|  February 24, 2014

Interview Questions: What sets you apart from other applicants?

Today we’re addressing an interesting and important interview question:

What sets you apart from other applicants?

Why they’re asking:

They want to know what makes you the best person for the job and also want to know what you might be able to bring to the table that others can’t.

Can also be phrased as:

Why are you the best person/applicant/candidate for the job?

Why should we hire you over other candidates?

How to answer:


There are two keys to answering this interview question well:

1. Know your biggest strengths

When preparing for this question, the first thing I suggest is making a list of skills and strengths you have.

They can range from more generic to more unique. There will be quite a few on the list (if not, go back because you’re probably not giving yourself enough credit!) and you might choose to share some of those when answering the similar interview question of “What is your biggest strength?”

While this question is similar to that one, it’s tone is a little different. If someone is asking it, they probably want to know about your unique strengths — essentially the things you can bring to the company that the other candidates can’t.

That could be a very specialized skill or it could just be truly excelling in a more basic skill.


2. Understanding the strengths most important to the job you’re interviewing for

A good answer to this question isn’t just about listing a unique skill you have. Being able to hold your breath for 2 minutes under water may very well set you apart from other candidates, but if it’s not relevant to the job, it’s not a good one to share. The

The job description holds all the information you need to figure this out. Does it seem like organizational skills are emphasized or is it more about creativity? In the requirements section does it call for “1 year of X experience” or “basic knowledge of X”?

3. Putting it together

Take your list and take what you’ve learned about the job, and decide what to share. If you are using a more generic skill, but explaining how you’ve excelled in it, be able to back up your statement with an example.

“What sets me apart from other candidates is my organization skills. During my internship at X, I managed a project that required me to put these skills to use by [share what you did]… and the result was [share your success].”

If you’re going to use something more unique, make sure you’ve been able to share your other big strengths earlier in the interview or at least in the beginning of this question. As an example:

“In addition to being highly organized and detail-oriented, I am fluent in 3 languages and have had extensive experience working with international partners. This experience will allow me to excel in this role and hit the ground running.”

Remember that this question is about what’s going to really set you apart. It’s a time to be confident in your abilities and really sell yourself. 

To check out our full section on common interview questions click here and if you’re currently getting ready for an interview, check out our downloadable interview prep workbook as well.

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