How to Answer the Interview Question “What Makes You Unique?”
Congratulations for making it to the interview.
You’re obviously excited and look forward to passing the interview and getting the job.
One of those questions which can be a bit problematic is what we’re going to focus on today. The question is, “What makes you unique?”
If any of your friends asked you this question, you wouldn’t hesitate at all. You’ll have the answer and you’ll give it with lots of confidence. But what happens when the person determining whether you get hired or not asks you the same question?
We know that interview anxiety is real and can make you fail to correctly answer even the simplest of questions. This is the reason we wrote this post. We want to help you avoid that interview anxiety.
We’ll take you through the reasoning behind the asking of this question and then advice you on how best to prepare for it. After these tips, we’ll give you example answers to this common question to help you see how you can answer the same.
Let’s get started.
WHY ARE YOU BEING ASKED THIS QUESTION?
It may seem as though the reason you’re being asked this question is that the interviewer wants to know you better.
To some extent, this is true. The interviewer does want to know you more. But do not be deceived. This is not a networking session between you and the hiring manager, it’s an interview.
The interviewer wants to find out whether you’re the best fit for the job.
Here are the real questions in the mind of the interviewer.
1. Are you better than the other candidates?
At the heart of the interview is the question of your suitability compared to that of the other candidates. The hiring manager is always seeking to get the best talent and doing so in the shortest time possible.
So, in asking you this question, the hiring manager is just trying to prod you further to find out what makes you stand out over the other candidates.
You should be glad that the interviewer asked you this question and not “Why should we hire you instead of any of the other candidates?”
Whereas you can still answer that question too, the problem is that you’re actually being asked to compare yourself with people whose qualifications you don’t know. As such, you can only speak about your qualifications and emphasize on them.
But when the question is just about you, although you know that you’re still being compared to other candidates, at least you can focus on yourself only.
2. What do you love most about yourself?
Just as you would easily brag to your friend about your unique abilities, you should be able to easily speak about them to your interviewer—without the bragging bit.
There are cues you release especially when doing non-verbal communication and these will tell your prospective employer a lot.
Some excitement is expected to be seen on your face when responding to this question. Your face could also brighten up as you described yourself. Some hand movement would also be part of the body language expected to be seen.
Whereas confidence means speaking without blushing, if you feel like you’re blushing, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s perfectly normal when speaking about yourself, especially to strangers. The only thing you need to do is make sure the blushing doesn’t go too far since that could imply a lack of confidence and that wouldn’t be good.
Remember that you’re pitching yourself to the company and as such, it’s important to show your excitement when describing yourself. Keep in mind that the interview is just looking to know the benefits you can bring to the company.
3. How confident are you?
As mentioned, how you answer this question will show your confidence levels. This is important because confidence is one of the most valued characteristic of successful employees and even entrepreneurs.
If you struggle answering this question or start stammering, overthinking and the like, it will be a minus for you. That will show a lack of confidence in your uniqueness.
That could as well be taken to mean that you have no real uniqueness to offer.
Of course everyone is unique. But if you don’t know what makes you unique, can you really exhibit or manifest the uniqueness? And if you don’t manifest it, will anyone benefit from it?
The company you’re seeking to work for wants to hire someone who will add value to it. If you don’t show that you have something unique you could bring to the table, then you won’t be regarded as a valuable hire.
Watch the below video and learn some tips to help you stay confident during the interview.
4. What skills do you have which are not in your resume?
Another reason you’re being asked this question is to reveal more about your skills and abilities. The hiring manager understands that you couldn’t put everything on your resume. There is therefore a lot more about you that she would like to know.
Do you have some special ability to bring people together? An ability to speak publicly without written speeches? An ability to understand patterns and accurately forecast the future?
As you can see from these questions, there are many things you could say about yourself which couldn’t fit into your resume. Those are the things this interview question seeks to reveal.
Such information will help the interviewer make a better decision.
5. What are your strengths and what proves it?
One thing you need to keep in mind as you answer this question is that some form of proof is required to show your uniqueness. If you can’t prove, then it can be questioned.
In answering this question, you’re expected to do it in a way that shows that you really have the uniqueness you’re talking about. This means that you should not just say you’re unique in a certain way. Your answer should include some evidence that what you’re saying is true.
How do you prove your uniqueness?
You do it by giving an answer which includes an example situation in which you used your uniqueness. The story example you give should be relevant and point to how that uniqueness solved a problem.
6. Are you compatible with the company culture?
What makes you unique is something that really stands out. This is something which isn’t evident during the interview and that’s why you’re asked the question in the first place.
However, as is often the case, once hired and you start interacting with your new colleagues, you’ll loosen up. You’ll gradually start being your true self and your character and personality will show.
Your character and personality are the main things people associate you with. They also form the basis on which people relate with you.
Since there is an office culture everywhere, it’s important for the hiring manager to ensure that you’ll fit in. If she suspects that your personality—which shows when you speak about yourself—may make it difficult for you to fit, she may think otherwise.
This might mean incompatibility, something which could affect the overall team spirit and result in negative performance.
That can’t be allowed.
PREPARING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
Knowing what the interviewer is thinking is crucial to your understanding the importance of giving the right answer. And with that knowledge, let’s look at what you should do to come up with the kind of answer which will get you the job.
As is always the case with any future event, there has to be the planning phase. So, as you plan for that interview, this is one of the questions you need to plan for.
Here is the To-Do list to use in preparing for this question. The information you gather through this process will also help equip you for other questions.
1. Research the company
Can we remind you that this question is not meant to extract personal information from you? It’s important to remember that it’s all about finding out whether you’re the best fit for the job.
As such, the first thing to do in preparing for an answer is to research the company. You simply need to know as much as possible about the company.
This includes its mission and vision statements, values and products and/or services. You might also benefit from knowing about their marketing campaigns, team building activities, organizational structure and basically anything you can find about the company.
Where do you get this information from?
- The company’s website/blog – the company’s website and blog are a good source of official information. Here you’ll find all that the company wants to be known for. There may also be updates on what they’re doing and their efforts towards Corporate Social Responsibility.
- Social media – social media is a part of every business these days, especially one which has an online presence. If the company has a website/blog, most likely it also has social media accounts. In fact, there are companies without a website but have a social media presence. Social media (including LinkedIn) will tell you a lot of things. This is where daily or frequent updates from the company will be found. Announcements of new products or activities can also be found here. You can also get to know what their customers are saying through their comments.
- News – many people ignore the news thinking it’s for the baby boomers. This is especially true for many millennials and Gen Xers. If you’re among these, rethink your opinion. In your research, consider checking out mainstream media outlets, especially their business news segments for information on the company. Find out whether they’re making profits or losses, how they pay their shareholders, what analysts say etc.
- Job boards – job boards serve the primary role of providing lists of job vacancies. But beneath the surface, they also provide a platform for employees and job seekers to give reviews of companies.
These reviews can be helpful in giving you insight into what working at the company is like. You can learn about the pay, office culture, the name of the HR team, names of different departmental heads etc. Despite this, be careful not to embrace every review on these sites. An employee fired for non-performance might leave a bad review for revenge.
2. Analyze the job description
With a background on the company, now take a keen look at the job description in the job post. What exactly is the company looking for?
You can start by noting the specific skills they’re looking for. You’ll get these from the requirements they have given. You can also find some valuable information from the description of their ideal candidate if they included that.
And why is this important?
This information isn’t just for your resume; it’s also for your interview because it exposes the underbelly of the company. Understanding the information provided will tell you what the underlying issues are and what pain points the company or department has.
In other words, they’re actually telling you why they’re not performing well as a company.
What do you do with pain points? You come up with answers which show that you’re best placed to solve those problems. Keep in mind that the employer—as far as he’s concerned—hasn’t told you what exactly is the problem. But you already know it.
Using this information will do one thing above all others: make the interviewer conclude that they have the right candidate.
3. Research professionals on the role
Now here is something a bit different. We’re talking about your uniqueness. Why should you research other people?
Well, you can always do with some assistance.
Sometimes you won’t know something about yourself until you hear someone mention it. In some cases, the person will be talking about himself. But the way he describes himself makes you realize that you’re just like him. He’s actually describing an attribute you have.
That’s one reason you need to be networking in the first place. Interacting with others provides room for self-discovery as well as personal development.
So, check out those project managers on LinkedIn if you’re applying for a project manager job. Data analyst, accountant, logistics manager etc. Whatever you’re aiming for, look up profiles of professionals in those roles.
Read the articles they’ve written and understand their reasoning. Read their comments on discussions and ask yourself whether you identify with them. Stay open to learning but don’t copy anything assuming it’s what will make you successful. You’re just there to self-discover.
4. What are your own strengths?
From your research above, you might have discovered a few things. If you did, then list them and keep the list close by. In case you didn’t pick up anything, don’t worry. You weren’t strictly required to.
Now sit back and ask yourself what strengths or special abilities you have.
Do you have some unique abilities e.g. doing complex math without using a calculator or remembering details of something you just glanced at? Do you have special knowledge of something important to the industry the company operates in?
Do you know your personality type? What unique personality traits have earned you respect or admiration from friends and family? What are you often complimented for?
Take time and come up with a list of everything you can gather about yourself from your memory. If you need help with this, you can ask a family member or a few friends to point out what they think is unique about you.
5. What are some past examples showing you as the solution provider?
Now is the time to bring all the above together for a draft answer to the question about your uniqueness.
The importance of this last step is that these example situations will help build up your answer and make a strong case for you.
The reason is because in your answer during the interview, you’ll have to give an example of when you used your uniqueness. That example is what will matter most because it’s what they’ll consider in determining whether your uniqueness can be helpful to them.
Again, go back memory lane and look at your past achievements. What skill or trait helped you in that situation? Were you maybe determined to succeed to the point that you kept going even when others gave up? Then write down what happened.
Get other past achievements and write down the main details about them. If you can manager three or four of these, then you’re set.
EXTRA TIPS FOR THE BEST ANSWER
With the advice we’ve given you, you should be able to answer this question quite comfortably. But to help you become more confident in answering it, here are some things you should not do.
- Do not lie or exaggerate – you might need to know that interviewers are smart people. They have dealt with many people and not just job candidates. They have also researched you before calling you for an interview. As such, lying is not likely to go unnoticed. Moreover, even if it’s initially unnoticed, or it helps get you hired, it might be discovered later on and that will have its consequences. Lying in an interview has never been a good thing. And remember, exaggeration is lying.
- Be concise – don’t be too long in explaining how your uniqueness helped you solve a problem in the past. If the story is long, look for the most important parts and piece them together to deliver the answer in a short time. Make your answer less than 30 minutes long.
- Don’t mention weird habits or quirks – be very careful what you say. Don’t say anything that will make you look silly. This won’t earn you the job in any way. It will actually guarantee a rejection.
- Keep it professional – professionalism is important throughout the interview and even during working hours once hired. Ensure you speak with the right tone, maintain comfortable eye contact and talk about things related to the job at hand.
- Don’t think about other candidates’ answers – you’re in an interview and obviously hope to beat the other candidates to get the job. But worrying about their performance and comparing it to yours is disastrous.
First of all, you neither know the candidates nor heard the answers they gave. Secondly, you’re not the one deciding who performed best. So silence that nervous voice inside you and focus on the answer you decided you’ll go with when the question is thrown your way.
EXAMPLE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION “WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?”
Let’s now put the theory aside and do something practical, shall we?
Considering what you’ve learned through this post, check out these two example answers we have come up with. Look at how they mention the uniqueness in a unique way and the evidence they lay out for the uniqueness.
Here’s how the interview could go:
Interviewer: What makes you unique?
You: I typically work well under pressure since I love being in fast-paced environments. These motivate me into action and move me to deliver on my targets ahead of the deadline. This ability earned me the employee of the year award, twice in a row, at my last job since I was able to manage multiple high profile projects at the same time. I must also say that this uniqueness always goes hand in hand with that of being able to rally people around a cause. That’s how I managed to build teams to work on those events.
And the second example answer…
Interviewer: What makes you unique?
You: My greatest uniqueness comes from the fact that my last job was at a startup which revolutionized manufacturing through 3D printing. Working as a sales manager for 2 years gave me the opportunity to market our disruptive innovation to 15 Fortune 500 companies, out of which 7 signed up. The ability to pitch a completely new product to companies used to using established solutions is a real uniqueness which I would love to use in this company.
Answering this question is not difficult. If you just follow the advice we’ve given you, you’ll be able to give a unique answer which will indeed convince your interviewer of your uniqueness.
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