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Interview

What Makes You Unique?

Interviewers like to assess what differentiates candidates from one-another.  This can be done by not only looking through their resumes, but also by asking the candidates certain personality questions.  These questions require the candidate to answer honestly and directly.  They also give the interviewer a direct answer as to why they should hire you over another candidate.  When an interviewer asks you, “what make you unique”, they want to get a deeper sense of you as an individual and not just a bland description of your resume.

These personality questions are typically difficult to answer on the spot.  This is one of the reasons that interviewers love asking it, they want to get a candidates honest and candid response.  By asking personality questions, interviewers are able to assess the differences between candidates, particularly when the candidates have similar and closely related work experience and education.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

Interviewers typically interview multiple candidates for a single open position.  With over 36 applicants per open position, it can be difficult to differentiate the candidates.  Most employers only have a candidate’s resume and cover letter to base their decisions on.

This is why interviews are so important.  The interview process is meant to be a conversation between the interviewer and the candidate.  Both parties should be active participants, asking and answering questions and engaging with one-another.

Interviewers like to see a candidate’s personality and to understand what kind of person they are.  They want to see if the candidate would be a good cultural fit with the company and the team.  In addition, they want to see if they will be able to handle the stresses of the position and if they will be able to handle needs of the position.

While a candidate should expound upon their work experience and educational history, there should be an added focus on personality.  Candidates should be enthusiastic, personable, and dynamic.  They should engage with the interviewer and convey a deeper sense of themselves.

When an interviewer asks, “what makes you unique”, they are in-essence asking “why should we hire you over the other 35 applicants?  What differentiates you from the rest of the field and what can you say right now to help sway our decision?

How To Answer This Question?

We consider this question to require a hybrid answer.  While you will want to discuss previous work experiences and accomplishments, you will also want to provide a sense of personality as-well.  This will help to show the interviewer who you really are and why they should hire you.

While there is no correct answer, it is best to have a few positions and accomplishments listed that you can reference.  These shouldn’t be run-of-the-mill accomplishments.  Rather, you should reference strong, quality accomplishments that other candidates may not have.

In answering the question, do not be afraid to reference personal triumph either.  You can speak to how you have handled extraordinary conditions while withering difficult surroundings.  These personal triumphs should always be tied to a professional victory or accomplishment.  The point is to truly show the interviewer why you are the best candidate and how your past accomplishments reflect that.

Lastly, this is a great question to reference the STAR Method.  We’ve discussed in-depth the STAR Method for answering behaviorally based questions.  You should describe the situation at hand, the task or assignment you were given, the actions you took to resolve the situation, and the result of your actions.

Simply regurgitating what is written on your resume will not be a good response to this answer.  The interviewer is looking for a deeper, more robust answer.  They are fully capable of reading your resume on their own, they don’t need you to read it out loud to them.  Rather, they want to get a sense of your work accomplishments and your personality.

Talk About Accomplishments

While interviewers want to get a sense of you as an individual and not just a candidate, they are also looking to ensure that you will be able to complete the responsibilities of the role.  You should begin your answer by discussing big, major accomplishments of yours.  Preferably, these accomplishments should have occurred within a work environment.

However, simply stating an accomplishment or win won’t be enough to answer the question fully. You will want to showcase how you achieved this accomplishment.  You should go-over what actions you took, what steps were needed, and why your assistance, input, and actions were instrumental.

Talk About Your Past

Another way you can approach this question is by discussing your past.  While you don’t want to get too personal, you can discuss certain levels of hardship and difficulties you faced.  These hardships and difficulties should explain your fortitude and how you were able to move past them and allow those experiences to make you a wiser, more experienced individual.

Talk About Specific Skills

Do you have a skill or are you knowledgeable about a certain topic that not many other candidates have?  Then this is the perfect time to bring it up!  The interviewer wants to know something about you that makes you unique, something that is different and that not every candidate may have.

These skills will not only answer the interviewer’s question, but it will also make you a more memorable candidate.  Providing an answer which is different from the rest of the applicants will help elevate you in the interview process.

Talk About Specific Personality Traits

In addition to discussing previous work experiences and win, you want to tie in personality traits.  This will help to humanize you and make you a more empathetic candidate.  It will also help the interviewer to get a better sense of you as an individual and determine how you would fit in with the rest of the team.

However, if you do bring up personality traits, you will want to be specific.  Don’t simply say, “I am a patient person.”  Rather, state how you are patient and what specific examples in your professional life have shown that you are a patient person.  You want to provide detail and substance.

Examples “What Makes You Unique” Answer

Example 1:

“I fully understand that other candidates may have more experience or a higher level of education than I do.  However, in my 5-years of management experience, I transformed my department into one with the highest retention rate and the department with the least amount of budgetary errors.  We have steadily climbed through the ranks and are the most efficient department and our productivity has increased over 21% year-over-year.  This is a direct result of my contributions and management of the team.  I have worked diligently with each member on the team and am proud of the work that we have accomplished.”

Example 2:

“I have worked tirelessly through college and beyond, supporting myself from the age of 16.  My parents were absent from my life, but I understood the value of hard work and perseverance.  In college, I graduated top of my class in a STEM field and received a prestigious internship offer.  I am fully confident that any task or role that is presented to me will be accomplished exceptionally and fully.  I am the hardest working individual I know, and I know that if given the opportunity here I would be able to prove myself.”

Example 3:

“I have a thorough history and understanding of finance and accounting.  Growing up, my family had difficulty managing their finances and understanding the financial literature available to them.  Watching them struggle with bills made me more empathetic towards the plight of others in similar situations.

Example 4:

“I went to college and majored in both finance and accounting, graduating magna cum laude.  I have taken previous positions which have allowed me to service households in similar positions as my parents and am proud to say that I have assisted over 200 families in budgeting and saving.”

What NOT To Say

As important as knowing how to answer the question, there are a number of answers you should not provide.  While the question may be asking what makes you unique, you want to continue to maintain a professional environment and atmosphere.

When answering this question, you want to focus on accomplishments you’ve made at work or school and certain personality traits that make you a more capable employee.  The below answers don’t provide either of those conditions and should not be mentioned during the interview.

  • Anything sexual or explicit
  • Anything illegal
  • Anything egotistical or discussing yourself too much
  • Talking about deeply personal problems
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Discussing anything against the company or a former company
  • Discussing harmful or threatening acts you may have done
  • Answers which criticize the other candidates for the role

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