If you are interviewing for a new job, you may wonder why nearly all employers ask, “What makes you unique?”
One major reason is that employers want to know what talents and strengths you feel you can offer. What valuable and useful qualities can you bring to their open job position?
Asking applicants this question can help interviewers narrow their list of top candidates, so you better have a solid answer.
Why You Need to Be Unique When Looking for a Job
All qualified candidates for a position will have some qualities that make them an attractive choice for the job. You need to identify your specific skills and strengths that most closely align with the position’s requirements. When you do, your ranking moves up the list of leading candidates.
So, before interviewing for any position, make sure you understand the job description and requirements.
By detailing your suitability for being hired in an engaging, concise manner, you can become the top applicant. Strengthen your chances by combining your most relevant skills and work experiences with your strongest personality traits.
And if you have relevant insight about how a specific skill or personal trait can benefit the employer, include this information when answering your interviewer’s questions. Because what you can do for them is really what it boils down to–so tell them!
Interviewers frequently place a high importance on your self-awareness, self-confidence, and communication abilities. If you can easily and effectively discuss your strongest personal and work qualifications, you can improve your chances.
Practice being articulate, definite, and pleasantly persuasive (without any hints of abrasiveness). Only mention skills and traits directly related to the job and show that you understand the company.
How to Identify Your Uniqueness
You can identify your uniqueness in the following ways:
1. Determine the Main Strengths the Employer Wants
Employers seek applicants whose major skills, experience, and personal characteristics best align with the tasks required for a position. They need candidates who can successfully do the job and accomplish the company’s objectives and goals.
As a job applicant, once again, it’s essential to examine the open position’s requirements thoroughly. Then, compare your greatest attributes with them to gauge how strongly you stand out.
For example, if you are interviewing for a job as a marketing manager, look for key skills and qualifications that the employer values, such as digital marketing expertise, project management skills, and team leadership. Then, come up with concrete examples from your past that show you have these skills so you can easily talk about them in your interview.
2. Examine Your Previous Work Experiences and Successes
Did you receive recognition and praise from any of your prior employers for the quality of your work? If you did, recall what tasks or processes you excelled at. If any of them align with the requirements of the potential new job, make a note. When interviewing, you want to include these examples of your former high job performance.
For example, you may have excelled at organizing a project at your previous job. If the job you are interviewing for requires some planning and organizational experience, mention this experience. Recall the various steps and tasks you handled at your earlier job so you can discuss them easily when interviewed.
3. Evaluate Your Outstanding Personality Traits
Identify your most prominent and effective personality traits. Note the personal qualities that your former employers most often praised. Also include characteristics that your family and good friends frequently comment on favorably. Consider ways these traits can benefit performing the new job with expertise and success.
As an example, you may have a high tolerance for work situations that require difficult problem-solving. If you do, let your interviewer know. Patience and perseverance are viewed as highly-rated virtues in many companies. These traits are quite desirable, especially if your new job description includes scheduling travel arrangements or product shipping.
4. Remember that “Unique” Does Not Mean “Odd” or “Extraordinary”
Your new job interviewer is not looking for odd, extraordinary, or irrelevant personal traits in a new hire. In this instance, “unique” means personal qualities and characteristics that can benefit your work performance.
If you are applying for a position as a merchandising manager for a retail business, your excellent tap dancing rhythm is irrelevant. Similarly, while impressive, your proficiency in knitting does not directly align with the strategic planning and inventory management required for this role. You need to mention personal traits that align with the job position, such as strong analytical skills, a keen eye for product trends, and a proven track record of customer engagement.
Understanding the Question
At job interviews, you may encounter different variations of the question, “What makes you unique?”. The employer, HR director, or another interviewer may rephrase the question in multiple ways, including “Why are you the ideal candidate for this job?” or “What makes you the perfect choice for this position?”
Another rephrasing may be, “Why should I hire you for this job opening?” or “Why are you applying for this position?” Still another variation may be, “What can you do for our company?.”
They are all essentially asking, “If we hire you, what can you do for us that another person can’t?”
When preparing to interview for a new position, you should focus directly on the employer and the job description. This can remove doubt or mystery from understanding the interviewer’s question.
Your answer to this question should express how each experience, skill, and trait can benefit your performance as a new hire. You need to impress your interviewer without being excessive or overbearing concerning your relevant attributes.
Tips to Structure Your Answer
Now that you understand why the question is asked, here’s helpful advice and tips for structuring your answer:
Respond with One Experience, Skill, or Trait
To ensure that you answer the question clearly, mention just one of your attributes. You can discuss it in depth by focusing on one outstanding work experience, skill, or trait instead of just listing off a bunch of things without providing any context.
Use Your Attribute to Reveal Your Desire for the Job
By focusing on just one of your attributes, you will have time to discuss how this attribute is related to your passion to excel. You can reveal how you have used the attribute and how you can apply it to the company’s benefit if hired. This can enable the interviewer to see you as a unique and valuable candidate for the job.
Be Attentive to Your Interviewer’s General Focus
From the beginning of your meeting, pay close attention to your interviewer’s focus and approach. If they focus on general aspects of the position, offer a trait that is common in most work situations.
For example, you can talk about your ability to get along with co-workers of different ages and backgrounds. If the interviewer is very detailed during your meeting, offer a more specific quality, like your talent for explaining complex features of a computer program.
Tell the Story of Your Attribute
Can you trace the development of a skill or trait from your earlier learning experiences while growing up? If so, this can impress the interviewer. Many highly developed abilities and traits of adults began as childhood or teenage interests, pursuits, or passions.
This development is an easily relatable example: Your strong early curiosity about computers has grown into full knowledge of specific digital programming techniques. This answer may award you a potential programming supervisor’s position.
Use the “Soft Skills” Approach
Does the company strongly emphasize personal development and betterment in the workplace? If so, you can impress your interviewer by discussing your soft skill set. This may include your constant desire and efforts toward self-development and improvement.
You can also mention courses and discussion groups that have helped improve your workplace.
Remember, there is no need to be too exceptional or strange in promoting your attributes. Just be honest and straightforward without any negative comments.
Example Answers to “What Makes You Unique?”
The best way to prepare how you’ll answer this question is to practice giving different answers. Here are some strong examples to demonstrate how to do this best:
Example Answer 1: Communication Skills
My public speaking ability and communications job experience make me well-suited for managing a large sales department. I also studied speech and was a leading member of my college debate team. This makes it easy for me to direct large staff meetings and conferences. I am skilled at gaining and holding my audience’s rapt attention. I also like to encourage others to take part and voice their thoughts and opinions as well.
Why This Answer Works
This answer works well because it is clear and concise. It also focuses on related experiences in the candidate’s previous work and educational background.
The candidate also explains clearly how gaining speaking skills has enabled addressing large groups today. Encouraging others to join discussions is important to the candidate, which may win the interviewer’s approval.
Example Answer 2: Teamwork Skills
I have a keen interest in promoting teamwork and collaboration. I was a member of many activity groups as a student when I was younger. These experiences taught me the value of collaborating with other group members to form a successful team.
I cannot imagine a highly productive and successful company that does not embrace active teamwork. I have worked as a departmental manager for multiple high-ranking companies, and I know I can contribute value to your company as well.
Why This Answer Works
This answer is concise, definite, and convincing. This job applicant presents their previous experience clearly, explaining how it enabled them to see the great value of collaborating and working in teams for business success. This applicant also displays confidence in their ability to join the company as a leader, based on their experience as a successful departmental manager.
Example Answer 3: Adaptability
My greatest job skill is my adaptability. Due to my parents’ work, we moved to different towns and cities multiple times during my early education. Getting acclimated to different schools, new friends, and unfamiliar neighborhoods prepared me to adapt quickly to new work situations.
For this reason, although my major training and experience is in editorial skills, I have worked in different industries. In my previous jobs, I have often filled vacancies in many different departments, quickly learning the requirements of each new position. I feel that I can bring valuable and versatile experience to benefit your company’s success.
Why This Answer Works
This candidate will undoubtedly make a lasting impression on the interviewer. The ability to express versatility (or “job hopping”) in work experience as a plus is noteworthy. Many companies could see this type of employment background as hindering success. Yet, this candidate can depict this varied experience in a positive light. When seen this way, the applicant’s experience has much more positive value toward winning a new job.
Example Answer 4: Work Ethic
My greatest asset for enhancing the workplace at a new job is my strong work ethic. Our parents always stressed the importance of developing a lasting commitment to work. They taught my brother and me to honor and respect our jobs.
We were taught to respect our superiors, co-workers, and peers. For this reason, I have a high respect and sense of value for any and all companies where I work. I will bring the same high respect and value to your company.
Why This Answer Works
This candidate is very open and honest in answering the interviewer’s question. Placing a high value on a strong, stable work ethic will likely impress the interviewer. Many job applicants today may view this approach as old-fashioned and out of touch with today’s workplace values. Yet, it may win this job for the candidate.
Example Answer 5: Cultural Diversity
I enjoy working with other people from different cultures and backgrounds. I understand that your company is an international business with workers from many varied countries.
I also like learning new languages and can fluently speak English, Spanish, and French. I enjoy learning to communicate, at least in a basic way, in the native languages of my co-workers, and I am currently learning Mandarin. I am confident I can offer and gain much value from your company.
Why This Answer Works
This is an answer to be admired for the candidate’s acceptance of and strong interest in co-workers from other cultures. It also shows the applicant’s respect for a company with a culturally diverse staff.
This answer allows the candidate to share their uniqueness of being multilingual while cleverly mentioning their dedication to continuous learning.
So What Makes You Unique?
A job interviewer’s question, “What makes you a unique candidate for this position?” is a valid and important one. You need to identify and express your unique work experience, skills, and personal traits that you would bring to the team. Strengthen your impact during the interview by reviewing these tips and practicing your answer.
At your interview, be open, honest, clear, and direct in responding. When you do, you may impress your interviewer and soon be a new company staff member.
Don’t forget to check out How To Answer Common Job Interview Questions for even more tips on successfully navigating interview!
Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.