When an interviewer asks you this question, you’re probably thinking, “why in the world are you asking me that? I’m here interviewing so you can figure that out yourself!” That would be nice and easy, but unfortunately, you need to answer it no matter how uncomfortable you feel. This question actually presents a great opportunity for you to express not only what makes you unique but also how that translates into a good fit for the role and organization. But it’s hard, because for most people articulating how you stand out from others is much easier said than done.
Here are some other variations of this question: “why should we choose you over other candidates?” or “what do you bring to the table that other applicants do not?” Another reason these are difficult questions to answer is that you most likely don’t know who your competition is. The best rule of thumb is to keep your response focused on yourself – not other candidates and your assumptions about them – and keep it positive. How can you best answer this question?
Ask yourself what problem the employer might have.
If you can identify an issue you know the employer faces, or envision one they may encounter, you can tell them how you can help solve it. For example, if you know the company is looking to win government contracts in the defense technology space, emphasize your expert knowledge of the defense and/or technology industry and that you can leverage your contacts to help them grow this part of their business. Another example would be if you created a spreadsheet to consolidate information and save co-workers from hours of searching. This demonstrates that you recognize issues and proactively solve them. Beyond giving an example of your capabilities, tell them that they would benefit from this skill.
Let them know why you are different.
What do current or past colleagues say about you? You can glean this information from emails you’ve received, verbal compliments, and/or performance appraisals. Share one or two anecdotes with the interviewer and give a specific example to show why you are viewed this way. This allows them to picture your past behavior, which allows them to imagine what you might do at their firm.
Talk up your track record.
The goal here is not to come across as arrogant, but to relate how a specific thing you’ve done proves that you can achieve a company’s goals. If you’ve improved customer satisfaction and enabled your current company to retain its customer base, tell the interviewer. Stick with one to two examples; otherwise, you’ll end up talking too much and your ability to truly listen to and engage with others is important to show in an interview.
Wave your qualifications flag.
If the job market where you’re searching has a shortage of qualified candidates with skills that you know are in demand, emphasize your qualifications. For instance, a job description may state the employer prefers someone with a master’s degree. If you have one, don’t just say, “I have a master’s and I know it’s hard to find that here.” Instead, explain how you’ve applied knowledge obtained from your degree in a work setting, or how you will specifically be able to do that in this role. This shows that you are motivated and want to put your knowledge into practice to help them.
This is one of those interview questions you should always prepare for in advance because it is asked often. Highlight how you’d use your background to help the company achieve its goals by giving specific examples from your work history.
Don’t worry about other candidates because you have no control over the competition. Focus on what benefits you offer, which will make for a positive impression. In order to present yourself as a confident and proactive candidate you must share what you are capable of, rather than what you think your competition can or cannot do. After all, that’s why they should hire you