Interview for every decent job is a competitive affair. Especially amidst the pandemic, when many people lost their job, or had to close down their small business, big corporations and public organizations receive more job applications than ever. It is not easy to get a job, but it also isn’t easy for the hiring managers to decide who they will invite for a face to face (or an online) interview, and who will eventually walk away with a coveted employment agreement. In some cases, they will ask you directly what sets you apart, why they should give the job to you, and a security of a nice monthly paycheck, instead of some other job candidate. The alternative wording of this tricky question include:

  • What unique things would separate you from other applicants?
  • What makes you different from the rest?
  • What sets you apart from other applicants?

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this tricky question. You will find in my selection some conventional, and some philosophical choices. A decent mix I believe, and hopefully you can find at least one answer which resonates with you, and represents a fitting choice for your interview. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers, for some additional explanations and hints.


7 sample answers to “What makes you stand out from other applicants?” interview question

  1. I would say my motivation to work for. I simply love your brand. Have been a customer for years, and as soon as you release a new product, I am one of the early adopters. What is more, I’ve been trying to learn as much as I could about your working environment, the way people cooperate in within the teams, and how different teams interact. I find it a perfect match for my personality. You know, this is a great offer with an excellent salary and I am sure most people apply for the job primarily because of it. But my motivation goes beyond money and prestige, and perhaps that sets me apart from the rest of the applicants.
  2. Experience. I’m not the youngest anymore–that’s perhaps another thing which sets me apart, but I honestly believe that the roles I’ve had up to this point in my life, and everything I learned while having them, the projects I worked on and teams I’ve belonged to, would give me an edge in this job, and I’d be able to deliver more than the other candidates would deliver, right from the get-go. It is also the reason why I reacted to your offer in particular, and not to many other offers which I could realistically get with my level of experience.
  3. Speaking honestly, I cannot tell. First of all, this is an entry level job, so I am sure most of the candidates have almost identical background and little to none experience, just like me. And secondly, I did not meet other candidates in person. I certainly believe I have what it takes to be a great analyst, but I am sure most other candidates also have their qualities. Perhaps each of us has a different personality–because every human being is different. And it is up to you to decide who has the most fitting personality for the existing team you have in place. I sincerely hope you will choose me. But even if you don’t, I am still glad to have the chance to sit here with you and learn more about this amazing company, and explore the opportunities to work here.
  4. I would say my attitude to work makes me different from the rest. Being a perfectionist, and a workaholic, you can be sure I will give my 100%, if not more, each day in the job. It has proven to me countless times that extra effort pays off, and I am ready to put in the hours to make a great career in your company. And I believe it makes me stand out from other applicants, because I learned in my previous job that this attitude to work is quite rare in the third decade of 21st century.
  5. My desire to get this job makes me stand out. Look, I’ve been unemployed for over two years now. I’ve been sending job applications left and right, reacting to offers, sending my resume to staffing agencies, but nothing really worked. You are the only company that invited me to an interview, and it means a world to me. Because I am not a lazy person, I want to work, and to contribute to something with my time on this planet. I know the job hopping rate is high in this field. If you give me a chance, however, you can be sure that I won’t leave this place anytime soon–as long as you are happy about my performance, of course.
  6. I’d go with my connections in the field. Speaking honestly, closing big deals is all about who you know and are friends with. I’ve been working in automotive for years, and I have always placed a lot of value on networking. The product managers, the buyers from this or that company, they all know me, and I can basically get a meeting with a decision maker from any automotive company in this area. And I want to benefit from my connections in the job with you.
  7. Honestly that’s a question you will have to answer. I try to stay humble, and have a lot of respect for other people, including my competitors in the interview. Sure enough they all have something to offer. I also have my strengths, personality, experience. But you will have to decide whether it is a great match for the job, or perhaps you prefer to hire someone else. It is not an easy task, but one I cannot help you with. I just try to be honest with my answers, so you can make a realistic picture of who I am, what I have to offer, and whether some unique things and traits separate me from other candidates. Good luck with your decision.


Showing respect for other candidates can only help you get the job

At the end of the day, hiring managers should be able to spot what makes you unique, or at least decide whether you are the right candidate for the job, or someone else is better.

That’s what get their hefty salary for. But they may still ask you the question, or a similar one, often aiming to learn more about your attitude than about anything else. They try to understand your level of self-confidence, but also your attitude to other people–be it your colleagues, interview competitors, or complete strangers.

What they are looking for is an employee who can recognize the qualities of their teammates, and will praise them for their efforts. An employee who isn’t self-centered, but gives attention to the feelings and needs of their colleagues.

Do not hesitate to say that other job candidates have their qualities. Spare a nice word for them. Show a healthy level of confidence, but also a healthy respect for others, their qualities and achievements. You can definitely stand out with such an answer, and get a step closer to a new employment agreement.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only tricky question you may face while interviewing for any decent corporate job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, using logicfacing disappointment, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Turn the lead to gold

Maybe you’ve been struggling in the interview lately, failing to make any breakthrough. Or you even didn’t get any interviews, or you’ve been unemployed for a long time. Most job seekers try to hide such facts in an interview, but it isn’t necessarily the best decision.

When applying for a job in a field with high employee fluctuation, where companies do not struggle to hire people, but struggle to keep them onboard, it can actually be a huge plus for you.

Sure enough, you’ve been unemployed for some time, you did not get many chances in the interviews, and so on. And exactly because of that you are more motivated than the other candidates, the opportunity means more for you, and if they hire you, you won’t leave the job in a week or a month, as soon as a better offer rings in your inbox.

The real art of acing interviews isn’t in playing some games, or in trying to convince the interviewers of something which isn’t true. The real art is in actually telling them the truth, including the “bad things”, but explaining it in a way that they actually do not perceive it as something negative anymore. Simply turning the lead to gold…


How to answer this question when applying for a scholarship

I’ve got emails from two separate visitors of Interview Penguin asking how to deal with this question on a scholarship application form. It makes me believe that it is quite common, at least in some countries, in the following wording: “What would separate you from other applicants applying for this money (scholarship)?” First of all, I believe the question is really hard for a scholarship applicant. The rules are typically set in stone, who can apply and who cannot, and what conditions you have to meet, so it is hard to stand out in this way. What’s more, the last thing you want to do in a scholarship interview (or on a scholarship application) is complaining about the bad situation you and your family lives in (and that’s why you need scholarship).

In my opinion, you should focus more on your personality, and on the future. What can you do (or at least want to) for the school or institution that will give you the money? Maybe you hope to organize some events, represent the school in competitions, maybe you want to take active part in campus life, working as an RA, etc. The key is to talk about something you can do for them–so they see it makes a lot of sense to award the scholarship to you, and not one of the other applicants…


Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to the following questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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