Interviewers love to throw curve balls at their applicants so they can see who is able to rise to the occasion. The question “What makes you unique?” is one of those zingers.
You don’t want to seem painfully abnormal or bland and unoriginal—how do you let your potential employer know you’re unique (in a good way)? Here are our tips for striking that all-important balance.
Keep it professional
Maybe you can wiggle your ears or eat 40 hot dogs in five minutes. These are definitely unique qualities. But they’re not the kind of answers the interviewer is looking for. Your reply should be based on distinctive characteristics and accomplishments that are directly related to the position you’re applying for. This means you need to do your research and learn enough about the company and position to frame your response effectively. You should also assume the other candidates have done their homework as well. If you want your response to be on target, yet still stand out, you need to prepare just the right words.
Craft your wording carefully
Whether you answer the “What makes you unique?” question successfully or not is going to depend a lot on your ability to describe desirable qualities in a standout fashion. It’s likely there are other candidates for the position who have backgrounds and skillsets that are similar to yours. If they, like you, have carefully reviewed the job description, their answers will be on point but also pretty similar (and forgettable). But not yours! Because you’ve prepared for this question and have come up with a no-fluff, thought-provoking, attention-getting answer.
Here are a couple of examples of what other candidates might say, and how you can say it better:
- Them: “I believe my strong drive to succeed makes me unique.”
You: “I’ve never met a challenge I didn’t like…or bring to its knees.”
- Them: “I have excellent communication skills that set me apart.”
You: “I have a unique ability to fully absorb what someone is saying to me. I’m not one of those people who is just thinking about what they’re going to say next. I’m a human sponge.”
Sometimes your delivery is as important as your message. This is one of those times. When you’re telling your potential employer what makes you special, make sure she knows you’re darn proud of it. Don’t hem and haw and look at the floor, afraid of sounding like you’re bragging. A weak delivery dilutes the message, and most of its impact will be lost. Confidence, on the other hand, will fortify what you’re saying, and can help push your answer over the finish line.
Equate your unique qualities with benefits
Asking about your unique qualities seems to be a question about you. But dig beneath the surface and you’ll see what the interviewer is really asking is: How can your unique qualities benefit me and my company? Make sure you connect those dots. In the examples above, each of these statements can be followed up with an explanation about why those traits bring the most potential for success. Paint a picture for the interviewer where they can see you beating down obstacles or soaking up what clients are saying to build trust and loyalty.
Even if you feel like you’re the most normal person in the world, you have unique qualities. Everyone does! You just need to know how to highlight them. Think about what makes you unique—and how to express it—before you’re actually sitting in that interview chair. Coming up with a winning answer to such a difficult question may just be the edge you need to go from sad face to happy dance.