from eager job seekers, with most of them meeting some or all of the job requirements. Employers make hiring decisions by comparing these various candidates. They may ask you to help them decide by asking you to explain what’s so distinctive about you as an applicant, or advantageous about hiring you, during a job interview.

In most cases, you’ll have no idea who you’re 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

In order to give a solid answer to this question, it helps to be prepared before you go to the interview. Start by analyzing the requirements for the job and decide which ones appear to be of the highest priority. 

You can find this information in the job description – look for qualifications or job requirements. Reviewing this information will give you some cues about what the organization values most from candidates. Some of the qualifications will be mandatory for the job, and some may be suggested – be sure to look at all of them.

If the job listing is short on substance, then look for advertisements for similar positions on major job sites to discern a pattern for employer preferences. What are the most common requirements and qualifications?

Using the information you’ve collected from the job listings, make a list of the top five qualifications for the ideal candidate. Review that list and try to think of how you’ve previously applied those skills, qualities, or areas of knowledge in your current or previous jobs, or other related positions.  Make sure to choose those skills and qualities that helped you make a strong contribution in your paid employment, internships, volunteer work, academics, or activities.

Best Answers to the Question

Be prepared to reference each of your assets and be able to describe situations where you used those strengths along with the positive results you helped generate. Or you can describe how your organization has benefited from your actions. 

For example, your answer might begin with an acknowledgment like, "Of course, I’m 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, even if it’s not listed in the job description.  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 of Your High Points

Now that you’ve done all this work, you may want to type up the list and print out a copy to offer to your interviewer. That way, if they miss any part of your spiel, they'll be able to look back on the document post-interview.

More Tips for Your Interview

You want to make a great first impression on your interviewer, and that includes your appearance and demeanor. If you’re not used to job interviews, you may feel a bit nervous, which is only natural. You can reduce your jitters by preparing properly. Review potential job interview questions and rehearse your answers. It can help to ask a friend or family member to pose as the interviewer – he or she can read the questions to you, and you can answer.

It’s also important to look the part and choose clothing that’s appropriate for the interview. You don’t want to show up in jeans and a t-shirt for a job where you’ll be wearing a suit or business casual attire. If you’re not sure what type of clothing is appropriate, you’re better off choosing something a little more business-like. If you get the job and the workplace doesn’t have a dress code, you can ‘dress down’ if that’s what most other employees wear.