How To Answer “What Makes You Unique?” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 6, 2021
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You want the job, and you’ve scored an interview. Now what? If you’re serious about getting the job, you need to prepare for the interview.

This means researching what questions interviewers ask, coming up with some possible answers, and even practicing with another person. A little role-playing can go a long way toward calming your nerves and giving you confidence on the big day.

The Best Ways to Answer

You want to answer questions in a way that the employer wants to hear. If they ask for your faults, you’re not going to say that you call in sick a lot.

You’re also going to come across as disingenuous if you try too hard. For instance, if you say, “I tend to work too hard.”

The best way to answer questions is to think about what you’d want to hear if you were the interviewer and then be as honest as possible. These tips will help you craft your answers and keep you on track when you’re in the job interview:

  • Be succinct, don’t ramble

  • Try to answer quickly but don’t interrupt them

  • Try to keep answers work-related and not about your personal life

  • Know what the company wants from its employees and mirror their language

  • Keep eye contact as much as possible

  • Watch out for non-verbal nervousness, looking at the ground, shaking legs, etc.

  • Listen to the question; don’t anticipate too much

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What the Interviewer Wants to Learn

The person interviewing you wants to know why you’re the best applicant for the job. They already think you might be a good fit because they’re interviewing you. It’s your job to tell them why you’re the best and quite probably the only person for the job. That means you need to stand out from all of the other applicants they’ve interviewed.

When they ask questions, they’re most interested in what you bring to the role and why you would be a better choice than another candidate. This is a pivotal point to keep in mind when you answer questions. It’s not really about you; it’s about why you’re the best person for the job.

How to Answer the “What Makes You Unique?” Question

This question is very popular, and it’s quite tricky to answer. That’s why they ask it. It’s a question that typically throws people off their game a little. You know they’re going to ask about your assets and your faults. But did you expect them to ask what makes you unique?

Quick, off the top of your head, what answer would you give? Is your answer about your personality? Maybe you’ve thought of a strange quirk or an interesting hobby that you have. While those things are great, they’re not what the interviewer is looking for.

This is a personality interview question that can tell them a bit more about you, but it can also tell them what you value about yourself. What you see as something interesting in yourself tells them quite a bit about how you’ll be as an employee and as a coworker.

Tips for Giving a Great Answer

Instead of hearing: “what makes you different, unique, or odd,” think of the question as what makes you a unique hire over your competition for the position. Suddenly, your answer about being able to touch your nose with your tongue seems wildly out of place.

What makes you a unique hire for that job position. That requires some thought, and if you’re on the spot and haven’t prepared, chances are your answer is not going to be a great one. Hopefully, it won’t be the nose tongue thing, but still, can you do better? Use these tips to help:

  • Preparation. You’re doing it now, and that’s going to help you when it comes time to interview. Don’t just prepare your answers, but do some research in preparation, too.

  • Be job-specific. Part of your research should be about the company and what they value. You should also learn about the role. If you know they’re a small company and the employees wear a lot of hats (figuratively speaking), then stress how you’re an incredible multitasker and willing to work outside your professional box.

  • Use examples. What have you done that can illustrate your skills? For example: If you’ve had the opportunity to interview an A-list celebrity, you can use this to show how you did something that made you very nervous but afterward, you learned that we’re all people. It made you a more confident interviewer.

  • Tie it to work. If your “unique” trait is that you spent a year backpacking across Europe, find a way to tie it to the job you want. Maybe you can explain how you love learning new things and spent a year traveling to immerse yourself in new cultures.

  • Boring can be perfect. If you think that you’re just not interesting enough, remember the question isn’t about how exciting you are. If you rush home every night to work on a hobby, that’s a wonderful answer. It tells the employer that you’re detail-oriented, passionate, and committed to completing projects.

What Not to Say

Remember, what makes you unique is probably not something that’s going to cost you the job. But it could. Some of the following are things you don’t want to say in an interview – even if it is what makes you unique:

  • Something deeply personal. You don’t want to be too intimate with a potential employer or a hiring manager. You also never want to make someone feel uncomfortable.

  • Don’t be negative. Make your answer as positive as possible. Even if it has to do with a negative event, then explain how it made you better or you overcame it.

  • Skip the odd human tricks. Your weird party trick might pop into your head first – quickly discard that and move on to something legitimate for the workplace. Save the stupid tricks for the office holiday party.

  • No show and tell. If your unique answer sounds like a kid giving a show-and-tell presentation – skip it.

  • Nothing. You’ve got to come up with some answer to the question. You can’t just say, “Meh, I’m exactly like everyone else.” You can do better than that, and you know it.

Sample Answers to “What Makes You Unique”

Okay, we’ve tried to set you up to create your own answer to what makes you unique. Honestly, your answer needs to be all about you. That’s the whole point of this question in the first place. But if you need an idea prompt, maybe these awesome answers will help you come up with your own amazing response:

  1. I am an avid fly fisherman and have been doing it my whole life. I learned it from my father, and it taught me that attention to detail, patience, and perseverance are important qualities. When things are difficult, I’ve learned to keep my head down and focus like I do when I’m fishing or tying a fly. I can get through and usually catch my fish.

    This answer does a great job of showing the interviewee as a person. It paints a picture of a solid, well-adjusted person with strong family ties. Then it displays some characteristics that could be crucial for the job at hand.

  2. I am a marathon runner and triathlete. I love setting big goals for myself and achieving them. I find that these personal challenges help me grow in ways I would never have expected. And the sense of self-satisfaction is incredible.

    This interviewee doesn’t try to tie their uniqueness to work at all, and yet, it happens on its own.

  3. I don’t have a college degree, like most people in this position and probably most people you’re hiring. Instead, I have worked my way up from a customer service job to management. I’ve learned the ins and outs of every job along the way, and that’s what makes me an excellent manager. I know this business as few people do.

    Wow, right? This answers the question perfectly. It is what makes them unique. They turned something that they know doesn’t look great on paper into a huge positive.

  4. I am a foster parent and am currently fostering two wonderful children. I also have two kids of my own. I’m always busy and often mediating fights, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.

    This managerial candidate shows that they not only can manage on the job, but that it’s ingrained in who they are. There’s also a note of genuine compassion in the response. Finally, they love this type of work and choose to have a life in which their skills are put to use on a daily basis.

  5. I have a degree in archeology but never worked a day in the field after college. I know this sounds odd, and it’s my true passion, but turning it into a job felt like taking the joy out of it. Instead, I use my analytical skills and attention to detail to dig into financial reports.

    Suddenly, the job of a field auditor for an accounting firm sounds more interesting. Again, taking a point that sounds out of place on paper and turning it into something that makes your candidate outstanding is exactly what this question is designed to do.

  6. I’m a people person. I thrive in social environments and find that people are naturally drawn to me. This is my happy place.

    A simple statement might not mean much if the person were applying for a job as a night janitor, but it means a lot for a potential customer service representative or a party planner.

  7. I was in politics when I was younger. When I was 18, I was elected mayor of my hometown. This made me the youngest mayor ever elected in our state, but I decided politics wasn’t for me. I enjoyed working with people and loved the entire election process. It was the best education I could have given myself at the time. Now, I love to teach others and share my story so they can go for their dreams, no matter their age.

    Can you guess what position this person is applying for? Yes, they are a teacher and what an incredible story. Even if they weren’t elected, just the gumption to go after a dream and learn from it is something that can benefit the students in a fresh and novel way.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have your “unique” question answer ready – you’re good to go, right? Not a chance. There are a ton of questions you might run into during your interview. It’s good to prepare for all of them equally. Consider your answers to these questions, too:

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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