What Can You Do Better for Us Than Other Candidates?
Some of the trickiest job interview questions to answer are the ones that are about you—not your skills or experience, necessarily, but who you are as a candidate and a person. One of the toughest questions of this type is: “What can you do better for us than another candidate?” (Another variation: “Why should we pick you instead of someone else?”)
Why is this question so hard to answer? Well, for starters, most people want to be recognized for their unique value, not for how they compare to other people. If you feel this way, it can be challenging when an employer asks you to elaborate on what makes you better than other candidates vying for the job.
Beyond that, there’s the possibility that the question could become a trap. The hiring manager might use it to determine if you have an inflated view of yourself or tend to be overly critical of your colleagues. Remember that part of what interviewers look for is a cultural fit. In most cases, they’ll want to avoid hiring someone who thinks they’re superior to their colleagues or who tends to be overly critical about the people around them.
The best approach is usually to view these kinds of questions as an opportunity to highlight your strengths to the potential employer. Just be sure when you do so, you don't imply that you are better than everyone around you.
What Not to Say When Answering This Question
When asked what you can offer that other candidates can’t, remain positive and avoid answers that make you look arrogant, difficult to get along with, or otherwise overly critical. Focus on what you can do, not what others can’t. Avoid:
- Disparaging other candidates, either specifically or in general terms. Don’t make sweeping statements about the people you imagine might be interviewing for the job. You don’t really know your competition. Even in a group interview setting, you’ll only see the tiniest sliver of what people have to offer.
- Saying anything that could indicate a negative attitude toward the company. You should also avoid projecting negativity toward the company's products, employees, or the interviewer. Sometimes, when people are caught off-guard, they become defensive and fall back on critiquing the person (or company) that’s made them uncomfortable. Take a deep breath and remember to focus on what you can bring to the role.
- Stammering or seeming otherwise out of step. Prepare for this and other typical interview questions and you won’t have to worry about coming up with an answer off the cuff.
Start With a Disclaimer
It can be helpful to start with a disclaimer that you are not aware of the strengths of the other candidates. Also, note that you are sure there are some impressive individuals applying for such an attractive position. After that, you can go on to assert that you have many assets that will enable you to make a solid contribution to the company, should you be hired.
For example, you might say, "Although I am not familiar with the others who you are interviewing for this position, I am sure there are a lot of talented people applying for the job. However, given my unique background and experiences, I consider myself to be a strong candidate for this position."
Follow Up With Your Strengths
After using a disclaimer to avoid the appearance of being overly critical, you can follow up by specifically describing your unique strengths. However, it is not enough to present your strengths in general terms. You need to be prepared to reference six to eight strengths in terms of the skills, past experiences, areas of knowledge, and personal qualities that you bring to the position.
Remember, your presentation will be most convincing if you provide concrete examples of how you have applied your strengths to add value to previous jobs and internships. Depending on the depth of your work experience, you can also draw upon school projects and volunteer work. Be sure to describe situations or challenges, actions you took and the quantitative results you generated by tapping into each of your unique strengths. This may seem like a lot of work, but it's worth the effort if you nab the job.
Before you go to an interview, review the description of the job and identify what responsibilities seem to be most important to the employer. Try to share as many of your attributes as possible that correlate with the core functions of the job.