There are plenty of things that make each one of us unique.

For instance, here are a few quirks of mine -- I put my phone on airplane mode every night around 9 p.m. to avoid distractions, even though plenty of my friends have pointed out that the silence button works too. I can't sit still for long periods of time, so I regularly do laps around the office. And I can't leave my apartment, no matter how late I am, until my bed is made.

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None of which I'd admit in an interview.

The interview question, "What makes you unique?" is not an opportunity to confess weird habits or odd quirks. It's a chance to provide the interviewer with insight into how you'd be the best candidate for a role, while proving you're someone who can think on her feet.

Essentially, "What makes you unique" really means, "What makes you an exceptionally good candidate?"

To avoid an awkward conversation, you'll want to be prepared to answer "What makes you unique" in an interview. Here are seven sample answers to ensure you're proving yourself an incredibly valuable company asset.

7 Sample Answers to "What Makes You Unique?" and Why They Work

1. "I am a very good communicator and find it's easy for me to relate to other people."

Consider mentioning a personality trait you feel would be a good fit for the business. After reading the job description, make a list of attributes that could make you an exceptional candidate.

Additionally, including a personality trait in your answer allows you to display how you're a good fit for a role in which you have little prior experience.

For instance, if you're applying for a position as a team leader, it's critical that you demonstrate strong communication skills and an ability to connect with a diverse group of people. If you tell the interviewer, "I am a very good communicator and find it's easy for me to relate to other people", you're able to match your personality to components of a successful leader.

2. "I really enjoy learning new things and am constantly seeking out new learning opportunities."

By mentioning your passion for learning new things, you're demonstrating you're growth-focused and unafraid of challenges.

Additionally, answering the question in this way allows you to remind the interviewer why you're uniquely qualified for the role -- while other candidates might have more prior experience in the industry, you're proving your desire to exceed expectations of the job quickly.

3. "My prior experience in customer service has provided me with unique technical skills that I can apply to this role."

If you have prior experience in a role vastly different from the one for which you're applying, you might use this as an opportunity to explain how your background uniquely qualifies you. With an answer like this one, you're able to alleviate concerns the interviewer might have with your lack of experience in the field.

It's critical, however, that you provide specific examples of how your prior experience has provided you with certain transferrable skills. For instance, you might say, "My prior experience in customer service provided me with technical skills and an extensive knowledge base for how our product works. As a marketer, I will be able to use this knowledge to ensure we're meeting our customers needs with every campaign we launch."

4. "Working at a startup gave me an opportunity to understand the ins-and-outs of the industry, and to take on tasks I might not have at a larger company. I think this experience gives me a slight edge over other applicants."

Similar to the answer above, this answer is a good one if you're attempting to switch industries. If you think your prior experience could deter interviewers from seeing you as exceptionally qualified, this is an optimal chance to prove them wrong. Consider how your background has allowed you to gain unique skills that others, who followed a more linear career trajectory, might not have. 

For instance, if you previously worked at a small startup and now you want to transfer to a large corporation, it's important you mention how those skills will make you successful in this new role.

5. "I'm not afraid of failure. In fact, I think it is an essential part of the experimental process that gets you to success. For example … "

This answer shows your interviewer that you're not afraid to take risks. Of course, you'll only want to say this if you have a positive example to reinforce the importance of failure in the workplace.

You don't want to sound like you make mistakes all the time, but you'll stand out if you mention how you turned a failure into a success.

For instance, you might say, "I'm not afraid of failure. In my last role, we tried to streamline our SEO process and, along the way, found we'd accidentally decreased traffic to our site. However, this initial failure allowed me to see the errors in our previous procedure. My team and I came up with a more successful strategy to avoid these mistakes in the future, and ended up increasing traffic by 20%."

With this answer, you're showing you're capable of remaining flexible and open-minded when something doesn't work right away, and you know how to take failures and use them as learning opportunities -- a critical skill for any work environment.

6. "When solving problems, I apply both logic and emotional aspects in equal proportion. For instance, I'm trained in SEO and understand how to use analytics to ensure a marketing campaign is successful, but I also majored in design and know how to apply creativity to a project as well."

If you're stuck on deciding how to demonstrate your unique qualifications, start by thinking about how other people approach problems at your company, and how you differ.

For instance, most people are either logical and use analytics to solve problems, or emotional and use creativity. It's rare to find someone who is both. If you truly believe you combine these two aspects, it's an impressive ability you should highlight.

7. "I'm exceptionally organized, and at my last company, I was able to apply this skill to improve our process and increase ROI by 33%."

Remember, when your interviewee asks "what makes you unique", she's really wondering "how will you help our company?" At the end of the day, it's critical you tie your answer back to how you will solve problems for the company.

To avoid sounding like you're bragging, consider a personality trait or skill set that helped your last company achieve results. If the results are quantitative, make sure you have the specific numbers to support your claim. However, it's also appropriate to share qualitative results, such as, "my organizational skills led my manager to trusting me with a major project within the first two months in my role." Ultimately, providing examples shows the interviewer you're results-driven, and aren't just saying generic phrases to answer her question.

Interview Kit for Job Seekers

Originally published Dec 4, 2018 7:00:00 AM, updated December 04 2018

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