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“What makes you different?”, “What differentiates you from other candidates?”, “What sets you apart?” – there are countless different ways of phrasing this interview question, and none of them make it any easier to answer.
In a graduate job interview, employers will be looking for information to help them make a decision on whether or not they should hire you. “What makes you unique?” is the perfect way to help them differentiate between you and other candidates.
Just like “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”, this open-ended question can be difficult to answer; because you’ll need to discuss your best qualities with confidence, while being careful not to come across as arrogant.
To determine the best approach to answering “What makes you unique?”, lets look first of all at the reasons why employers choose to ask this common interview question.
Scroll straight to the bottom of the page to see a quick, summary video of how to answer!
“What makes you unique?” actually translates to “What skills, qualities and experiences make you the best candidate for this job?”
By asking this question, employers are inviting you to brag about yourself and your best qualities, and tell them what differentiates you from other graduate candidates.
This is your chance to list the things that make you the very best candidate – so it’s important to think about 1 or 2 key things (this could be specific skills, qualifications, volunteering, work experience or otherwise) that you know not every candidate will have.
The skills and qualities you choose to speak about in relation to the interview question “What makes you unique?” will reveal how much you really know about the job and the company.
If your answer is completely irrelevant (i.e. you talk about your passion for art in a graduate finance job interview), you’ll be indicating to the employer that you don’t know much about what the job role requires, and therefore are probably not a good fit.
Employers also use this interview question to find out how well you can think on your feet. Coming up with a “unique” answer to the question will indicate to them that you are able to think outside of the box about why you are the top candidate for the job.
“The unique skill that I can bring to your workplace is my ability to pick anything up and get jobs done very quickly and efficiently. Having already worked at a small startup company before, I am happy to take on additional responsibilities outside of my ‘remit’, and I am always keen to get involved with new areas of the business. I understand the importance of being open minded and flexible, particularly within a startup environment.”
“I think one of the main qualities that makes me unique and different from other applicants, is my ability to come up with very innovative ideas. I have always been a very creative individual, throughout university my ideas were often the final choice in group projects and decisions, and all my friends and family come to me if they need ideas for a fancy-dress party! I would love the opportunity to bring my creative flare to this role.”
“I have the unique skill to give very good advice, as I handle situations calmly and with a level head. My friends and family often turn to me for guidance, and I recently helped a colleague get out of an awkward situation with an unhappy customer at work. I have the ability to look at things from a different perspective, applying logic and reason to solve problems, and I think I could be a real asset to your business”
Here are some more ideas to help you out... Don't forget to back these up with strong examples, to ensure the employer remembers your answer, over other candidate's answers...
Once you have chosen your unique attribute along with examples to prove yourself to the interviewer, then practice presenting your answer to ensure that it flows, and you sound confident and genuine.
While you want to differentiate yourself from other graduates, this isn’t an opportunity to start undermining other people being interviewed. Rather than speaking negatively about the rest of the candidates, and why you are superior, focus on speaking about your positive traits and what you can offer.
While this is an open-ended question, it’s best to keep your answer as succinct as possible, and stick to 1 or 2 reasons why you are the best candidate for the job. Keeping your answer short and sweet will leave the employer with a lasting impression. Find out how to avoid rambling in an interview.
While you want to come up with something that sets you apart, there’s no reason to lie or exaggerate. As with all the common interview questions, you will only get caught out in the long-term – especially if it turns out you can’t do the thing you told the employer you could!
Tip: change the playback speed in the settings at the bottom right corner, to suit your learning requirements!
Check out our complete guide to answering common graduate Interview Questions here.