“What makes you unique?” Answering this interview question

 

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“What makes you different?”, “What differentiates you from other candidates?”, “What sets you apart?” – there are countless different ways of phrasing this interview question, and none of them make it any easier to answer.

In a graduate job interview, employers will be looking for information to help them make a decision on whether or not they should hire you.

“What makes you unique?” is the perfect way to help them differentiate between you and other candidates.

Just like “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”, this open-ended question can be difficult to answer.

In your answer, you will need to discuss your best qualities with confidence, while being careful not to come across as arrogant.

To determine the best approach to answering “What makes you unique?”, lets look first of all at the reasons why employers choose to ask this common interview question.

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Why do employers ask “what makes you unique”?

  • “What makes you unique?” actually translates to “What skills, qualities and experiences make you the best candidate for this job?”

    By asking this question, employers are inviting you to brag about yourself and your best qualities, and tell them what differentiates you from other graduate candidates.

    This is your chance to list the things that make you the very best candidate.

    It’s important to think about 1 or 2 key things (this could be specific skills, qualifications, volunteering, work experience or otherwise) that you know not every candidate will have.

  • The skills and qualities you choose to speak about in relation to the interview question “What makes you unique?” will reveal how much you really know about the job and the company.

    If your answer is completely irrelevant (i.e. you talk about your passion for art in a graduate finance job interview), you’ll be indicating to the employer that you don’t know much about what the job role requires, and therefore are probably not a good fit.

  • Employers also use this interview question to find out how well you can think on your feet.

    Coming up with a “unique” answer to the question will indicate to them that you are able to think outside of the box about why you are the top candidate for the job.

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How do you answer the question “what makes you unique”?

Start by thinking about…

  • A time when you were praised by your manager or a colleague for something you accomplished or completed particularly well.
  • Has a family member or a close friend ever noticed a positive characteristic or personality trait? Are you good at making rational decisions, or do you give good advice?
  • You could consider any non-academic or extracurricular achievements, or an occasion where you have resolved an issue or helped someone, what attributes enabled you to accomplish this?
  • Have a think about what you’re passionate about or particularly interested in.
  • Try not to concentrate too much on the word ‘unique’, the employer is not expecting you to come up with an answer that they’ve never heard of, although that’s great if you do!
  • Choose something relevant and interesting, perhaps use an example that is unlikely to come up at another point in the interview so that you avoid repetition.

What are some example answers for the question “what makes you unique”?

 

Unique example answer 1: being very efficient

“The unique skill that I can bring to your workplace is my ability to pick anything up and get jobs done very quickly and efficiently.

Having already worked at a small startup company before, I am happy to take on additional responsibilities outside of my ‘remit’, and I am always keen to get involved with new areas of the business.

I understand the importance of being open minded and flexible, particularly within a startup environment.”

 

Unique example answer 2: being innovative

“I think one of the main qualities that makes me unique and different from other applicants, is my ability to come up with very innovative ideas.

I have always been a very creative individual, throughout university my ideas were often the final choice in group projects and decisions, and all my friends and family come to me if they need ideas for a fancy-dress party!

I would love the opportunity to bring my creative flare to this role.”

Unique example answer 3: handling situations calmly

“I have the unique skill to give very good advice, as I handle situations calmly and with a level head.

My friends and family often turn to me for guidance, and I recently helped a colleague get out of an awkward situation with an unhappy customer at work.

I have the ability to look at things from a different perspective, applying logic and reason to solve problems, and I think I could be a real asset to your business.”

 

In what other ways can you answer the question “what makes you unique”?

There is an endless number of ways to answer the question “what makes you unique”?

Here are some more ideas to help you out.

Don’t forget to back these up with strong examples, to ensure the employer remembers your answer, over other candidates’ answers.

 

  • Extremely positive mindset – I see the good in all situations which helps to keep the mood up in the office and motivate colleagues to stay optimistic
  • Not afraid to take risks – I have an unusual amount of intuition and I’m not afraid of failure. I believe that learning from your mistakes is a crucial part to make you more successful.
  • Excellent social skills – I am able to read people’s emotions and intentions
  • Have a photographic memory – I love to read and can absorb lots of information and apply things I learn to situations in the workplace, which I am told is a very rare skill
  • I enjoy being unique and not fitting stereotypes – I am confident and have high self-esteem which enables me to throw myself into challenges, as I am not worried about what others think of me
  • My desire to learn – I am hungry to continually build on and acquire new skills and I have a very ‘can-do’ attitude
  • Very high interpersonal and behavioural skills – I enjoy helping and teaching others to be the best versions of themselves
  • The ability to improve and refine processes – in my last role, I improved our marketing processes and increased ROI by 29%

 

Make sure to practice presenting your interview answer to ensure that it flows, and you sound confident.

 

What should be avoided when answering the question: “what makes you unique?

Being negative:

While you want to differentiate yourself from other graduates, this isn’t an opportunity to start undermining other people being interviewed.

Rather than speaking negatively about the rest of the candidates, and why you are superior, focus on speaking about your positive traits and what you can offer.

 

Going off on a tangent:

While this is an open-ended question, it’s best to keep your answer as succinct as possible, and stick to 1 or 2 reasons why you are the best candidate for the job.

Keeping your answer short and sweet will leave the employer with a lasting impression. Find out how to avoid rambling in an interview.

 

Lying to the interviewer:

While you want to come up with something that sets you apart, there’s no reason to lie or exaggerate.

As with all the common interview questions, you will only get caught out in the long-term – especially if it turns out you can’t do the thing you told the employer you could!

 

Variations of the question “what makes you unique?”

  • What differentiates you from other candidates?
  • What sets you apart?
  • What makes you different from everyone else?
  • What makes you stand out from other applicants?
  • What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
  • Why are you different from other candidates?
  • Why are you unique?
  • What sets you apart from other candidates?
  • What makes you different?
  • Share something unique about yourself
  • What makes you unique in 2 sentences?
  • What makes you different from other candidates?
  • Why should we hire you over other candidates?
  • What makes you special?

 

 

Check out our complete guide to answering common graduate Interview Questions here.

Find more Career Advice – or check out the latest Graduate Jobs.

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