How To Answer “What Makes You Unique?” (+ Sample Answers)

what makes you unique

By Jeff Gillis

UPDATED 6/30/2022

what makes you unique

Uniqueness is a bit of a strange concept. When it comes to the formal definition, something is unique when it exists as the sole example, essentially having no equal. So, when the hiring manager asks, “What makes you unique?” it’s not uncommon to struggle a bit.

Luckily, you don’t have to be the sole example of something to answer this question well. If you’re wondering how to answer “what makes you unique,” here’s how to get headed in the right direction.

Why Do They Ask You “Tell Us What Makes You Unique?”

So, why do hiring managers ask you, “What makes you unique?” Is it to throw you off a bit? Well, maybe a little. But there’s actually more to it than that.

First, your answer gives them insights into what you value in yourself. You’re essentially discussing why you believe you’re special, and the traits or capabilities you decide to showcase can give them potent clues about your personality and skills.

Second, they want to see how you manage stress. Talking about yourself in this manner is, admittedly, uncomfortable, and they want to know if you can navigate the challenge.

Finally, the hiring manager is trying to see if you bring an ability or characteristic to the table that they didn’t explicitly request, but could help you, the team, and the company thrive in an unexpected way.

As the minds at the Balance put it, the hiring manager isn’t just looking at your technical qualifications, but at whether you have “something above and beyond what the other candidates offer, showing that you’ll be a strong addition to the company.” They’re after that bit of something extra, as that could help the organization reach new heights.

How to Answer “What Makes You Unique?”

Take a minute and think of all the answers that pop into your head. Are they quirky traits that set you apart from your friends and family? Are they odd habits that you’ve had since childhood that nobody else seems to have? Is it a skill you’ve always wished you could share on late-night television but never gotten the chance?

Okay, now let’s try that question again, but this time, I’m going to run it through the “What the interviewer is actually asking” filter. Are you ready? Here it is:

“What about you makes you the best candidate for this job?”

Rather than figuring out what makes you unique, think about what value you bring to the company. Now, your list might include valuable things like “I’m highly motivated by a challenge” and “I enjoy working with a team to bring a project to completion.”

This question is meant to find out what makes you valuable both as a person and in the workplace…and why those differences set you apart from the other candidates. Remember, an interviewer’s number one job is to find the best candidate for the position they are hiring for, and your job is to prove to them that you’re the perfect candidate!

Remember, this is just one question the hiring manager could ask you in your interview! That’s why we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview.

Click below to get your free PDF now:

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Answering “What Makes You Unique” on a Job Application

Your first encounter with this interview question may come when you are filling out a job application. It is not uncommon for a company to ask you something along the lines of, “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique.”

You really don’t need to overthink this. Everything that we’ve said above still applies. If you want to get the maximum benefit from the answer you give, you just need to ensure that you use the allotted characters you have in an economical way.

The hiring managers want clear, concise thoughts, which is why they put a character limit on it in the first place. So, one major thing to avoid is rephrasing the question in any way. You also want to skip filler words that don’t add any real value to the answer.

The most important thing to remember is to try to focus on unique skills that you have that are the most relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Use the following tips to further help with crafting your answer.

Top 5 Tips for “What Makes You Unique”

1. Do Your Homework

Start with the job listing itself. Look at what skills are required and match those up with the skills you know you have. Make sure when you answer the question that you work those skills into the conversation through examples.

2. Self-Assess

After you’ve gone over the job posting and your related skills, spend some time asking yourself about what sets you apart from other candidates and write those answers down. Come up with a list of skills or traits that you think are unique to you – and make you a valuable addition to the company – that weren’t listed in the job posting.

3. Reference the Past

Share actual examples from your own work history to back up your answers. Make sure your stories are short, concise, and end on a positive note. Share with your hiring manager not only what makes you unique but how you used that uniqueness in a positive, constructive way.

4. It’s Not All About You

Yes, it’s your interview, but really, it’s all about the company and how you can help them. Do your research on the company ahead of time and come up with solid ways your unique skills and talents can benefit them. Yes, getting the job would help you, but ultimately, it’s always about them.

5. Be Unique

Yes, this question is all about how you’re unique, but it’s all too easy to fall into less than unique answers that your interviewer has already heard a million times.

Instead of saying, “I’m a really hard worker,” say, “I’m driven to complete a task, no matter how difficult.” Forgo “I’m a fast learner” in favor of “I really enjoy learning new things and find that it’s easy for me to pick up on required skills.” And skip “I always go above and beyond” and go with “I truly enjoy excelling and pushing myself. I look forward to tasks where I can learn and grow.”

Then, practice ahead of time. That way, your answers sound smooth and confident.

How NOT to Answer This Question

Now that we’ve shown you the best techniques to answer the “What makes you unique” interview question, we thought we’d go over some of the things you definitely need to avoid when facing this question.

1. Oversharing

Yes, the hiring manager really does want to know what makes you unique, but only so far as it applies to the job. Keep your truly personal details private. Remember, they want to know how your unique skills will help the company, not that you spend your weekends dressing your dog up in accurate period costumes and reenacting major historical battles.

2. Being Generic

We touched on this above, but it really does need to be said twice. While it’s tempting to rush through this question simply because it’s not easy to answer, don’t fall back onto bland, boring answers with no example follow-ups.

3. Being Negative

This question isn’t an opportunity for you to trash on the other job seekers who are applying for the position. Don’t use this as a platform to tell the hiring manager why you’re superior to all those other job seekers in the waiting room. Not only will it make you look petty and shallow, but it also won’t win you any points.

4. Don’t Get “Lost”

Keep your answer short, focused, and relevant. Make sure you use targeted words that highlight your skills and then follow those up with a clear example. Don’t ramble on talking about unrelated skills that have nothing to do with the job or the company you’re interviewing for.

5. Don’t Lie

We say this time and time again in these blogs because it’s critical. Be honest! Don’t come up with a unique skill or trait you don’t actually possess just because you think it’ll get you hired. There’s nothing worse than being hired for a job you can’t actually do or talking about a skill you don’t actually have only to get asked to use it. Be honest!

How to Use the Job Description to Find the Best Traits

At this point, you’ve probably got a solid idea about how to answer the “what makes you unique” interview question. However, it’s wise to go a bit further.

While discussing what sets you apart from other candidates in general is fine, relevancy should be the name of the game. You want to consider, “What makes me unique that’s also something the hiring manager would value?” By doing that, you’re able to identify unique traits that also improve your position as a candidate.

In most cases, the job description is an excellent resource when you want to tailor your answers to the job. What you want to find is tidbits about the type of candidate they’re after. That means looking beyond the must-have hard skills. Instead, you want to consider what unique characteristics allow you to apply those technical abilities better.

Similarly, you want to highlight unique traits that make you adept at navigating a workplace similar to the hiring manager’s company. Again, that makes you a far stronger candidate.

When it’s time to talk about those unique characteristics, don’t just say what you bring to the table. Instead, think about your past jobs and other past experiences, including educational pursuits, hobbies, volunteer work, and more. Then, find examples that demonstrate your unique traits, as showing is always more effective than telling.

If you want to learn more about how to make any of your interview answers ridiculously relevant, check out our Tailoring Method article for more details.

5 Great Sample Answers

To help you come up with your own answers, here are five “what makes you unique” example answers.

For a position that requires a team leader:


“I’m particularly adept at working with different personalities and finding a way to motivate people. In my last role, I oversaw a project with a diverse team, including one employee that classically struggled with deadlines. Not only was I able to make sure that everyone worked well together, but I also took time to speak with the one challenging employee and determined that positive feedback was a critical part of their success equation. By going the extra mile to comment on their efforts, they were far more engaged, resulting in the project finishing on time and above expectations.”

For a job that requires ongoing education:


“By nature, I’m incredibly curious, and I love a challenge. That’s part of why I initially studied medicine. Conditions can present in numerous ways, and our understanding of the human body continuously shifts. By pursuing a healthcare career, I get to feed my curiosity daily, both when assisting patients with unique presentations and by furthering my knowledge in emerging areas.

In my last role, I was traditionally completed by required credits far sooner than my colleagues and often went further, attending conferences and networking to stay on the cutting-edge. That allowed me to bring valuable knowledge back to my workplace, making it easier for us all to remain ahead.”

For a position where you lack direct experience:


“One thing that makes me unique for this role in human resources is my previous experience in the information technology field. I spent nine years working in a networking position, collaborating with colleagues in a range of specialties. When I pivoted and returned to college to get my degree in human resources, many didn’t see the connection. However, I believe this makes me particularly well-suited for a technical recruiter role, as I understand what it takes to thrive in these positions thanks to my previous experience.”

For roles where a strength that’s a weakness for others provides value:


“One capability that I feel is genuinely unique in this field is my skill with public speaking. I’m incredibly comfortable giving presentations, which is why I was selected to lead training activities and showcase project progress during meetings in my last role. Whether it’s a handful of people or hundreds, I have no issue standing up and sharing knowledge and information whenever the need arises.”

For a job where an unconventional degree is beneficial


“One way that I feel I stand out from other sales professionals is actually my education. While it may not seem like a degree in psychology would provide exceptional value, it taught me a lot about why people make certain decisions and what motivates them to buy. In my last role, I was able to convert 22 percent more leads simply because I could quickly adjust my approach based on the potential buyer’s sentiment and perspective. The ability to pivot my language and adjust my strategy to make them not just comfortable but confident yielded results, something that I can continue doing in my next job.”

Putting It All Together

Remember, when you’re answering the dreaded “What makes you unique” interview question, what you’re really answering is “What makes you the best candidate for this job?” Keep your answers memorable, keep them focused and keep them relevant. Make yourself stand out from the herd by showing your value to the company.

And as always, good luck!


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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.