You’re in a job interview and the interviewer asks you the question “What makes you unique?” What do you do? Can you tell them about the fact that you are a professional tea taster in your spare time? Or that you like to wake up at 7:02am?
Those are not the types of answers an interviewer is looking for. When an interviewer asks you about what makes you unique, they are looking to learn more about why you, specifically, are a good candidate for this job.
In other words, the interviewer wants to know more about the skills and experience you have that uniquely qualifies you for the position.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how to answer the interview question “What makes you unique?” We’ll also walk through a few example answers to help you prepare for this question.
Why Interviewers Ask “What Makes You Unique?”
There are a few reasons why this question has become so common in interviews.
First, this question allows an employer to get a better sense of the unique value you bring to the table. If five people have been accepted into an interview who all have comparable skills, for instance, the employer will want to know what they will get by hiring you instead of one of the other candidates. What distinguishes you from others?
This question also gives you an opportunity to discuss the soft skills that you may not have written about in your resume or cover letter. Employers are looking not only for you to have the right background, but also something else—like an extraordinary organizational habit—that will help you do the job effectively.
How to Answer “What Makes You Unique?”
To answer this question effectively, your goal should be to focus on why hiring you is a wise move. So, instead of talking about a unique character trait you have, you should try to anchor your answers to the company and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Here are a few tips you can use to help answer this question:
Tip #1: Think about the company and role
This question is not about listing ways in which you are unique—everyone has their own qualities that nobody else has. Hiring managers ask this question to learn more about what makes you a unique candidate for the job. They want to know what attributes do you have that make you a valuable asset that other people do not have.
The best place to figure out your value proposition—what makes you uniquely valuable—is to read over the job description and ask yourself how you align with its contents. What skills do they mention that are particularly important? Which of those skills do you have?
The more time you spend researching the company and the role, the easier you will find it to match your skills to those on the job description.
Suppose you are applying for a job as an executive assistant, and the job description asks that you have experience working on a team. If this was on the job description, you may want to tell the company about an occasion where you effectively contributed to a team and went above and beyond to help others on the team.
Tip #2: Conduct some internal reflection
Answering this question is easier if you have spent some time reflecting inward. Before the interview, think about what traits you have cultivated in your past work experience that have made you a particularly valuable employee.
Did your organizational skills help you navigate a big challenge in your last job? Have you spent a lot of time working in high-pressure environments? Did this help you build time management skills?
The best answer to this question can be found by looking inward and considering what traits you think set you apart from the crowd. For instance, you may have experience developing new sales processes that you acquired on your last job. This may have allowed you to develop the unique skill of quickly identifying when an internal process is broken, and being proactive in proposing a solution.
Tip #3: Ask other people
Another way to figure out what makes you unique is to ask other people about what they think your strengths are. Go around to co-workers, friends, and anyone else with whom you have had a professional relationship and ask them this question.
By talking with other people about what makes you unique, you’ll be able to get an outside perspective. For instance, if you were a motivated team member in your last job, your former co-workers may be able to give you a few examples of when you were particularly motivated, and how that had a positive impact on the team and business.
In addition, if you have any performance reviews or appraisals on record, you could use them to help you get a better sense of your skills. Are there any skills that have been highlighted in multiple reviews? Can you recall any instances where your manager has applauded you for using a particular approach to solve a problem?
The information you find in performance reviews and appraisals can help you learn even more about how you have added unique value to an organization in the past, which you can use to inform your answer to this interview question.
Tip #4: Use examples
When you are answering this question, you should try to refer to an example or two from your professional working history.
Suppose your unique skill is being dedicated. Instead of saying “I am uniquely dedicated,” you could give an example of a time when you exercised this skill. For instance, if you are a sales manager, you could say “My dedication to the job allowed me to exceed my KPIs for nine months in a row by 5% each month.”
In addition, if you have any statistics you can mention, you should try to fit them into your answer. This is because statistics allow you to quantify your impact on a business, which will make it easier for the hiring manager to interpret the information you have shared.
Tip #5: Practice your response
The question “What makes you unique?” is one that requires a lot of reflection and pondering. It may take you some time to figure out how best to articulate your unique skills, especially if you haven’t thought about this question before.
So, before you go into an interview, take some time to practice how you are going to respond to this question. Write down your response, say it out loud, and see how you can improve it. Or, alternatively, you could ask someone else—like a friend or a co-worker—to give you their thoughts on your answer, which will help you better refine it.
Example Answers to “What Makes You Unique?”
So far, we have discussed a few tips you can follow to answer this interview question. To give you a better sense of how you can approach this question, we have compiled three example answers.
While the traits you may choose to mention in your response to this question will very likely be different, the following examples should give you a good idea of the type of structure you can employ in your answer.
“What makes me unique is my ability to quickly adapt and learn new skills on the job. This skill was useful in my previous role as a full-stack web developer. Our business decided to shift from using Vue.js to React.js, which I did not know at the time. So, I quickly evaluated what skills I would need to learn, then spent my spare time acquiring those skills so I could be an effective contributor when the transition occurred.”
This is a good answer to the interview question “What makes you unique?” because the candidate has clearly stated their value—adaptability—and backed it up with an example. The candidate also mentioned how they went above and beyond to adapt, which resulted in using their spare time to acquire new skills. This demonstrates a candidate’s dedication to their career, which is a positive trait employers look for.
“My ability to communicate with customers effectively makes me a unique salesperson. In my previous job, I was responsible for managing a roster of important clients. To do so, I liked to develop a personal relationship with each customer, and check in every month even without a prompt, to keep our relationships going. This helped me boost customer retention, and resulted in a number of large orders being placed by existing customers.”
This answer is effective because the candidate gives a clear example of how they have used their communication skills. The candidate talks about how they used their own follow-up practice to help engage clients and discusses the impact this approach had on the two metrics that they were tracking: customer retention and orders.
“I am uniquely organized and enjoy building systems to become more efficient. My previous manager recognized on a number of occasions that my organizational skills have helped the team stay on schedule. For instance, when we were planning an important transition to a new accounting system, my ability to organize our data effectively helped us make the transition on schedule. I was commended by my manager for the work on this project.”
This answer demonstrates that not only is the candidate organized, but also has experience using their skills on an important project. In this answer, the candidate gave a clear example of when they had to use their organizational skills, which will help an interview better understand the candidate’s unique ability to organize.
The question “What makes you unique?” can feel intimidating. Your instinct may be to respond by telling the interviewer about the first peculiar thing you do, but that is not the right way to approach this question.
When you are asked this question, you should respond by talking about the unique strengths and skills you have cultivated that are related to the job for which you are applying. Your response should create a clear link between your skills and the needs of the business.
By following the tips in this article—and by spending some time to introspect on what you think makes you a unique employee—you will be able to craft an answer to this question that effectively demonstrates your value to an interviewer.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.