Answering “Makes You Unique?” In an Interview (Samples)
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Dr. Seuss knew it and so do you.
Yet, how do you handle a question from a potential employer who wants you to describe what makes you unique?
Here’s a sample question one company asked potential hires: “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”
It can be challenging to list your uniqueness and avoid sounding like every other candidate or overstating your qualifications in a way that makes you sound pompous. Here are a few ways to discuss what makes you unique in an interview, along with what to not to say.
Why Employers Ask What Makes You Unique
Companies that ask this question are typically trying to get a glimpse of your personality. Hiring manager after hiring manager can likely attest to receiving the same type of job application with the same type of verbiage over and over. Your answer to this question can help you stand out from the other candidates.
Asking a question like this one can take a candidate out of their professional posture and into a more lighthearted and personal demeanor. A job seeker can showcase some of their personality and may even be able to share a unique skill set the employer would otherwise not know about.
Asking this type of question provides a nice break from most interview questions, allowing an employer to see another side of you, and allowing a job candidate to relax a moment and think creatively.
How to Answer “What Makes You Unique?” in an Interview
Draw from your experience.
Share with your potential employer a singular accomplishment in your background, or expand on an achievement from your resume, especially if it demonstrates qualities that are transferable to the job you’re going after.
Whether it’s an anecdote that says a lot about your work ethics, a project that shows off your leadership traits, or an undertaking that offers evidence of your ability to multitask, seize the opportunity to shine.
“I have a unique ability to lead and grow a team. As a manager, I invest in my employees personally and professionally. My last team had zero turnover for three years.”
Mention what others have said about you.
Another great way toot your own horn without actually having to do so yourself, is to relay what past colleagues have said about you.
This provides a window for shifting the emphasis away from your own self-assessment while also giving you the opportunity to bring up your best job references.
“My coworkers always say I have a unique ability to be calm in any situation. When things get tough, or there’s lots of change, I’m able to see the positive.”
Share a relevant personal experience.
Relevant is the key word here. By asking what makes you unique, hiring managers are giving you a little bit of rope so you can let loose about your special qualifications. But don’t hang yourself!
Stay on topic and be very specific. If discussing a travel experience, for example, capitalize on it to demonstrate how that experience helped you use or develop skills that you can bring to your prospective position.
“I enjoy traveling and experiencing new things—10 countries and counting! I’ve learned to adapt to new and sometimes uncomfortable situations, communicate well, and have patience when things go wrong.”
Demonstrate your company knowledge.
One way to discuss what makes you unique is to turn it around and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate what you know about your potential future employer.
Research the company, and when presented with a question about why you’re unique, demonstrate that it’s because you’ve thoroughly researched their brand and their solutions.
Let your prospective employer know how they would benefit from your understanding of the company’s position in the marketplace, as well as any creative ideas you have for the future of the company or your prospective position.
“I go above and beyond in my job search. I read your CEO’s article on X product, and I know the company is a leader in the X industry. I’m impressed with what I’ve read!”
What Not to Say
While this question provides you with a lot of opportunity to take your answer in a variety of directions, there are some things you should avoid doing and saying.
Be careful with sarcasm.
While adding a little humor into your answer isn’t a bad idea, proceed cautiously with sarcasm. Even if it’s very true to your personality, it can be difficult to determine tone at times. The last thing you want is a hiring manager to be put off by your response because they didn’t understand you were being funny.
Don’t get too personal.
Maybe you want to mention your great parenting skills or your resilience in dealing with a health issue. However, it’s best to leave these topics out of your answer. Not only is it illegal for interviewers to ask questions about your marital, parenting, or health status, it can also lead to discrimination, whether intentional or not on the part of the hiring manager.
Don’t be too vague or generic.
Answering a question about what makes you unique should lead to a unique answer. A hiring manager doesn’t want to see the same old “I’m a hard worker” responses. Dig deeper to think of something you truly do well that maybe others struggle with.
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Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
Originally published December 28, 2015 and previously updated December 22, 2016.
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