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  3. "What sets you apart from other candidates?" With example answers to show your worth
"What sets you apart from other candidates?" With example answers to show your worth

"What sets you apart from other candidates?" With example answers to show your worth

  • Why interviewers ask you “What sets you apart from other candidates?”
  • How to construct your answer to "What sets you apart from other candidates?"
  • How not to answer the question "What sets you apart?"
  • 4 Examples of how to answer "What sets you apart from other candidates?"
  • 1. Highlight your professional development
  • 2. Describe hobbies or volunteer work 
  • 3. Bring up your achievements
  • 4. Mention international experience
  • Key takeaways

If you’re one of many candidates for a job and you’re asked, “What sets you apart from other candidates,” you should have a great answer to demonstrate why you’re the best person. But how do you create a great response? We’ll show you how!

There are a few interview questions you're almost certainly going to encounter in every interview you have, such as "Tell me about yourself," and "What sets you apart from other candidates?" This last question can almost seem like a “gotcha” question, but it’s actually a great way to craft an answer that showcases your talents, skills, and abilities to show the hiring manager that you are indeed the best person for the job. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why do interviewers ask this question?

  • How to construct your answer to "What sets you apart from other candidates?"

  • 4 examples of how to answer "What sets you apart from other candidates?"

Why interviewers ask you “What sets you apart from other candidates?”

Hiring managers want to hire people who are not only qualified for the job but will fit in with the company's culture. This question is a great opportunity to spend a little time discussing what makes you special, such as your strengths, skills, and career goals. It is also a chance to show them that you’ve researched the company and the position. Hiring managers also want to hire people who are excited about the opportunity, and researching the position will give you insight as to how your background aligns with the job expectations.

Other variations of this question include:

  • What makes you unique?

  • Why should we hire you?

  • What qualities do you have that make you the right person for the job?

Since you’ll most likely be asked this question at some point, you’ll want to craft a detailed but concise response that truthfully answers what makes you the best person for the job. Think about it—this hiring manager is probably interviewing half a dozen candidates with similar experience and skill sets. They want to know what makes you different.

Expert Tip

Use the STAR method to create your answers to questions like, "What sets you apart from the other candidates?” An acronym, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Using this method will allow you to develop a well-reasoned, considerate answer that pulls directly from your past experience to show off your skills, experience, and thoughtfulness in the best possible light.

How to construct your answer to "What sets you apart from other candidates?"

Before you can create an answer to this question, there’s a little prep work that needs to be done. Look closer at the job description and figure out what kind of person they’re looking for. Determine how your skills, experience, education, and achievements line up. Then, do a detailed self-inventory: what positive traits or talents do people often comment on? Are you a strong problem solver? Do you have any achievements or accomplishments you’re particularly proud of? How did the outcome benefit your employer? Are there any free time activities that you enjoy, such as volunteer work or interesting hobbies?  

You might want to steer clear of things that aren’t relevant to the position. For example, you might be an award-winning chef, but if you’re applying to be an accountant, it might not be helpful unless you also managed the bookkeeping. And remember, confidence and self-assurance are good. Keep your answer results-oriented. 

Statistical Insight

In general, behavioral questions, such as "What sets you apart?" can be illuminating, as a recent LinkedIn survey showed that 86 percent of respondents found this line of questioning “somewhat or very effective” in determining a candidate’s qualifications.

How not to answer the question "What sets you apart?"

This interview question has a myriad of response options. But, all of them should be job-focused, relevant, and stay on topic. While you have a lot of options, there are a few things to avoid when coming up with your answer. Avoid sarcasm. It’s okay to include some humor, if that’s true to your personality, but not everyone “gets” sarcasm and the interviewer might not pick up on it.

You’ll want to avoid saying “I don’t know.” The interviewer wants to know what sets you apart, so be specific and share something unique about you. Steer clear of answering with health challenges or political viewpoints you hold. Abstain from trash talking past employers or co-workers. 

  • Keep your answer concise. You don’t need to share your entire life story.
  • Have an answer prepared ahead of time so you’re not caught off-guard.
  • Stay positive and be confident.
  • Be surprised by the question and ramble incoherently. Assume it will be asked and have your answer ready to go.
  • Be shy. It’s okay to toot your own horn a bit.
  • Lie. Falsifying talents or skills you don’t have can come back to haunt you.

4 Examples of how to answer "What sets you apart from other candidates?"

Once you’ve done your self-inventory, you can create an answer around one characteristic or strength that specifically relates to the job requirements. The key point to communicate is that the things that set you apart will help you succeed in the position and benefit the organization. Below are four examples to help you get started. Of course, you’ll want to tailor your answers to reflect your unique experiences.

1. Highlight your professional development

You may have similar experience to the other candidates, but placed a priority on pursuing additional certifications that other candidates may not have. This shows the interviewer that you value staying up-to-date and sharpening your skills. For example, you could say:

“While I’m sure other candidates may have experience in product management, I have taken extra steps and pursued several advanced certifications such as The MicroMasters in Digital Transformation Leadership, New Product Development Professional, and the Agile Certified Product Manager and Product Owner credentials. These certifications show that I have the strong analytical and technical skills to be an effective product manager, but also demonstrate that I have a commitment to furthering my career in this field.”

2. Describe hobbies or volunteer work 

It’s fine to pull from your personal interests, hobbies, or volunteer work as long as it’s relevant to the job you’re seeking. And a unique experience will make your answer memorable. This shows that you’re a credible, distinctive person as well as having the skills and experience that meet (or exceed) the requirements for the position. Here’s an example:

“Three years ago, I volunteered at a school for special needs students in the Bronx. I learned how poverty and food insecurity in a community create systemic, far-reaching challenges for families trying to access quality education for their children, especially those with unique needs. This experience has provided me with a distinct perspective that will be of particular help in this educational leadership position. Because of my background, I have a keen understanding of how to support special needs students in the community and ensure that they receive the best education possible despite any socio-economic challenges they may face.”

3. Bring up your achievements

Show that you understand the company and general requirements for the position thanks to your diligent research! Describe past achievements that relate to this new role and projects the company is currently working on. Using quantifiable data demonstrates that you can bring tangible benefits to a company.

“I worked in administrative support for the first few years of my career, but I soon discovered that I had a real knack for facilities management. After taking a few courses and finishing my degree, I began to streamline the maintenance operations, which reduced overhead by 17 percent while still complying with the industrial safety and health standards. I also researched new equipment vendors that had a better safety record for their equipment, which reduced the time that was spent on repairs by half. This also led to 22 percent greater reported employee satisfaction and retention. Organization, strategy, and leadership are the areas that make me unique. I’m able to see the big picture and my experience in support roles also brings a distinctive empathy to those working on the floor every day, while still aligning with Sunshine Manufacturing Company’s goals for safety and efficiency.”

4. Mention international experience

Have you lived or studied in a market that the company is trying to break into? Fluent in the language of a big client?  Mention it! Show that your skills are unique and specific to the position you’re interviewing for.

“Something that sets me apart from the other candidates, and that may be a particular benefit to your company, is that I lived in Japan for 10 years and am fluent in Japanese. While doing my research, I learned that Sunshine Beverages is looking to expand into the Japanese market, so my language fluency would be quite useful. I could help build an accurate, culturally relevant website and lead any advertising campaigns directed to the Japanese market. Having someone in the trenches who speaks the language may also help with communicating your brand strategy and building connections with local businesses.”

Need help polishing your interview skills? Check out Career.io’s Interview Prep tool, which will provide mock interviews, live recordings, and AI-generated insights to give you the confidence to ace your next interview.

Key takeaways

  1. Answering the question “What sets you apart from other candidates” is a chance to discuss elements that make you unique, such as your strengths, skills, and career goals.

  2. Use the STAR method to develop a well-reasoned answer that draws from your past experience to display your skills and experience. 

  3. Keep your answer relevant to the position and avoid sarcasm, being overly personal, or badmouthing former employers or colleagues.

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