It's not uncommon in a job interview to be asked, "What makes you unique?" Most job seekers naturally feel the need to say something witty or unexpected. And, that's where things go wrong. I recently asked a group of professional recruiters what's the worst response they've gotten to this question. Here are some of the most cringe-worthy answers:
"I don't think I am unique."
"My Star Wars action figure collection."
"I can balance a spoon on my nose."
"I can't share that with you, unless you sign a NDA."
So, what's a good answer? Most experts tell you to stick to your skills, experience, and background. As a career coach, I encourage people to take that a step further and consider how those three things make you the go-to person for solving a particular type of problem. Here's why...
Employers Hire the Aspirin, Not the Vitamin
When an employer asks about your uniqueness, they're really saying, "Explain to me how you will immediately make things better." Thus, you need to showcase how you can save and/or make them enough money to justify the cost of hiring you. Better still, show them how you will ease troubles and get rid of headaches. The more you can prove you're the aspirin (immediate relief) versus the vitamin (preventative, but no immediate relief), the more likely you are to get the job.
Please Remember: You're Unique, But Not Special
It's also important when answering this question to have a bit of humility. There are other candidates in the race who are equally qualified. The employer's asking you what makes you different, not special. So, I'd start your answer with something like, "While I know all the candidates applying for this job are unique, I think my background in _____ will help me stand out in this role. Here's why...." You don't have to throw the competition under the bus in order to convey how your skills will uniquely benefit the hiring manager.
P.S. -- Hiring Managers Need to Know More Than Your Uniqueness
Being prepared for interviews today means knowing how to answer behavioral questions. Learning how to share your past experiences in a way that validates you have the skills to do the job is an important part of convincing the hiring manager you have what they need. It's not enough to be unique; you need to be comprehensive in your answers to show you are telling the truth, and truly capable of doing what you claim you can do.