It’s a beauty of creation that no man has an exact copy. Each of us is unique, just like each moment in time, each kiss, every drop of rain, or every leaf on a tree. But it needs an eye of a romantic to spot the subtle differences around us, and inside of us. Most hiring managers and recruiters are neither romantics nor poets, however. When asking the question, they hope to hear about some unique skill, ability, personality trait, or experience that sets you apart from other job candidates.
In my opinion, the question makes little sense. First of all, you have no idea about other job applicants–their skills, experience, personality. The two of you may share the same characteristics. And secondly, I do not think it really matters to be “unique”, either at school, or at work, at least in a way the hiring managers and admission committee members understand the concept of uniqueness. Last but not least, as I’ve already said at the beginning, each of us is a unique living creature, and will remain so until the end of time…
Meaningful or not, you may face this question in both job interviews and school admission interview. Hence it is important to prepare for it, or at least to have an idea what you’d say if facing the question. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers. My list includes some conventional answers–the safe bets if you want, but also some philosophical or unconventional answers, answers that will make your interviewers think.
These are by no means safe bets, but they will definitely help you stand out, and either ace your interview or bomb it :). Let’s have a look at the list, but do not forget to read also the section below the list, where I explain some important points you should keep on your mind while answering the question.
7 sample answers to “What makes you unique?” interview question
- I’d say that my attitude to other people makes me a unique colleague. I am honestly interested in the feelings and emotions of my coworkers, and try my best to bring positive energy and enthusiasm to the office. In my experience, most corporations and teams will never reach their full potential, because their growth is hindered by pointless internal conflicts. Colleagues are competing instead of cooperating. You can be sure something like that won’t happen when you have me in a team… I do not say that I am the only one with such an attitude, but judging by my experience, it is quite a rare one.
- My experience definitely makes me unique–at least I think so. Look, I’ve worked for two of your biggest competitors. I know their business process inside-out, their USP. What’s more, I have some connections in every single institution involved in this business, including the governmental agencies. I honestly believe that you can benefit from my experience, and I doubt any other job candidate can offer you something similar.
- I’d say my motivation makes me unique. Let’s be honest. For most job applicants, your company is just one of many they applied with, for some entry level job. But that’s not the case with me. I have a strong affection for your brand, own all your core products, and know the history of your corporation inside out. Everything I’ve done over the last seven years I’ve done with one goal only–to get this exact job, with your company. Because I see a meaningful purpose in what you do here, how you try to shape a better future. You can be 100% sure that if I get a chance to work here, I will try my very best day in day out, to stay with the company for many years to come.
- I’d say I posses a rare combination of high IQ and strong emotional intelligence. I can solve difficult problems, and work on a complicated coding task, staying focused for hours on end. But I do not live in a small bubble of my working desk. On the contrary, I can easily spot when something’s wrong with my colleague, when they need a word of encouragement or a helping hand, and I never hesitate to offer them my help. In my opinion, this is quite a rare combination to have, and I honestly believe it makes me unique, at least among the programmers.
- In my opinion, every job seeker is unique. Each of us has their own life story, education, experiences, relationships, heartbreaks… We’ve been talking about that story in the interview, and I am sure you’ve talked about it with other job candidates. No two people in the world are alike. But I try to stay humble, and instead of considering me superior to my peers or to other job applicants, I simply consider myself different. Sure, I have a lot to offer–as you can see on my resume, as we’ve discussed here. But I am sure other job candidates have a lot to offer as well. Instead of boasting of my skills, I prefer to stay humble and continuously work on improving myself. That’s how I see it.
- Most people try to stand out in some way–with a haircut, a tattoo, with the best GPA, some achievement. Some actually try to stand out with criminal activity. What makes me unique–if we can call it such, is that I do not crave such things. I am not a slave of an opinion of other people, just like most of us are, always seeking recognition of their peers, another like on their Instagram feed, and unless they get it they aren’t happy. Quite frankly, I do not care what the others thing about me, and I do not try to stand out in the crowd. I have my inner scorecard–I know what I am capable of, and what I can do for my employer as a manager. But I do not boast about my achievements, seeking the claps of the hands, or some status in society. Because that’s a trap I do not want to fall into. Maybe we can say that such a mindset makes me unique…
- My DNA makes me unique. You won’t find such in any other creature, living or dead, past or future. It makes me a unique being in this vast world, just like your DNA makes you unique. We all got some gifts, but it is how we manage to translate these gifts to actual results, to some positive impact we have in the workplace, in our circles, in the world. I am unique, just like every other living thing. And I try to use my gifts to benefit the others. But I definitely do not consider myself successful because of that, or better than other people. More than anything else, I was lucky in the ovarian lottery. And I try to pay back the favor with my life.
Humility can take you a long way in your interviews
The majority of interview coaches and self-proclaimed gurus will tell you to be super-confident, aware of your strengths and achievements, and to shower your interviewers with them anytime you get a chance.
I disagree with this advice. Best job candidates are aware of their strengths, but also of their imperfections. They always seek a way to improve on this or that ability. What’s more, they are grateful for what they have, and understand that in each success story, luck plays an important part (just as hard-work does).
Saying something nice about other job candidates, for example that you are sure each of them has something great to offer, can only help you in the interviews. Do not get lost in some ego boasting wars. Give credit to other people, stay humble, and you may easily end up with the coveted employment contract…
If you boast about your skills, it is good to have something to back them up
You can decide for another approach, of course. But if you do so, proclaiming your excellent management or communication skills, or your leadership or whatever, it is important to demonstrate them with some tangible results.
Maybe you helped to improve the sales by 20% in your last job. Or the customer retention doubled once you led the customer service department. Or you managed to help three aspiring marketers grow to leading positions in their teams under your leadership.
Any skill or ability you pick for your answer, you should have a story ready (and ideally one the hiring managers can verify) that clearly demonstrates that you aren’t talking smoke and mirrors here.
Do not be afraid of unconventional answers
Day of a hiring manager can be pretty boring at times. I remember days when I led interviews from 8am to 8pm, just to hear the same answers from the candidates–always the same formulations, no creativity really, nothing special.
Do not be afraid to experiment with unconventional answers. Maybe your education or experience doesn’t make you unique. But you can be sure that an unconventional answer (such as no. 5, no. 6, or no.7 from my list) will help you stand out. Make sure that the hiring managers remember you at the end of a long days of interview. Because average candidates (who gave us the typical interview answers) are quickly forgotten…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Describe a situation in which you felt you didn’t get something you deserved.
- What does quality mean to you?
- What motivates you the most in work?