When you apply for a job, there’s a good chance many of your skills and personality traits overlap with other candidates who have applied for the same role. At the same time, there are certainly experiences and abilities that you uniquely possess.
To identify what sets you apart from other professionals in your field, employers might ask the popular interview question, “What makes you unique?”.
Use this opportunity to expand on relevant qualities that make you the best fit for the position. By preparing an honest, informative answer, you can help the employer recognize the valuable assets you’ll bring to their organization.
Here are some helpful tips and examples to help you determine how to answer “What makes you unique?”
Why interviewers ask “What makes you unique?”
Employers often include this question to identify what skills or qualities 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 for the role, why should they hire you instead?
A second reason employers 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 upon. The employer is looking for exceptional strengths or soft skills you might not have included in your resume or application but will help you do well on the job.
Tips to prepare you for this question
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 you can do to help you identify your most relevant, unique traits:
- Consider what the employer may find valuable.
Employers want candidates who will bring 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.
- Look to 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 may be their ability to perceive when someone is unhappy and quickly mobilize a strategy to diffuse and address their concerns.
- Acknowledge your most popular personality traits.
Consider strengths highlighted by previous employees and traits your friends and family have celebrated. 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 has allowed you to remain calm and collected in high-stress scenarios or your determination to meet goals despite outside pressures or setbacks.
- Remember: You don’t have to be a 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 uncommon but this valuable skill may be enough to set a customer service candidate apart from other applicants.
Pro-tip: 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 collaborate…” 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.
Related: Top 16 Interview Questions and Answers
How to answer “Tell us what makes you unique” (with examples)
Here are a few sample responses to help you determine how to answer “What makes you unique?”:
“My natural ability to organize effectively makes me unique. In my previous role as an administrative assistant, I came up with a plan to reorganize the office supply closet by category. Because items were easier to find, we placed fewer orders and saved 30% on office supplies year-over-year.”
“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.”
“What makes me unique is my experience of four years in retail. Because I’ve had first-hand 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.”
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.