The question, “what makes you unique?”
This question can be identified as one of the trickiest questions in the interview process. This open-ended question provides ample opportunity for both the hiring official as well as the candidate to express themselves and dominate the scene. This is an abstract question aimed at exploring the thought process of the candidate and the multiple ways in which they sell themselves. Any answer to this question helps a candidate to distinguish themselves from all other candidates as it is necessary to strike a balance between your level of confidence and arrogance.
The intention behind this question
There are a variety of intentions behind a common question like this. They are listed below.
● The hiring officials may be interested to know more about the personality and approach of the candidate. It is quite easy to find the talents, skill sets, and experience a candidate holds. Understanding more about the character of the person is a difficult task. This question subtly forces the candidate to prioritize the skills they possess. If the skills valued by the person synchronize with the requirements of the job they have applied for, the selection process becomes easy for the hiring officials.
● Even though the intention of the question seems to explore the uniqueness of a person, it has another associated dimension that is more important. The recruiting agency would like to know indirectly from you the values you could contribute to the well-being of the company as a whole. If this perfectly matches the expectations of the company, it will help you through the process.
● Answering the uniqueness of oneself makes it easier for the prospective employee to help distinguish each candidate from one another. In a highly competitive and dynamic field where multiple candidates come with similar qualifications and experiences, the recruiting agency needs to distinguish each of them as the opportunities may be very limited.
● This question is a measure of a candidate’s creativity. As mentioned before, this is an abstract question that requires enormous creativity and innovation to present a good answer. Thinking from the perspective of the candidate, if they can think out of the box and present a distinguishable answer, the chances of selection are very high.
● Like almost all abstract and common questions asked in an interview, an answer to this question is a direct measure of the amount of background research done by the candidate regarding the job position. There is no way in which a candidate can answer this question without mentioning the expectations of the job as well as that of the company. On the flip side, if your answer is in contrast to the expectations and requirements of the company, your chances of getting through becoming very less. There will not be a huge motivation for the hiring of officials to give a second chance to you in such situations.
Things to keep in mind while answering
Many things are to be kept in mind while you answer this question. They are as follows.
● Background research
Background research and lookup are inevitable components of an answer preparation strategy.
A candidate must understand the skills expected by the company relevant to the job position they have applied for. Matching those skills with that of themselves will be highly rewarding in the case of abstract questions like this. After listing out the skills necessary for the job position, you may practice thoroughly to blend those into casual conversation-style answers.
● Assessing oneself
You must answer on point to the question. The question requires you to make explicit those character features that make you unique among other candidates. To find those skills which make you unique, you have to engage yourself in self-assessment. As mentioned in the previous point, connect it with the requirements of the job.
● Cite examples
It will be highly impactful if you can successfully share examples from your past to convince the interview board regarding the uniqueness of your character. Invariably, any answer structured in the form of a story will remain in their minds and eventually be more productive than any other type of answer. You may have a lot of examples to share if you have a few years of work experience. You must identify it specifically and craft it according to the needs of the question. If you are a fresh graduate, you may try to incorporate your examples and experiences from your college life. This can be anything related to extracurricular activities or even academics. While you transform these instances into answers, you necessarily need to keep in mind a few things. A story like an example sharing will only be successful if it is concise, short, and positive. In other words, the uniqueness has to transcend into the way of construction of the answer as well.
● With relation to the company
This step can be implemented in all those abstract questions that can come up during an interview process. While your frame and answer to this question, it is important not just talk about you. It is equally important that you answer from the perspective of the company by explaining how you can contribute positively to the success of the organization. After researching the work ethics of the company and the skills and talents expected from the job position, you may craft your answer in such a way that you express your confidence regarding the positive impact you can bring about in achieving their short-term and long-term goals.
● Stay unique
To stay unique in the answer presentation style, you must practice multiple times and present your answer with maximum confidence. Rather than going with a long-used common presentation style, you can improvise it according to your convenience. Improvisation can be successful only if it’s practiced with perfection.
Common mistakes to avoid while answering this question
Avoiding mistakes that commonly occur while answering these questions is equally important as that of the tips to perform better. Here is a list of possible mistakes that are to be strictly avoided.
● A very generic answer
The interview board asks this particular question to avoid generic answers and get more clarity about the uniqueness of your character. If you present a generic answer, it defeats the purpose of the question. From the point of view of the success of a candidate, presenting a general answer will do no good. This situation can also see if you do not have specific examples to convince the hiring officials on the point you have just made.
● Oversharing of information
Like any other situation during an interview, professional etiquette has to be maintained at all costs. Since this question is an open-ended one asking for your creativity, it should not be forced to be unprofessional. A funny conversation or a light-minded casual conversation will not help you go very far.
● No to rambling
If you do not keep your answer concise and on point, it will bring more negative than the positive it intended for. This usually happens if you haven’t planned well and practiced enough.
● Do not contradict the principles.
There may be a spectrum of things that the company is looking for from a candidate who has applied for that particular job position. You mustn’t contradict the expectations of the organization. This happens in two different situations. If you have not done enough background research, and underprepared answer can get the candidate out of the process. This can also happen if a candidate has not practiced enough.
● Never lie
It is found very common for candidates tend to lie during an interview process in an attempt to impress the hiring officials. This is a highly risky attempt putting at stake your prospects. In this information era, it is wise to expect that the hiring officials will come to know about this and invite trouble for yourself.
Sample answers to the question
“If I have to answer about my unique skill, I must say that I am creative-minded. Even in situations with high pressure, I am confident that I can shine better with creativity. It helps me to set myself apart from other colleagues in my previous company.
In the last job, I suggested the idea of raising the aesthetic standards of the company. As a result, we introduced many initiatives which turned out to be highly productive and enriching. Our clients were interested in it and left us positive notes regarding the same. My colleague said that they were also interested in the new work setup and stated that it would help them to perform better.
If I get a chance to work with this company, I am sure that I can contribute positively to its growth by thinking out of the box and by attempting to establish a great rapport with the clients as and when required by the company.”
“My unique ability is to adapt quickly to any situation as required without any delay. I can work in such situations without losing my efficiency. I was given additional tasks in clubs and societies during my college life as they had confidence in me. I take such opportunities as learning experiences which eventually help me to perform better and more difficult situations. I have built a fair amount of confidence to work in such situations, and I’m sure that I can contribute positively to this company in that regard. My flexibility and open-mindedness can be put into right use with this wonderful work environment that this organization offers.”
“I endorse my unique ability to handle difficult situations with the calmest mind possible. I have been asked to specifically handle such situations during my college days by the office bearers of different clubs and societies. I have invested my time in the working and crisis management department during college festivals and events. I am confident that I can bring the best out of such situations with the least distractions possible.
I firmly believe that my ability to look from a different perspective and apply logic and reason too difficult situations will be a great asset to your company in the future.”
Follow up questions
Since this is an abstract model question, the hiring officials may come up with follow-up questions to assert or cross-check whatever you have said. It is wise to prepare yourself and expect such follow-up questions from the interview board.
● Can you talk about any of those qualities which I haven’t read in your resume?
In situations like this, you have to be prepared beforehand to explain interesting aspects of your professional career. Invariably, you may receive a question like this to check your preparation for the interview. A candidate who hasn’t paid much attention may find it very difficult to cross this question as it seems confrontational. One should not lose one temperament when hearing this question. A well-thought-out answer can help you to face the situation with confidence.
● What are your plans regarding putting your skills to effective use?
This follows up question can come to you if you haven’t made explicit how you are going to contribute to the goals of the company. The hiring officials may be interested to know from you how do you plan to help the company in the short term and long term. Irrespective of their impressions of you, this follow-up question should be taken as a wonderful opportunity to sell yourself before the interview board.
● Why do you think you are a good candidate for this job position?
This follows up question can be a result of your incomplete explanation of the answer. When you are going to answer a question like this, you must keep in mind the values of the company and explain how you can play a part in this.
➔ Always give prime importance to those things which set you apart from other candidates who have applied for the same job with similar skills and experience.
➔ Always ensure that you do not overdo your answer. Present before the hiring officials those points which may help you and avoid all those which can land you in trouble.
➔ Value the time of your prospective employer and always keep your answers concise and precise.
➔ Never forget to incorporate your real-life examples, which can contribute to convincing the hiring officials better.
➔ Ensure that you practice and you prepare well in advance so that you do not forget any of those points which can add value to your answer.
➔ Do not take the word ‘unique’ blindly and try to find only those things which set you apart from other candidates. Rather, find a balance between both and incorporate your great achievements even though it is not unique.
➔ Rely on the help of your friends or family members to conduct mock interview sessions and request them to ask abrupt and unexpected follow-up questions as it can raise your confidence to a higher level.