More and more people are getting the question, “What makes you unique?” in an interview setting. It can throw even the most prepared job seekers off their guard. What does the hiring manager want to know, exactly? About your personality? About your skills profile?
A general rule of thumb would be this: an interviewer is trying to see what you choose to emphasize in your answer, and also how well you think creatively on the spot with a question you may not have prepared. But you can prepare!
Stick to Work Stories, Not Personal Stories
The answer is not to talk about your leisure activities, no matter how interesting, but to script yourself an answer that is both true and tailor-made to the job you’re interviewing for. Figure out, based on the company and job description, what that company seems to prioritize, how you are particularly suited to deliver, and why you are valuable in this respect.
Then, draw on any of several possible pieces of your own experience to make your answer: your background, your past experience, your specific skills—hard or soft, your personality, your in-depth knowledge of the brand or industry, your involvement in issues beyond the office, and, yes, even a few things about you personally that can be peppered in for extra emphasis.
Prep Beforehand With Talking Points
If you’re stuck, make a list of personality traits or skills that show you best and most accurately. Of that list, pick the things that seem to link up best with the particular focus of the job description. Then start scripting.
Choose specifics. Instead of saying, “I’m a fast learner” or “I am reliable,” find a way to cram more convincing detail into your answer. As in: “I really hit the ground running and can handle almost anything that’s thrown at me and get up to speed fast.” Beef it up. Really sell yourself. The more specific the better.
Why are You and You Alone Perfect for the Job?
Remember, the trick is to make yourself memorable. Stand out from all the other answers from other interviewees. Find something tangible that you can deliver, that’s exactly what they’re asking for on paper—then broaden it out with a few personal flourishes that make you the unique candidate. When in doubt, focus less on the “uniqueness” aspect of this question, and more on the particular—or “unique” value you will bring to this and other jobs.