It's often the most-feared interview tactic: “Tell us something unique about you.” Here are some effective ways to answer with confidence.
For recruiters and hiring managers, this is a critical question that provides a great deal of information about the candidate in front of them and carries a lot of weight in the hiring decision. That's why confidently telling interviewers what makes you unique should never be an off-the-top-of-your-head answer.
With so much on the line, you must thoroughly prepare for this question so you can answer it clearly, concisely, confidently, and truthfully - always tying it to the specific job you're interviewing for. This preparation takes time, but it pays off in the end when recruiters remember you over other applicants.
Why recruiters ask what makes you unique
In developing your answer, it's helpful to know why recruiters ask what makes you unique and what specific information they want to hear.
Some hiring managers use it because they believe it's a tough question to answer and candidates generally don't expect it (unless they've read this article and done their prep work). A recruiter may want to catch the person off guard and see how they answer under stress. Again, preparation removes this factor and helps you to be more in control.
Generally, most interviewers want to:
Learn about the skills and experience that you believe are your best strengths.
Discover whether you're a good fit for the position based on your hard and soft skills.
Confirm that you have researched the job and the company and tied your answer to them.
Provide an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates for the role.
Again, good preparation helps you tick off all these boxes when explaining what makes you unique.
How to prepare a great answer
First, research the company and thoroughly review the job description. (Ask for one if the recruiter didn't provide it.) Note the specific skills required for the job so you can incorporate them into your answer. Giving a vague or general answer will immediately signal the hiring manager that you really don't know the details of the job and didn't want to bother to find out. This will quickly rule you out as a viable candidate.
As you develop your answer, begin thinking about how your unique skills and experience will help you excel at the job and how they will help the company grow in its market space. Remember to mention both hard and soft skills. Think about what that employer would consider ideal or valuable attributes of a successful person in that role.
Finally, come up with some concrete examples of how your unique traits and personality made you successful in past jobs and benefitted your previous employers. Use actual numbers or other tangible data to support your examples.
If needed, look over past job reviews for the traits and skills that were rated highly by supervisors and team members.
Take note. Sometimes this question is phrased as, “Tell us something about yourself.” Don't make the mistake of talking about your hobbies or pets. Always present unique qualities about yourself in light of the job you're after.
10 Sample answers to the question: “What makes you a unique candidate?”
The sample answers below are a great roadmap to follow when creating your own specific responses.
"Something that makes me stand out from other salespeople is my experience with the customer marketing journey. Dealing with customers every day has shown me how they think about the overall sales process as well as the actual merchandise they buy. This information can be used to improve marketing campaigns by making sure customers are interested and satisfied at every step of their buying process, including customer support.”
“As a human resources recruiter, I always want to hire the best possible people for my managers. Before every campaign, I meet with them to understand both the hard and soft skills a candidate would need to succeed in their position. I'll even do some mock interviews with managers if they're nervous about talking with candidates. In an interview, my strong intuition and people skills help me to see if the person is a cultural fit as well as being technically qualified.”
“I believe my computer skills help me stand out from other staff accountants. I'm highly proficient with Excel, including the use of pivot tables, macros, and shortcuts. Excel will often crunch numbers faster than some accounting systems, and you can present the data in any number of ways in just a few minutes. This has always been important during audits, but it's also helpful when presenting information to managers who aren't as knowledgeable in accounting or finance processes.”
“My performance reviews regularly recognized me for my strong collaboration skills with my teammates. When there's a conflict about how to approach a task, I'll make sure everyone presents their ideas. Then we'll go through the pros and cons based on the goal of the project, and generally, we come to a consensus. This ensures that everyone is on board and committed to performing their project tasks with a positive attitude. It often also helps us complete work ahead of schedule. I believe this is a key trait that makes me unique from other candidates.”
"One thing that sets me apart from other copywriters is that I have my own blog about how to design chain mail jewelry as well as how to set up and run this kind of business on Etsy. Creating jewelry tutorials requires clear, concise writing which will also be necessary when developing your training manuals. I know how to describe a process step-by-step so readers can follow along without getting confused or frustrated, and not all writers have this ability.”
“As a financial advisor, I take a personal interest in the financial goals of my clients. I listen well, stay focused, and create specialized short- and long-term strategic plans for each individual client since no one strategy fits all. Because of these unique skills, I was able to improve the return on investment for two of my recent clients by over 20%.”
“What distinguishes me from my fellow sales managers are my numerous connections in this industry, which I've worked hard to cultivate. I've strategically joined different professional associations and collaboratives which often share information that can't be found anywhere else - which is critical in the sales arena. Through my connections, I was able to learn about and jump on a lead which landed my company a large client that boosted revenue by $500,000 in one quarter.”
“I'm unique as a programmer because I am continually learning, paying out-of-pocket for many of my courses and taking them on my own time. This is above and beyond what's required for CSE credits. I want to stay up to date on the latest nuances and advancements in writing code, especially for the GUI front-end applications that this company develops. In my current job I was able to find a workaround for a situation based on what I'd just learned in a specialized course which made our systems run 10% more efficiently than they had been.”
“I've recently worked as a lead customer service associate at a retail manufacturing store. This has given me a lot of experience handling unhappy clients, finding lost accounts, and correcting various product-related issues. I'm quickly able to tell when someone is dissatisfied and ready to stop shopping with us so I can quickly take action to address and solve their issues. I think this “people sense” is one of my most unique skills.”
“I'd have to say that my brand loyalty is unique, especially in relation to your company. I have a strong regard for your brand, own all your core merchandise, and know the history of your corporation. I have always wanted to work here because your corporate values align with my personal values. That's important to me. If I'm hired for the position, I will continually put that loyalty to use by convincing potential customers to buy from us rather than our competitors.”
Like the people in these examples, don't be shy about sharing what makes you special and worth hiring over everyone else. This is the acceptable time to “toot your own horn” as the perfect fit for both the company and the open position.
Important things to remember when sharing what makes you unique
Always be truthful. If a lie comes out after you're hired, it will not only cost you your current job but possibly other jobs in the future.
Give specific, concrete answers with examples that can back up your claim of uniqueness.
Be brief but brilliant, staying focused on the job and the company.
In your examples, don't undermine or badmouth others to make yourself look better. Be confident that your unique skills can stand on their own.
Perhaps you've never really thought about what makes you special. If not, start now so you'll be ready for your next job switch or career move.
It can feel like conceit, but in the realm of job interviews, it's anything but that. It's necessary self-knowledge that you must confidently share to stand out from the crowd and get hired.