What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Makes You Stand Out from Other Candidates” How to Prepare Yourself for this Question “Tell Us What Makes You Unique”: 12 Best Answer Examples The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering Final Thoughts
What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Makes You Stand Out from Other Candidates” How to Prepare Yourself for this Question “Tell Us What Makes You Unique”: 12 Best Answer Examples The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering Final Thoughts
Updated 27/07/2020

What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates

Worried about a job interview and this tricky question? Get familiar with useful tips and answer examples. Be 100% ready to present yourself as a unique candidate at the interview.

Worried about a job interview and this tricky question? Get familiar with useful tips and answer examples. Be 100% ready to present yourself as a unique candidate at the interview.

According to the business publication, Inc., on average, there are 250 resumes for every job opening. Yet, 72,8% of employers struggle to find relevant candidates. This means that the hiring process is challenging and time-consuming both for job seekers and companies. The good news is that a professional resume, cover letter, and well-directed answers at an interview may significantly impact the result.

In this article, we will discuss one of the most popular interview questions: “what makes you stand out from other applicants?”. When applying for a position, there’s a high probability that many of your traits and skills overlap with those of other potential employees. Luckily, there are also abilities and experiences that make you unique. They give you an opportunity to explain what distinguishes you from other candidates and makes you the best fit for the company.

Below you will learn how to prepare for the question and what mistakes to avoid. And in the end, we’ll provide you with answer examples. Continue reading and this question will no longer be a hard nut to crack.


Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Makes You Stand Out from Other Candidates”

According to FastCompany, you have approximately seven seconds to make a positive impression on the recruiter with your application document. However, the subsequent stage of an interview is equally important and recruiters have a few tricky questions and techniques to evaluate whether you should be hired for this position.

When you are asked what makes you better than other candidates, the hiring managers don’t want to hear why everyone else is a wrong fit. The interviewer wants to hear about your experiences and strengths that are beneficial for the company. Thus, they mainly ask this question to understand why you should be hired instead of other candidates.

Remember that companies are looking for a person to solve a particular problem, for example: to increase sales, boost retention, promote a campaign, or cook meals. When you answer the question, it should show that you can solve this particular problem better than others. Let them know that you are the best expert in the field.

The second, less obvious reason why employers ask what makes you unique is to understand what features you value about yourself. They also look for soft skills and strengths that you haven’t included in a resume or a cover letter but will help you to do a great job.

Your answer may significantly impact the decision depending on your tone, confidence, and clarity. Below we will explain how to prepare for this question and increase your chances of being hired.

Notice, the same question might be asked in a different way. For example:

  • What makes you unique?
  • Why are you special?
  • Tell us why you are the best fit for the job.

How to Prepare Yourself for this Question

Disappointing statistics from Business Insider reveals that on average a person has to apply to 27 job openings to get a single interview. This means that when an invitation arrives, it’s crucial to get ready for the interview the best you can. Here are some tips which will help to explain what makes you the ideal candidate for this position.

1. Research the company and requirements

Start with getting familiar with the company: its philosophy, products, key requirements, and other characteristics. Then make a list of skills and proficiencies that are listed in the vacancy. If such information is absent, look for similar job openings on websites like Indeed and choose vacancies with clear descriptions. Thus, you’ll learn about skills, individual traits, and qualifications the potential employer might be looking for.

2. Make a list of your qualifications

Write down your own skills and strengths and compare them with the requirements you have found. Pick a few features that relate to the vacancy and make them the core for the future answer. They may include areas of expertise, personal traits, related skills, or any relevant background information.

If you are at the stage of applying online, write about these features in a cover letter which is a suitable place for telling why you are the best match for the company.

To highlight your uniqueness in a cover letter, try out our GetCoverLetter builder created by professional career experts.
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3. Think about how you can outperform other candidates

When the research is completed and you have a list of your own credentials, it’s the right time to think about what other candidates might say. Consider what strengths other employees may consider important and think about how you can show that you out-do others. However, you shouldn’t mention other candidates, especially in a negative way.

4. Stick to the position

When working on the answer, make sure to talk about relevant features and qualifications. The set of personal traits for another job may be completely unrelatable for this position. Discuss only the strengths that are needed for this particular job and let the employers know what experience and background make you the best candidate at this particular time.

5. Provide work examples

Try to back every skill or strength with examples from your work, academic, or volunteer experience. What attributes helped you to complete a dissertation in advance? Which features allowed you to reach the highest performance indicators? Think about situations when you used particular traits to achieve something at work. Describe the project and tell how your skills and qualities ensured a positive result.

6. There’s no need to be one-of-a-kind

The word unique may sound intimidating but don’t let it scare you. Even though employers are looking for outstanding skills, they don’t expect a candidate to be one-of-a-kind. It’s very unlikely that your answer will contain anything that they have never heard during an interview. Thus, your task is to remain relevant and clear.

If you have feedback or a review from a previous job, you can use separate strengths and skills in the answer. For example, start the answer saying ‘In my manager’s feedback, I’ve been recognized for being a great team player...’ Then go into more detail.

7. Your conclusion should be confident

There are questions like “what are your weaknesses?’ which interviewers ask to see whether you are humble and self-aware. However, questions about uniqueness have a completely opposite goal: they want a confident answer. This especially concerns a powerful conclusion - end the response explaining why you are an excellent candidate.


“Tell Us What Makes You Unique”: 12 Best Answer Examples

Here are some traits of character to highlight, as well as ready-made examples of the possible answers that can separate you from other candidates.

  1. Kindness. It’s unlikely that the potential employer wants to hire a grumpy person. Show that you are open to communication, smile, and be attentive to others.
    • I have 8 years of experience working in the retail industry and know exactly what customers want. I love helping people and working on multiple processes including answering buyers’ questions, collecting feedback, and managing logistics. Thus, you’ll hardly find a more versatile, experienced, and devoted specialist.
    • Since college, I have participated in volunteering programs and helped animals, elderly people, and children. Compassion made me a kind person who is always ready to support others. I think that this feature allows me to be a good teacher and to show students how important kindness is.
  2. Optimism. Work routine may be quite challenging and it’s impossible to remain productive without positivity. Tell the interviewers that you are optimistic and can remain calm and positive under difficult circumstances.
    • I think that being a positive person is one of my biggest strengths when it comes to work qualities. I have seen lots of people in similar positions, who burn out and are not able to make effective sales. I try to use a different approach and be an example that anyone can stay healthy, enthusiastic, and engaged no matter how tight the deadlines are.
    • One of the things that distinguish me from other candidates is that I am able to remain calm and focused no matter how difficult the task. I always try to stay positive and find a way out. I am sure that everything happens for a reason and that any mistake can be fixed.
  3. Intellectual curiosity. There is always room for perfection, so you need to show that you are constantly evolving and like challenges. A good example would be enumerating courses and educational programs you have recently completed.
    • I don’t think that there are many candidates who have such a deep understanding of the industry as I do. Yet, though I have been in the business for over 10 years and now know every stage of the process, I learn every day to stay up to date and successfully manage teams to maximize company’s efficiency and productivity.
    • I am a quick learner and constantly improve my skills not only in the professional but also in multiple other fields. If hired for the position, I will continue to learn and transfer obtained knowledge and skills to other team members.
  4. Empathy. Understanding the needs of others, being able to calm and support them is an essential feature for any team member.
    • Communication is crucial for the position and I believe that I possess strong communication skills. I am able to manage conflicts and arguments inside the team in a positive manner and to communicate the needs of the company to all team members. My previous successful projects prove that effective interaction is the key to outstanding performance.
    • I think that my ability to relate to other people’s needs and worries makes me a valuable worker. Empathy helped me in a previous position as a customer support manager. I was able to quickly detect and understand the problems of customers and to build trusting relationships with them. This leads to higher sales rates compared to other managers.
  5. Strong work ethic. Ensure the employer that you show up on time, don’t leave earlier, and can meet all the administrative company’s requirements.
    • One of the main things which helps me to stand the market competition is the ability to manage my time wisely. Since high school, I have been using to-do lists and schedules which have helped me to manage teams, work on several projects at the same time, and complete tasks timely and effectively.
    • You will never find a more disciplined person. I am never late and know how to value the time of other people. Especially in the engineering field, where everything should be clear, structured, and meet requirements.
  6. Organization skills. Companies appreciate employees, who are ready to organize processes, offer new solutions, and team up for the maximum performance.
    • The thing which makes me unique is the ability to organize everything effectively. In my previous administrative position, I created a reorganization plan and within a year helped the company to save 20% of expenditures on office supplies.
    • Not everybody can be a leader and organize other people in teams. As you see from my resume, I have been in multiple leadership positions and you will hardly find a more devoted and organized manager.
  7. Integrity. Most employers are desperately searching for candidates who value the success of the team over their own. Show that you value other members and their contribution to the result.
    • When reading the vacancy description, I noticed that you are looking for a person with technical experience. As you can see on my resume, I have 10 years of experience in the field. I think that the main thing which distinguishes me from other candidates is the ability to find the right balance between applying that experience and listening to other team members. I value long-lasting work relationships and do my best to create a healthy and effective environment in the team. I am passionate about the industry and the people in it.
    • I am sure that a great result can be achieved only when a team works together and bears corporate responsibility for the task. Integrity is one of my qualities I am most proud of and I constantly try to apply it in my work and personal life.
  8. Confidence. You should be tranquil enough to tell the employer why you are better than other candidates. If you doubt yourself, you may send subconscious signals to the interviewer and they might start doubting as well.
    • This industry is extremely fast and it is crucial to make speedy decisions. I consider myself a good decision-maker, who is able to adapt to changing circumstances and to come up with the best solution. The majority of my decisions were right and led to increased profits of the company.
    • While there are many other candidates with a similar academic background in journalism, I have practical experience in writing and editing for leading magazines. A deep understanding of the processes involved, as well as attention to the slightest detail, make me a perfect candidacy.
  9. Self-motivation. Hiring managers are looking for employees, who can work on the task without supervision. Thus, you should tell how you motivate yourself. For example, tell why you are passionate about the job and why it makes you want to evolve. This will help to show that you’re looking for more than just a place to earn money.
    • I am very good at self-discipline and self-organization. Management is a high-volatile industry that requires maximum attention and focus. Over time it’s easy to get tired and stop trying to be the best in the position. That is why I constantly improve my skills and organize my daily routine to fit all the responsibilities and tasks.
    • During the past five years, I have been working as a freelance software developer. It helped me not only to be organized and responsible but to remain motivated and willing to learn. I am sure that this quality will help me to achieve outstanding results in your company and to help others.

The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering

It’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, so we have prepared a list of things to avoid when telling about the features which set you apart:

  • Absence of research. It’s difficult to tell about relevant experience or skills if you don’t know what the employer wants. Yes, most likely you will name a few common things that help you stand out but there’s no guarantee that it is something the employer needs.
  • No clarity. To defuse the situation, some candidates joke or use sarcasm. However, this question is a great opportunity to stand out, so the answer should be professional and simple. Tens or even hundreds of other candidates will be answering the same question and you don’t want to be the only one, who didn’t.
  • Defaming other candidates. Never discuss others when telling what makes you a better candidacy. Even if you happen to know them or are applying for an internal role. The only acceptable exception is to compare quantitative issues that can’t be disputed. For example, the profit your department made or the number of years you’ve worked in the industry. Try to focus on yourself and not on the reasons why others may be the wrong choice. In addition, you shouldn’t insult other candidates or judge them by appearance, race, age, etc..
  • Bragging about how unique you are. Even if you are extremely qualified, there’s no need to talk about it for hours. Remain short and professional and allow the employers to make up their own mind.
  • Pointing out the flaws of the company. If you have found mistakes or imperfections of the company that you are able to fix, there’s no need to highlight them.
  • Using common responses. There are cliché answers which should be avoided. General responses are meaningless and only duplicate the answers of other candidates. Instead, try to provide a more detailed and deep answer about your specific skills and proficiencies along with some particular examples where they have been applied.

Final Thoughts

Every person has special skills and proficiencies which make them perfect and unique. To create a strong resume and cover letter and to get ready for an interview, you need to identify your unique strengths and back them up with concrete examples. This is not time to be shy, as according to Jobvite, 78% of hiring managers say that enthusiasm of the candidate influences their decision. So be confident and bring a positive attitude.

Use the GetCoverLetter editor and be sure that your strengths are properly highlighted in your cover letter!
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