For some, the job interview question ‘What makes you unique?’ can stop you in your tracks. You know you have the qualifications and the skills to do the job, but how are you supposed to know how you’re different than anyone else? The answer is: you don’t have to know, and you don’t have to be Superman to deliver a job-winning answer to this question.
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To come up with a great answer, first you need to know how NOT to answer. The interviewer absolutely does not want to know that you play in a band on the weekends, you can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 30 seconds, or that you have a pet rat.
When interviewers ask, ‘What makes you unique?’ the real question is: Why should I hire you? Or, why should I choose you over the other people I’m interviewing? That’s what you should answer. A personal answer may be interesting, but it won’t help to convince them to hire you. All of your job interview answers should focus on telling them what they need to know in order to say ‘You’re hired.’
Think about what makes you valuable to have in this role and why it’s valuable. Those are the qualities you want to draw attention to, and now is the time to brag about them.
Here are 3 great ways to answer the uniqueness question based on things employers really care about—your background, your experiences, and your personality or soft skills (that pertain to this job):
“My background is a little different from others in the field, which gives me a unique perspective that has allowed me to see solutions that are creative and resourceful. For example, I came up with X solution [tell what it was] to solve Y problem, and it worked out beautifully. [Use evidence in the form of numbers, dollars, or percentages that really highlight the success of your solution.]”
“I believe that my education in X [name your degree or classes here] combined with my work experience in Y give me an especially great advantage when approaching [a typical or critical problem this job addresses]. I draw on both to solve everyday issues and special challenges. For example, in [name a situation], I took [name the action you took] and got [name the results you got—again, in the form of numbers, dollars, or percentages if you can].”
Skill Sets / Personality
If the job description or things the interviewer has said so far let you know that softer skills like communication or organization are important for this job, you can say something like,
“I believe I have exceptional organizational skills. In my last job, I created a new system for task assignments that streamlined our productivity and improved it by 20%.”
This little bit at the end—“by 20%”—transforms what would be a good answer (‘I streamlined our productivity’) to a standout answer. It grabs attention and tells them exactly how much you mattered.
If you have any experience or skills that would make you valuable in this role, now is the time to mention it. Worry less about ‘uniqueness’ and focus on value. Add impressiveness to your answer and make them remember you by incorporating proof of how what you have is valuable, and describe it in terms of numbers, dollars, or percentages.
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