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What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?

Job interviews are a two-way street.  They are meant to be a conversation between the interviewer and yourself and both parties are meant to ask questions to get a better sense of one-another.  However, you likely won’t be the only candidate interviewing for the position.  With a number of candidates applying for, and interviewing with, the hiring manager, they may ask you what sets you apart from other candidates.

Recruiters and hiring managers alike want to get a better sense of all candidates who apply.  That is why there is such a great emphasis on customizing your resume and cover letter for every position you apply to.  By customizing your resume and cover letter, you help the recruiter and hiring manager understand you as an individual. 

Both recruiters and hiring managers receive a plethora of willing, capable, and excellent candidates.  The hiring process, though, is not just about ability.  It is also about how well a candidate is able to articulate themselves and how they will fit in with the corporate culture.  Many employers are keenly aware of their corporate culture and they look to hire individuals that will fit in well with already established guidelines and processes.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

Interviewers want to hire candidates that will not only be successful at the role, but also an individual that will work well with the team.  When an interviewer asks a candidate, what sets you apart from other candidates, they are giving the interviewee the opportunity to sell themselves and their qualifications.

Typically, interviewers will only ask this question to a small list of candidates and those candidates that are the finalists for the position.  The interviewer asks this question and expects a free-form answer, without any guidelines or parameters on how it is answered.  What matters more is the candidate’s ability to sell themselves and prove to the interviewer that their skills, qualifications, and abilities are better than their competitors.

When asked this question, it is best to have a list of prepared answers which typically involve your exceptionalism.  You want to make a direct case and point on how you are the most qualified candidate.  This means you will need to provide the interviewer with actionable, direct, and evidentiary items which truly sets you apart from the competition.

How To Answer This Question

In order to answer this question, you need to really, truly believe that you are the best candidate.  You need to have the confidence within yourself to believe that you are the best candidate and that you would be able to complete the role and tasks associated with it.

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.

Examples on How To 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.”

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