During a job interview, there is a good chance the interviewer may ask what makes you unique. While many of your skills and personality traits may overlap with those of other candidates who have applied for the same role, there are experiences and abilities that you uniquely possess that you can highlight in your interview. By preparing an honest, informative answer, you can help the interviewer recognize the valuable assets that you can bring to their organization.
In this article, we explore why interviewers ask about your unique traits, discuss how to answer this interview question and provide some examples to help you prepare.
Why interviewers ask “What makes you unique?"
Employers often include this question to identify the skills or qualities that make you a better fit for the role than other candidates they might be interviewing. In other words, if dozens of other professionals with nearly identical skill sets have also applied, they want to know why they should hire you.
A second reason employers may ask this question is to understand what you value about yourself. The things you emphasize in your answer may also be critical strengths you're continually working to improve. The employer is looking for exceptional strengths or soft skills you might not have included on your resume or application but will help you do well on the job.
Tips to prepare you to answer "What makes you unique?"
When the interviewer presents you with this question, you can use the opportunity to expand on relevant qualities that make you the best fit for the position. For instance, instead of trying to identify a feature that distinguishes you from all other applicants, focus instead on why hiring you would benefit the employer. Since you don't know the other applicants, it can be challenging to think about your answer in relation to them. Addressing why your background makes you a good fit will let employers know why your traits and qualifications make you well prepared.
Here are four things that can help you identify your most relevant, unique traits:
- Consider what the employer may find valuable
- Use examples from your background and previous experiences
- Showcase your most popular personality traits
- Realize that you don't have to be one-of-a-kind
Consider what the employer may find valuable
Employers want candidates who will offer a perspective, skill set or ability that will help them achieve business goals. Take time to carefully review the job description and look for information about specific objectives the employer is hoping the new employee will meet, then identify the strengths you possess that align with these needs.
For example, if you're applying for a team management position and the job description highlights the company's drive to facilitate cross-department communication, you might share your ability to bring people together around a common goal and create drive in a group setting.
Use examples from your background and previous experiences
Think back on times you were successful in previous positions or times you were praised or rewarded by your employer. What did you do to earn recognition? What traits, skills or abilities helped you achieve success? Whatever you accomplished is likely something other employers would also appreciate in a new employee.
For example, a particularly gifted sales professional may have experience handling unhappy clients or bringing back lost accounts. In this case, their unique skill set may be the ability to perceive when someone is unhappy and quickly mobilize a strategy to defuse a problem or address concerns.
Showcase your most popular personality traits
Consider strengths highlighted by previous employees or traits your friends and family celebrate. Then, look for ways you could apply these aspects of your personality to excel in the job.
For example, let's say other people have recognized you're patient and dedicated. In this case, you could share how your patience and persistence have allowed you to remain calm, cool and collected in high-stress scenarios or your determination to meet goals despite outside pressures or setbacks.
Realize that you don't have to be one-of-a-kind
Don't let the word “unique” confuse or intimidate you. While employers are looking for interesting skills, they don't expect you to share something that's unlike any answer they've ever heard—especially if it's not relevant to the job. For example, if you're applying for a customer service position, the employer probably isn't interested in hearing about your unique trapeze skills.
Alternatively, fluency in multiple languages might not be especially common, and this valuable skill may be enough to set a customer service candidate apart from other applicants.
If you've received peer or manager feedback that highlights some of your strengths, you could include this in your answer. This can provide further evidence for the traits you claim to have. For example, you might begin your response by saying: “In my peer feedback, I've been regularly recognized for my ability to...” You can then go into more detail.
When answering any interview question, use specific details or real-life scenarios whenever possible. The better you demonstrate your abilities through examples, the more memorable and reliable your answer.
How to answer “What makes you unique”, with examples
Everyone has something special that makes them an ideal candidate for a job. By identifying your unique strengths and composing your talking points before your interview, you can be prepared to communicate why you're a great fit for the job. Use the following steps as a guide to effectively answer this interview question and increase your chances of getting the job:
- Connect your answer to the job requirements
- Perform a quick self-assessment identify your strongest skills
- Show the interviewer how you can benefit the company
- Provide specific examples from your past work experience
1. Connect your answer to the job requirements
While the interviewer is looking for your unique skills and traits, they will also be looking for how your skills and qualifications match with the job requirements. Use your answer to highlight the skills you'll need to be successful in the job.
Example: “My natural ability to organize effectively makes me unique. In my previous role as an administrative assistant, I came up with a plan to re-organize the office supply closet by category. Because items were easier to find, we placed fewer orders and saved 30% on office supplies year after year.”
2. Perform a quick self-assessment to identify your strongest skills
Make a list of your most unique and strongest professional traits. For example, soft skills like emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and communication skills are traits that you can use to showcase your unique abilities to navigate the workplace.
Example: “What makes me unique is my ability to easily empathize with and relate to people. This skill helped me in my previous role as an account executive in charge of prospecting new accounts. Because I was able to quickly identify and understand their pain points and challenges, I was able to establish trust and build relationships—both of which drove me to consistently exceed my quota.”
3. Show the interviewer how you can benefit the company
Employers want to know what your skills and qualifications can do for their company. Focus on how your unique characteristics will bring value to the company you're interviewing for. For instance, instead of explaining that you are a quick learner, relate how this can be an advantage to the organization.
Example: "I've always been an extremely determined learner, especially with new technology and new skills that can help me be more effective at my job. In a new environment, I typically work with my supervisor to find out exactly what the company needs from me so I can initiate projects and tasks that help the organization achieve important objectives."
4. Provide specific examples from your past work experience
Give the interviewer a detailed answer that highlights your unique experience. For instance, make your years of experience more unique by describing your development of creative solutions, techniques for handling conflict or approaches to taking on leadership responsibilities.
Example: “What makes me unique is my experience of four years in retail. Because I've had firsthand experience fielding shoppers' questions, feedback and complaints, I know what customers want. I know what it takes to create a positive consumer experience through marketing."