Answering the “What Makes You Unique?” Interview Question

Dana Guterman
Updated: April 14, 2020

Every single person on this planet is unique, simply because each one of us is unlike anyone else. So, when an interviewer asks, “What makes you unique?”, it can be hard to know where to start. Maybe you’ve camped in 63 different countries, or perhaps you collect vintage mystery novels.

While the interviewer may find these tidbits interesting, that’s not what they want to know. What they’re really asking is “What sets you apart from other candidates?” and “What makes you the best candidate for the job?”

How to answer “What makes you unique?”

Now that your personal quirks aren’t part of the equation, it’s time to explain what makes you uniquely qualified for this specific role. To craft a response that sets you apart from the competition, follow these steps:

1. Review the internship or job description.

The job description is your cheat sheet. By studying it carefully, you’ll know exactly what the employer wants in an ideal candidate. If you have time, do some additional research. That way, if you’re interviewing to be a design intern and learn that you’ll be working closely with the marketing team, you can highlight your unique marketing experience.

2. Highlight how your skills, personality, and/or experience align with what’s listed.

Jot down all your skills, experiences, and personality traits that overlap with the job description. All of this taken together will allow you to prove that you have a unique value-add as a candidate.

3. Share a past example, using specific details to differentiate yourself.

This is a behavioral interview question in disguise, so you need to back up your response with concrete evidence. The best way to do that? Sharing specific past examples. If you say you have exceptional organizational skills, you need to demonstrate it.

4. Emphasize how your skills or experience will allow you to contribute positively in this role.

You’ve done it before, and you can do it again. Tie everything together by showing the interviewer how your unique qualities will help them successfully meet their business goals.

What not to say

There are also some common mistakes to avoid when answering, “What makes you unique?” Steer clear of the following:

  • Giving a generic answer. This is always bad, but when the point of a question is to highlight your individuality, it’s a deal breaker. Everyone thinks they’re a hard worker and a team player; be sure to differentiate yourself.
  • Highlighting irrelevant skills or experiences. No one cares that you’ve never ridden a bike—or that you were once in a commercial for dog food. Stick to the job at hand.
  • Going low. Yes, being asked what makes you “better” than other candidates kinda sucks. Stay positive and don’t speak poorly of people you don’t know. Instead, focus on your excellence.


“What makes you unique?”: Example answers

Here are two more examples for strong responses that utilize the framework above.

Example 1: Administrative assistant

You’re a small company, and you need an administrative assistant who is adaptable and on top of things. I believe that my organizational skills and flexibility make me a unique candidate for this role. Last year, after the event manager for our treble choir stepped down with little notice, I agreed to take his place. The group had a six-state tour coming up, so they needed someone to manage logistics. I made all the arrangements, from transportation to hotels, and put everything on a detailed spreadsheet.

Our tour was a great success, and everything went off without a hitch—except for one canceled flight, and I got us rebooked just four hours later. In fact, every show except one was sold out. At the end of the tour, I opted to step down, and we elected someone who really wanted the role. I’m not about ego—I’m about making everyone look good and ensuring everything runs smoothly. I’m glad I stepped up for my choir, and I’d do the same for your company.

Example 2: Sales Intern

As your sales intern, I’ll go above and beyond for the client, doing whatever it takes to make them happy. I was volunteering at my local food pantry last summer, working as a pantry assistant. When I was done with my shift, I saw one of our clients, an elderly man, waiting for the bus. He was balancing several bags and kept dropping things. I knew he lived nearby, so I offered to give him a ride home. When we arrived, I carried in his groceries. It went so well that I spoke to the pantry manager about setting up a carpool system, with volunteers driving clients home after their shift ended. Now, more than a quarter of our clients have reliable transport to and from the pantry each week. Plus, I’m now good friends with that client! I’ll bring the same personal touch and dedication to work for you.

You’re a unique person; now, you’re ready to prove it to the interviewer.