‘Tell us what makes you unique?’ That’s the kind of interview question that can leave you feeling really unprepared. You might even wonder what the interviewer’s angle is. No worries. There’s nothing nefarious going on.
Hiring managers ask ‘tricky’ interview questions like this for a good reason. First, they really do want to know what makes you stand out among other applicants. Then, they also want to see how well you can communicate your ‘unique sales proposition’ aka the skills that make you marketable.
So, how do you answer this question when it comes up? Here are our tips!
How to Answer “What Makes You Unique” Interview Question
Treat this interview question as an opportunity to sell yourself as the perfect hire. After all, the interviewer is eager to hear something:
- Convincing and compelling
- Relevant to the company’s needs
- Different from what you said on your resume
Keeping the above three points in mind, here’s how you should structure your ‘what makes you unique?’ answer:
Pick Your Competitive Strengths
You have a lot of unique characteristics. Maybe you play the guitar right and left-handed. Or you participate in competitive eating contests. Unfortunately, you won’t be on the right track if you use those examples in an interview. You have to dial things in a bit.
Think about what the interviewer wants. In this case, you should add a simple phrase to their question. ‘What makes you unique that also makes you the best candidate for this job?’ Now, you can dial your answer in to focus on something that showcases a unique skill, valuable experience, or viewpoint that you bring to the table.
Share an Example
Take some time to prepare by looking to the past. Think of one or two brief, but powerful examples that really highlight the attributes you are trying to showcase. For example, if your unique ‘strength’ is the ability to stay calm and empathetic even in frustrating situations, share how that panned out.
As you decide which example to use, remember to choose one where your unique attribute benefitted your employer, helped a customer or made things easier for your team. Avoid ego-stroking examples that simply make you look good.
- Good example: Before an important customer demo, your supervisor got stuck in a traffic jam, the projector was glitching, and the clients were growing impatient. You took everyone downstairs for coffee and kept engaged, while the technician fixed the projector and your boss arrived safely.
- Bad example: Your colleague was running late due to a family emergency. Instead of waiting for them, you did the presentation they prepared yourself and took all the credit.
Weave in The Qualifications
Use words and phrases that match the qualifications listed in the job listing as you talk about your unique qualities. Doing so will instantly make the interviewer perk up and pay attention.
Imagine that the job listing mentions four years of experience, and the ability to work in a stressful environment. As you give your example, you might say:
In my five years as a customer service center manager, I’ve learned that even the angriest customers respond well to understanding. I’m happy that I can use my ability to stay calm under pressure, and not take things personally to help customers. It’s always a good day when I start a phone call with someone who is infuriated and hang up with a happy customer.
What Makes You Unique?: Sample Answer
Care for another example that highlights some of the best practices for answering this important interview question? Here’s one:
I’m very proud of my ability to understand and relate to a wide range of people. That attribute has really helped me develop a good rapport with customers and the people I work with. Specifically, as a team leader, it allows me to really understand the personalities of the people that I’m managing. Not only can I learn about their technical skills, but I can also better assess which roles and tasks are the best fit for their personas. This also helps me to help them create career goals that really work for them.
This is a great example to use for somebody who is applying for a leadership position. It especially fits if they will be leading a team that may be struggling to synergize.
Here’s another brief example answer to the “what makes you unique” question. You could give an answer that helps cover for a slight lack of experience. Try something like this.
I have a nearly unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I truly enjoy reading, learning new things, and researching the best ways to solve a problem. When I’m faced with an unfamiliar situation or problem, I put this unique character trait into action by challenging myself to find the best solution as quickly as possible.
You don’t have to panic or stumble over your words when facing this interview question. Just think of it as the interviewer’s way of giving you an opening to share what it is about you that makes you the best candidate for the job. Then, deliver a relevant answer that focuses on a benefit you bring to the table. Don’t forget to match your answer to the job requirements!