How to Answer the 'What Sets You Apart from the Rest?' Interview Question

by Vault Careers | February 20, 2018

  • My Vault
interviewing woman and man

An extremely common interview question these days is some form of "What sets you apart from the rest of the candidates for this job?" Other incarnations of this question include "Why should we hire you?" and "What makes you so different from all the other people interviewing for this position?" No matter exactly how this question is worded, it's getting at the same thing: what are your greatest strengths and skills, what might make you unique, and how those strengths and skills and uniqueness will translate into success in the position you're interviewing for.

The first thing to do, when thinking about how to answer this question, is read very thoroughly through the job description. In fact, read it a few times. Then read it again. And when you pretty much have it memorized, ask yourself this question: What are the one or two most important strengths and/or skills needed to be successful in this position?

As you think about that, don't forget that you were asked to interview for the position because the hiring managers believe that you have those one or two strengths or skills on paper. During your interview is when you need to convince the hiring managers that you really have them (not just on your resume and/or LinkedIn profile).

Okay, now that you've answered that question for yourself and identified those important strengths and/or skills, then begin to compile a few detailed examples of how you've used (and maybe still use) these strengths/skills in your current job and/or past jobs. The word "detailed" can't be stressed enough. You want to paint a very clear picture of how you've used these strengths/skills in the past to great success. Maybe you want to point to hard numbers if it makes sense to (revenue numbers, page views, percent increases, etc.). Maybe you want to mention promotions, awards, specific projects, etc.

Once you've identified your examples, you then want to practice your answer. You can do this silently in your head or aloud (aloud is much better). As you practice, notice any areas that trip you up, that don't sound enthusiastic, and make sure to keep track of time. You don't want to sound vague or wishy-washy or uninterested. After all, these are among your strengths and skills, so you should feel at ease (or at least it should appear that way) when speaking about them. You should also be very excited to use them and improve them in a new role. In addition, you want your answer to be pretty concise, which is to say no more than a few minutes tops.

A few other things to keep in mind: Although "uniqueness" was mentioned above, this doesn't necessarily mean you need to identify something that you think no other candidate has. However, with your answer, you'll show your interviewer that no one has quite the type of experience in your strength/skill as you do. Your detailed examples of how you've used your strength will set you apart and make your candidacy unique. 

As a final note, during your answer preparation before your interview, if you ever get tripped up, or you're unsure whether or not to include a certain detail in your answer, refer back to the job description. Think of the job description as a road map for your answer. It'll help you stay on track.

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Filed Under: Internships | Interviewing | Job Search

Tags: answering interview questions | interview advice | interview questions | interview tips | strengths and weaknesses

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