Preparing to answer the question, 'What makes you unique?'
When interviewing for a job, it's important that you take every opportunity you can to stand out from the other candidates that have applied for the same position. One of the best ways to do this is to prepare answers to commonly asked questions, like 'What makes you unique?' Keep reading to discover why employers ask, 'What makes you unique?' in an interview, how to provide an effective answer, what you should avoid in your response, and some sample answers.
Why do employers ask, 'What makes you unique?' in an interview?
Interviewers usually ask this question because they’re hoping to evaluate the qualities and skills that make you an ideal candidate for the role you’re applying for. Essentially, they’re giving you an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the countless other professionals that have applied for the same role. Aside from using this question to identify what sets you apart, employers are often trying to evaluate what you value most about yourself. The characteristics that you highlight in your answer could indicate soft skills or critical strengths that would be beneficial in the role you’re interviewing for.
How to answer, 'What makes you unique?'
In order to prepare for an interview, it’s vital that you spend some time considering possible questions you’ll be asked and how you should answer them. Follow these steps when preparing a response to the question, ‘What makes you unique?’:
- Consider the position and the company. Before any interview, you should always research the company and study the job description. The details you gather from doing this will help you better understand what the employer finds valuable, allowing you to expertly craft answers to a number of interview questions, not just this one. Make sure that your answer mentions the skills and/or experiences that are listed in the job description.
- Ask for feedback. It can be helpful to get input from others regarding your unique strengths, especially if you struggle with self-evaluation. You could also ask them to detail a time when you exemplified a particular strength, giving you a concrete example that you could pull from in your answer. Aside from getting feedback from others, you could also use peer or performance reviews from your past roles to inform your answer.
- Evaluate your background. Think through the expertise, soft skills, and experiences that you have outside of your career and how they make you an ideal candidate for that particular organization or position. Choose an example from your background, and make sure that you reference the positive results from past roles as well as some of your prior accomplishments.
- Choose specific skills and traits. Mention the personality traits and skills that will enable you to contribute to the company in a positive way and continue to deliver positive results in the future.
- Relate it back to the role. This question in particular may seem like it should be focused on you, but in an interview, you should make a connection between each of your answers and the job you’re applying for. Detail how you could use your unique skills and experiences to help the organization succeed.
What to avoid when answering, 'Tell us what makes you unique'
Here are a few things you should avoid in your answer:
- Dishonesty: It can be tempting to embellish your skills or experience in order to make a good impression, but honesty is much more beneficial, both in the short- and long-term.
- Rambling: Make sure that your answer is focused, concise, and relevant. Use keywords that emphasize your skills and then follow them up with an example.
- Negativity: Don’t undermine the other candidates in an effort to make yourself look better. Instead, focus on your positive traits and how they could benefit the company.
- Being generic: When telling an interviewer what makes you unique, you absolutely don’t want to come off as boring. Avoid generic or overly simplified statements, and try to make your response as compelling as possible.
- Oversharing: Limit your answer to the professional by ensuring that the skills you share relate back to the role and the company.
How to address the question 'What makes you unique?' in 150 characters
You sometimes find this question on an online application, which often means that your response is limited to 150 characters or less. You want to approach this format just as you would if you were answering in-person, just take extra care to ensure that you’re only sharing key information. In other words, refrain from using filler words or rephrasing the question and make sure that you focus on the unique skills that you possess that directly relate to the role you’re applying for.
Examples of effective answers
Here are some sample answers that you can use as a guide when crafting your own response to this common interview question:
I’m an excellent communicator and easily relate to others, regardless of our perceived differences.
I am passionate about learning new things and growing my skill sets, which is why I constantly seek out new development opportunities.
I don’t shy away from failure. Instead, I think it’s a vital part of growth and is an essential feature on the road to success. For example, in my last role, we tried to create more accountability among coworkers but found that we unintentionally slowed down productivity in the process. Instead of scrapping the idea altogether, the experience allowed us to identify the errors in our processes. In the end, we were able to come up with a solution that increased accountability while also boosting productivity by 25%.
What makes me unique is my experience as a teacher and a behavioral therapist. I was able to develop many skills through that role, and it has made me a more effective communicator, manager, and teacher. It also taught me how to remain calm in highly stressful situations. These skills combined have equipped me to become a better leader and customer service representative.