Interview Question: “What Makes You Unique?”
Best Ways to Answer in an Interview
Are you the right candidate for the job you are about to interview for? The hiring manager will ask a range of questions that will indicate who really would be perfect for the position. Interviewers use a variety of tactics to determine whether you are an exceptional candidate equipped with the right qualities and skill set to excel in the role.
One of the questions you may be asked is, “What makes you unique?” as the recruiter evaluates whether you have elements in your background that are likely to lead to success on the job.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
Interviewers ask this kind of question to understand what specific skills or qualities make you stand out from the other candidates. Essentially, if you are one of many candidates with the same qualifications, why should they hire you over them? The examples you share when you respond will highlight what you like about yourself as well as your level of confidence.
The employer wants to see evidence of strengths and soft skills you might not have included in your resume or application, but that will help you do well on the job. Interviewers ask these kinds of questions to determine whether you're a good fit for the job, but this may also be asked to determine if you are compatible with the organization’s culture. They’re looking not only for indications that you’re qualified to do the work, but also for something above and beyond what the other candidates offer, showing that you’ll be a strong addition to the company.
The interviewer will also note how comfortable you appear answering personal questions like this one. This speaks of your ability to think quickly on your feet, and to prepare for important conversations at work.
How to Answer the “What Makes You Unique?” Question
Before you work out how you’ll answer this question, take some time to research the company and the job. The more you know about the organizational goals of the employer, the better equipped you’ll be to connect your unique attributes to the job. It can be helpful to think of what’s special about you and how those characteristics will enable you to make a strong contribution to the organization.
One approach that can help you to respond genuinely to this question is mixing personal attributes, experiences, or interests with key professional assets. For example, you might mention that you have an unusual combination of interests, like skydiving and coin collecting, while also sharing that you are very attentive to detail.
Be careful not to exaggerate your uniqueness or imply that you are the only one with certain qualities. It’s better to emphasize that you are exceptional or unusually gifted in certain ways. In some cases, it helps to quote others to maintain a modest approach, as in, “I have been told that I’m unusually assertive in a diplomatic way.”
Remember, as with the request, "Tell me something about yourself that's not on your resume," one of the goals of this question is to get to know you beyond your career and your on-the-job attitude and experience.
Examples of the Best Answers
The best answers to this request are honest, brief, and confidently delivered. Your goal is to share something interesting about yourself that illuminates why you are the best fit for the role. Come prepared with a few things to share and be sure to tie them to the skills and qualities that are most valuable in this job.
Something that distinguishes me from many other salespeople is my ability to connect with clients on a human level from the outset, making them feel comfortable and uncovering all their pressing needs around my product. From there, I can present my product conversationally, in light of their needs. I attribute this skill in large part to my gift for small talk to "warm-up" customers, as well as my genuine interest in the sports and news topics of the day.
Why it works: This answer demonstrates the candidate’s ability to win clients over through their excellent interpersonal skills. In the sales industry, this trait is highly valued, as people are more likely to buy a product if they can genuinely connect with the salesperson pitching it to them.
I am unusually well organized and adept at devising systems, which helps me stay on top of projects and plan events. My supervisors have consistently recognized my organizational skills and looked to me to help the team remain on schedule. For example, last year we offered a conference to customers to educate them on our new product line, and I orchestrated the entire event. I was proud of the reviews it received.
Why it works: This answer shows the candidate is not only very organized when it comes to small tasks, but also has a track record of planning high-stakes events with stellar results. Employers love to hear concrete examples of when candidates were put to the test and met or exceeded expectations.
I have an intense curiosity about the world around me, which I convey to my students, and I cultivate excitement about learning new things, especially in science. For example, I developed a unit about the weather and shared my fascination with different types of clouds and the relationship between cloud types and weather patterns. Several of my students were so inspired by this that they asked whether we could meet after class for a weather club.
Why it works: This answer highlights key skills that allow for long-term success within a teaching role: curiosity and enthusiasm. When you share stories that demonstrate your passion for teaching, employers get excited about the prospect of bringing you on board. Always share any extracurricular activities you have organized to underscore your devotion to students and education as a whole.
I have an unusually keen interest in current events and policy. For example, I’m the only person I know who read the entire Mueller Report and took notes about the most important passages, just for fun! Additionally, I am unusually systematic in my approach to work and have received positive feedback about my ability to apply research protocols consistently to a study.
Why it works: This answer shows a passion for research and learning outside of the job, which helps convince the interviewer that you genuinely love this line of work. The answer also highlights your unique approach to research and the positive feedback you have received for it.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
The first step is to analyze the job and itemize the skills, knowledge, experiences, and personal qualities that the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate. Some of these qualifications might be transparent in a well-written advertisement. In other cases, you will need to look at descriptions of similar jobs on sites like Indeed.com and review the LinkedIn profiles of professionals holding similar jobs.
- Make a list of your strengths before you go into the interview, so you know what you will share. Look at the job description and match it with your skills. Then make sure you talk about the top skills that make you an ideal candidate for the job.
- Be honest. It might be tempting to claim attributes that seem like they’d appeal to the interviewer, but if you stretch the truth, it becomes apparent pretty quickly. Get caught in a lie, and the interview will be over before it has even really started.
- Review the skills listed in the job description and relate them to your unique attributes. Then, briefly explain how your skills will boost the success of the company if you were offered the job.
- Share concrete examples from past jobs by referencing accomplishments and results of which you are proud. Did you spearhead a major company event and use your intuition to help you solve problems on the spot and ensure everyone had an excellent time? Share examples by telling a story during your interview.
What Not to Say
- Avoid sharing your weird personal quirks. The interviewer doesn’t want to know that you chew your nails.
- Avoid giving a generic response. “I’m great at researching” doesn’t give the interviewer enough information to work with and doesn’t show them that you are an exceptional candidate.
- Avoid rambling and be concise. While it's important to share an example or two of what makes you unique, be sure to keep it brief. You don’t want the interviewer to think your unique quality is “talking too much.”
- Avoid stretching the truth. It may be tempting to fabricate who you are in the moment, particularly if caught off guard with a more personal question, but it’s much better to stick to the facts.
Typical Follow-Up Questions
- What can you do better for us than the other candidates?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What motivates you?
BE HONEST Don’t claim attributes and skills that aren’t uniquely you.
CONNECT YOUR ANSWER TO THE JOB Use your response to demonstrate skills and qualities that are valuable in the role.
AVOID CONTROVERSY Don’t talk about politics, religion, or anything that could cause offense.
DON’T SHARE TOO MUCH INFORMATION You don’t need to share your odd habits that don’t relate to the job itself.