How to Answer the Interview Question “What Sets You Apart from Other Candidates?”

How to make yourself stand out against the competition.

Maddie Lloydby Maddie LloydGet The Job, Guides - 7 months ago

Picture this: you’re in the middle of an interview, and you’re doing great. You’ve answered every question with confidence and you’ve told the interviewer all about your skills and your previous experience. You think the interview is about to wrap up, but then they ask you, “what sets you apart from other candidates?”

You may think “How should I know? I don’t even know the other candidates. They’re probably better than me anyways…”

Hey now, don’t get down on yourself! Just remember that this question is simply your chance to let the interviewer know what makes you special as a potential employee, and it’s usually only asked of finalist candidates. So if you do hear this question — congrats! You’re already way ahead of the competition.

To give a good answer to this question, you have to really believe that you’re the best person for the job, and you have to be able to explain why.

Why are They Asking?

When you hear this question, they’re not asking you to talk about why everyone else sucks. The interviewer wants to know what strengths and experiences you feel are valuable and how they could benefit the company. This is your opportunity to let the interviewer know why you should be hired over everyone else.

Companies hire people to solve a problem, whether that problem is boosting sales or maintaining a brand — the problem could even be that they just need someone to scrub their toilets. When you give your answer, show them that you can solve their problem better than anyone else. Let them know what makes you the best toilet scrubber in the field.

This question sounds really similar to the “greatest strengths” question, but it’s asking for a different answer. The interviewer wants to know what you can bring to the company that no one else can. Don’t sell yourself short.

How to Prepare Your Answer

1. Stay on Topic
When getting ready to talk about what sets you apart from everyone else, remember to keep your answer relevant to the position you’re interviewing for. Think about what strengths are needed for the job and let them know how your skills and experience make you the best fit over all those other scrubs.

2. Research the Job Requirements
Make a list of the job requirements. Check to see if the company has a detailed list of their requirements in the job description. If they don’t, search similar job titles on sites like Indeed or Monster and look for ads that clearly describe what employers are looking for when hiring people for those jobs — this could include personality traits, skills, or qualifications.

3. Make a List of Your Own Qualifications
Compare your skills and qualifications to the requirements you find. Pick a few of your strengths that relate to the job requirements, and use them as the core for your answer about what makes you stand out among other candidates. These can be professional skills, areas of expertise, personal qualities, or any relevant experience.

4. Think of Ways to Out-Do the Other Candidates
When gathering your information and listing your credentials, try to predict what other people might say. Think about what strengths other people see as valuable, and think of examples you can give that show how you can outdo everyone else in these areas. Sidenote: don’t actually mention the other candidates. That would be weird. Just don’t do it, okay?

5. What Makes You Unique?
Think about what makes you uniquely perfect for the job. Try to pick out one or two qualities or experiences you have that are different from what other people might bring to the table, or things that are generally more difficult to find in potential employees.

Putting it Together

1. For every strength or skill on your list, think about your work, volunteer, and academic history to come up with examples of how you’ve used these strengths. Write down examples and come up with a story that shows your experience.

2. Think of a specific time when you used these traits to achieve something at work or on a project. Describe the project, what you did to address the situation, and the positive outcome that came from your work. For example, if you’re detail-oriented, think of a time where your attention to detail made your work stand out against other projects.

3. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. You don’t want your answer to be too long and risk boring your interviewer to death. Just pick out one or two specific qualities from your list to emphasize how perfect you are for the position. Start by telling them what you think they’re looking for, and how you specifically can satisfy that need.

Above all, remember that your story should show them why you should get the job over everyone else.

Sample Answers

Remember to think about which of your experiences and qualifications make you a better fit than the competition. For instance, maybe you have a certification that makes you more knowledgeable about various technologies than the average person.

While there are plenty of other potential employees who may share a similar academic background in renewable energy, I have multiple certifications from NABCEP and OSHA. These certifications indicate that I understand the risks and safety precautions need while on a job site, and I have a certified understanding of renewable energy practices that are used across North America.

In their answer, this person has shown that while they have a similar academic history as many of the applicants, but they also shown that they are uniquely valuable because they have certifications that put them ahead of other potential employees.

What sets me apart from everyone is probably my ability to management my time efficiently. While in attendance at my university, I would meticulously create to do lists each week, delegate tasks to various team members when working on projects, and break big goals into smaller parts in order to focus on them individually. Because of my time management skills, I have never missed a deadline and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

This answer is successful because this person has described ways that they’ve used their time management skills in different scenarios. They have also told the interviewer that because of their ability to manage their time so well, they were successful in college and graduated with the highest honors.

Final Thoughts

Remember that this question is about what’s really going to set you apart. Don’t be modest, this is the time to be confident about your strengths and really sell yourself to the interviewer. When you’re giving them your pitch, be positive and remember to reiterate your interest in the company and the job itself.

Now you’re prepared to let your interviewer know why you’re the best person for the job! Hooray!

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