We often get asked how to answer the “What makes you unique?” interview question. It’s an important question that job seekers need to practice because interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially if you feel inadequate or unprepared. As much as it is normal to feel that way before an interview, you can make the situation better by preparing for possible interview questions beforehand.
You have numerous unique traits, and today we’ll help you emphasize them appropriately in an interview. At MatchBuilt, we’ve helped 1000s of candidates navigate stressful interview situations, and for this topic, we’ll share some real-world examples and advice from HR managers, career coaches, and other executives.
What is the best way to answer “What makes you unique?”
Give a no-BS answer, draw from your past experiences, and demonstrate your value while remaining concise and positive.
A hiring manager may ask one of the most common job interview questions: “What makes you unique?”. You may be the best candidate, and it might sound like an easy question to describe your unique skills, but most people will blank out when asked about themselves. It is not to say that you do not know yourself or have a strong personality trait or two, but it can be challenging to find the right words.
At MatchBuilt, we’ve explored other common interview questions, such as “What is your greatest achievement?” “Why do you want to work here?“, “Tell me about yourself,” “What are you passionate about?“, “What areas need improvement?” and “Why should we hire you?” and we invite you to review them as well.
How Are You Different From Others Applying For This Position?
Although it looks straightforward, the interviewer expects more than just your broad positive qualities when answering, “What makes you unique?” They want to learn new things about you that set you apart and understand how good of a fit you are for the job. Strong communication skills and practice by job seekers are paramount to mastering a good answer to common interview questions in the way the interviewer expects.
Further, every interview is different, and the interviewer might not have the exact expectations as the previous one. Therefore, the best advice for anyone facing an interview is to use one’s best judgment, align the best answers or your unique qualities, and tailor them to the job description.
Pro Tip #1: Cara Heilmann, the President of the International Association of Career Coaches, specializing in industry-leading career coaching certifications, suggests a NO BS approach:
Having heard thousands of responses to “Why are you unique?” and its slight iterations, such as “What sets you apart?” and “What is your greatest strength?” – it is rare to hear a unique response.
In my 20 years in HR and talent, ninety-nine percent of the answers to this genre of questions are some regurgitation of the job description. I hardly ever hear a distinct answer.
Recruiting for Project Managers? Everyone’s greatest strength is their ability to align a team and achieve the completion of projects. Trainer? They’re great at keeping the attention of a room and helping people learn. Accountants? They’re incredibly detailed oriented. It is predictable.
The problem with this approach is that everyone sounds alike. But, once in a while, I hear an answer that makes me sit on the edge of my seat. I lean in. Inwardly I smile. Then I hear that voice in my heart that says, “Hey, you may have just found your candidate!”
We all have an internal BS meter, which I feel ninety-nine percent of the time I hear, yet again, someone’s “strength” as basically their ability to do the job well. But my BS meter goes dormant when I hear that one percent of a response when the person is telling me what is truly their greatest strength.
The synchronicity of all I observe falls into place. Finally. Someone knows. Really knows themself. That is the person I want to hire. It is hard to know our core strengths. It is hard to see because it is something that flows effortlessly from our being. We hardly notice it. After ten years as an executive coach, I’ve developed a way to help people uncover their core gifts.
Ask yourself these questions:
Outside of work, since you were young, what have people told you that they admire about you? What did they say they wished they could do like you? What do you see others do and wonder why it is so hard for them?
Notice, it is never one word. (I’m passionate… for example.) But a sentence or two because your unique gifts can’t be folded into a singular word. It is complex and deserves to be described. In your interview, share a few sentences on what makes you tick, then tell the interviewer how this comes out in your personal life. This is the proof point that this is core.
Then, and only then, tell the interviewer how this comes out in your professional life. So dig deep. Spend the effort to discover your greatest claim to fame, your top unique superpower, and be that one percent.
Top 10 Best Example Answers When a Hiring Manager Asks “What Makes You Unique?”
In the tips below, we’ll share specific examples of how to share your unique attributes to show you’re a good fit and an ideal candidate for the job you are interviewing for. To help you learn from the examples we’ll showcase in this section, approach each one with the intended goal so you understand the message you’re conveying with each type of response. Qualified candidates that do thorough company research and review the job description closely before practicing the examples below can make the most of a great opportunity.
Sample Answer #1: Reference the Job Description
The first thing you should do before walking into an interview is to find out what the employer is looking for. By reviewing the job description and comparing it to your last job or previous experience, you can tailor your responses to your prospective employer’s requirements.
“What makes you unique?” sounds like a general question, but the employer expects you to answer it in a way that shows how valuable you can be to the company. The best way to know the duties you are expected to perform is to read the job description carefully and note how the critical requirements relate to your similar experience.
Most of the time, job descriptions will have the skills they are looking for in an exceptional candidate. Therefore, once the interviewer asks you what makes you unique, your interview answers should mirror the requirements using anecdotes from past roles. Remember that you should not simply list the skills or qualities precisely as they are in the description.
A great answer for a coding job might be:
I have the unique ability to focus for long periods of time, so when it comes to reading and coding complex equations, I can knock it out in one sitting or two with limited mistakes.
Be creative and find a way to sell the same skill without mentioning it as it is in the job description. Being creative is also a way of showing your employer that there is more to you than just the skills you mention. How you answer the question will show the employer whether you know what the job requires or not.
Sample Answer #2: Reference Prior Accomplishments
Concrete examples give depth and credibility to any point you make in an interview. They demonstrate how your skill set is helpful to the company or the people you work with. Using prior accomplishments to answer the what makes you unique question also shows that your skills have been helpful in your past experiences.
When applying for a job that’s not in your line of experience, this question will help you show the interviewer how relevant the knowledge you have included on your
An excellent example of a unique answer for a customer service job could be:
Through my extensive experience working in sales, I have developed a strong, persuasive personal style that helps me interact better with clients.
Every candidate has a unique background that qualifies them for the job but articulating that in an interview is what will give them a slight edge in getting the job. Further, don’t forget to mention any relevant accomplishments from a previous job.
Sample Answer #3: Demonstrate Your Value
Every interviewer expects that you research the company you are applying to. You should know the company’s challenges and how they conduct their business to stand out.
The interviewer is looking for someone who will add value to the company through their role and the people they interact with. Therefore, when the interviewer asks you, “What makes you unique?” it is not enough to just state a skill and leave it at that. Instead, could you say that skill and also relate it to how it will help achieve the company’s organizational goals?
A strong example of demonstrating your value in sales could be:
I have particularly strong listening skills, so I can easily understand a customer’s pain point and address it accordingly.
Further, if you realize that the company is strict about employee productivity during your research, you could tailor one of your qualities to that. The skill or quality could be self-discipline, drive, reliability, time consciousness, keenness on quality, etc.
Sample Answer #4: Avoid Generic Phrases
The person who gets the job is the one who stands out among the other candidates. They might not even have better qualifications than the rest, but they know how to present their achievements in an interview. It would be best to use every opportunity to impress the interviewer, and that means avoiding generalizations and broad adjectives:
Examples of casual adjectives and phrases to avoid include “awesome,” “totally,” “cool,” “super fun” and “unbelievable.” While it might seem obvious that these words are too casual or hyperbolic to use in an interview, you might be surprised how quickly they can slip into your conversation out of habit.
Avoid using common and generic phrases that make the interviewer think you are reading from a script. Personalize every answer by using creative and compelling statements to stand out. Words like” I am a hard worker” are plain and ordinary. You will not grab the attention of any interviewer by saying you are a hard worker.
Try to use less common words and make sure to include them with relevant examples or explanations. Interviewers have been in many rooms with different people, and some of these phrases are so common that they hope to find someone who does not mention them when describing themselves.
Instead of “I’m an unbelievable storyteller, and that helps me sell more products,” try, “I stand out to my customers by using descriptive, entertaining stories about how other loyal customers benefit from our products, often leading to significant sales.”
Creativity is also essential for an employer because it shows your ability to develop brilliant ideas that might help the company. Use your creativity to bring out the best traits, qualities, or skills you have.
Sample Answer #5: Show Confidence
A lack of confidence is not a good look. Speaking confidently makes you stand out and shows you believe what you are saying. Interviewers may attribute a lack of confidence to lies and think you cannot speak out firmly because the skills you mention are inaccurate.
Real, inner confidence comes from internal self-esteem. It’s a place where you are really sure of yourself and happy with yourself to the point where you don’t have to artificially inflate yourself or try and put others down. This is a place where you’re comfortable to be around and people like being around you. –Career Attraction
It is pretty unfortunate to have all the qualifications for the job and miss it because you cannot speak firmly. Remember, you are the best person to talk about yourself with because no one knows you better than yourself.
When the interviewer asks what makes you unique, treat that question as a chance to show everyone how gifted you are. Speak with confidence and grace as you show the interviewer what makes you who you are and why you will be a great addition to the team. Nobody wants a shy person to work with, especially when interacting with people.
One confident sample answer could be:
Years of experience working in a handful of managerial positions have afforded me a uniquely well-rounded ability to lead and foster growth when the market is very challenging.
It does not matter whether these people are colleagues or clients, and you need to be able to express yourself to impact the people around you. Sit upright when answering the question, and make sure the interviewer can hear you clearly.
Sample Answer #6. Demonstrate Succinctness
There is nothing as dull as a long and vague answer, and it should never be an answer to what makes you unique. If you give a boring answer to that question, the interviewer has already formed an unpleasant opinion about you.
Sometimes we get carried away by the question and give unending stories. Your responses to interview questions should be brief and straight to the point. Try answering the question with as few words as possible without missing essential details.
Preparing for the interview questions before the interview helps you have structured answers for the questions and keeps you on track. Now that you know what makes you unique is a common interview question make a point of rehearsing the question before the interview.
A sample answer for a project manager may be:
I can get buy-in from my trades to provide on-time production and a clean worksite following installation.
Come up with up to four solid traits that will catch the interviewer’s attention and tie a few examples to each one of them. Try to pick instances that do not need too much detail to make sense. The shorter the story, the easier it will be for the interviewer to understand.
Sample Answer #7: Mix Hard and Soft Skills
Employees typically want well-rounded, experienced employees. They might need someone with the hard skills necessary for the job, but someone with soft skills is also a huge benefit. When answering what makes you unique, balance out hard and soft skills.
You could be an excellent software engineer, but your skills are less valuable if you cannot work well with others. That means you will not be able to work on team projects, which could be what the employer wants.
An example answer for a superintendent may be:
I’m great at holding my trade partners accountable by helping them understand how integral they are to the bigger picture and our homeowners’ happiness when they move in.
Talk about the hard skills that show you know what to do, but also include a few soft skills like communication and team player to win the employer’s heart. Remember that hard skills might get you through the door, but soft skills are what will keep you on the job.
Sample Answer #8: Display Honesty
Job interviews are about painting yourself as the best version of yourself. You might be tempted to include traits and qualities that you do not have because you think that is what the employer wants to hear, but that is a mistake.
There is nothing worse than being caught in a lie during an interview. The interviewer might disqualify you immediately, ruining your chance of getting a job with the company in the future. What makes you unique should be unique to you. That is why it is essential to write down your strengths and relate them to the job at hand.
I have the unique ability to prioritize my daily activities and avoid distractions so I can focus on the most important tasks at hand. Sometimes that includes removing myself from water-cooler conversations or unnecessary meetings to focus on more important projects.
Being truthful gives you more content and confidence to answer the question about what makes you unique. Please do not attempt to exaggerate or lie because it might backfire and make you look bad in front of a possible employer.
Sample Answer #9: Focus on the Positive
What makes you unique should focus on your positive traits and strengths. The employer wants to know something unique about you to help you do the job better than the other candidates, and they don’t necessarily need to know any negative traits.
You can easily ruin your chances when you mention your bad habits in an interview. Even when the employer says they want to know your weakness, it should never make you look bad for the job. It does not matter how unique your negative traits are; you should never mention them in an interview or add them to your response about what makes you unique.
When the market turned for all of us last year, my team still hit all of our customer services goals and the highest referral rate in the market. I believe in my unique ability to stay positive when people around me and the market remain negative.
Sample Answer #10: Get Specific
You should be able to know your answer to essential questions about the specific skills that make you unique before the interview. Further, practicing what to say helps calm your nerves and gives you a concrete and compelling answer.
Failure to practice could make you go blank once asked the question or start rambling. Write down the traits that make you unique and provide each attribute with a scenario that shows how that trait makes you better for the job.
One example may include:
I believe you could benefit from my punctuality, determination, and quick thinking. Being a uniquely driven and fast learner, I have no doubt I can make up for my relatively short time in the field.
Tips to Improve Your Answer to “What Makes You Unique?”
- Respond with clarity and confidence that you’re a special candidate for the role
- Never undermine your lack of experience
- Always show what you feel makes you unique
- Incorporate examples from previous jobs and how they relate to the key qualifications
- Don’t be afraid to discuss soft skills that are also important
- Try to be specific about the job requirements
Pro Tip #2: Jade Hynes from Red Clover HR, an HR consulting firm, shared the following tips with MatchBuilt:
When the question “what makes you unique?” comes up during your interview process, answer in a truly unique and specific way. Many candidates lean into bringing up what skills they have to best fit the role they’re applying for or lean into the broad “I’m a hard worker” response. Your interviewer already knows this from your
resume, and these skills are something you have in common with all of the applicants.
Rather, use this as an opportunity to tell them something new about you. I recommend taking a strategic approach and providing a behavioral answer. Behavioral interviewing is a method in which a candidate can speak to their capacity for success by providing specific examples of how they handled similar situations in their past roles. The best predictor of future performance is past behavior- so give a solid specific example of how your unique skill set has been an asset at work.
Pro Tip #3: Smita Jain, a personal empowerment life coach and TEDx Speaker, recommends a value-based approach.
You should adopt the strengths and value-based approach to answering the “What makes you Unique” interview question, add a third-person angle to it to demonstrate credibility, and also narrate your answer in a story format that resonates deeply at a personal level.
Strengths and value-based introduction comprises three broad steps:
Step 1: You at Your Best – Ask yourself the following questions and note down the answers
What is the moment/event of which you are most proud? Why?
What are you like when you are at your best?
If your spouse or best friend were asked to describe you at your best, what would he/she say?
Step 2: Your Motivations – Take the time to contemplate why you chose your line of work and what is driving you to the new role you are applying for.
Step 3: Your Interests – Which work tasks do you enjoy tackling, and what do you enjoy doing beyond work?
Apply the answers that you get from the above three steps to construct your strengths and value-based introduction by using the below syntax:
I am <name>. <Designations of functional heads> hire me for my <top talents> in their <department/function>. My manager says that at my best <what do you do at your best>, which is a unique quality. I am considering your company because <what task you like best> is what I find most exciting about my future role. My pursuit of <what do you enjoy doing> in my leisure time makes me an interesting person to know.
What Not to Say or Do When Answering “What Makes You Unique?”
- Never attempt to memorize the sample answers word by word. Make notes to get the general gist and build from there so you sound as genuine as possible.
- Don’t stray from the point when answering a tough question
- Learn the difference between sounding confident and cocky
- It’s not enough to say you’re a hard worker; discuss the unique perspective you have
- Incorporate things that aren’t already on your
resumeor related to your background
How to Answer the Question “What Makes You Unique?” Summary
Your unique trait is a valuable asset that helps you stand out in the crowd in an interview setting. You’ll find that different interviewers will be looking for various skills in a candidate when they ask them what makes them unique. Reviewing the job description is a crucial component that you should be familiar with before walking into the interview room.
Prepare for your interview by writing down your answer to these common questions and reading them aloud until you are confident. Further, practicing your unique answers is important to any excellent communicator and will help you separate from the other job applicants.
Further, be honest and confident and use an anecdote from your previous work experience. Most interviewers will spot if you’re over-embellishing; nothing you say after that will help your case. It can be hard to talk about yourself, but once you see it as a chance to get your dream job, you will give it your all. We hope the above pointers will guide you to answer what makes you a unique question in your next interview.
At MatchBuilt, we love helping you prepare for interviews, but if you’re building a new resume, we invite you to check out our tips for emphasizing your training skills, how you are a fast learner, and what core competencies are important to include. Once you’ve completed your interview, follow up with a nicely written thank you email.