How should you answer the job interview question "What sets you apart from other applicants?
Did you know that for every job vacancy posted, there are
This screening process can be done either through good old-fashioned assessment tests given to all the candidates to answer on the day of the interview, phone interviews or via tricky questions like “What sets you apart from other applicants?”
This question is an interviewer’s way of saying “what makes you think you are better than all the other people we have rejected?” At the same time, it is a chance for you to prove to them that you are the best out of 249 applicants that have been tossed aside.
In this article, we will be sharing with you some of the best answers to “what sets you apart from other candidates?” as well as other tips about this question which you can use at your next interview.
Areas we will be discussing are:
Why interviewers ask “what sets you apart from other candidates?”
How to prepare your answer to “what sets you apart?”
How to answer “what sets you apart from other candidates?”
Best answers to “what sets you apart from other candidates?”
Mistakes to avoid when answering "what sets you apart from other candidates?"
Bear in mind, that being asked this question, is not an invitation from the interviewer, for you to bad mouth the other candidates or be cocky.
According to this statistics, 63% of recruiters say that talent shortage is their biggest problem when hiring a candidate. Given this situation, interviewers are always on the lookout for bright individuals who possess an impressive and rare skill set that is highly sought after in their job market that can join their team.
So, when they ask you “What sets you apart from other candidates applying for this position?” it could be for a number of reasons such as
They want to know which of your skills and experience you think is important to the job and how it can be valuable to the company.
They want to know if you can solve the biggest problems faced by their company.
They want to know which skills you possess that no one else in your field does. Maybe how you harnessed that skill to stand out from everyone else who learned it.
Or if there’s something you can do for them, which nobody else can do.
This question is an opportunity for you to let the interviewer know why you belong in that company and why you are better than everyone else waiting to be interviewed or have been interviewed. Sometimes this questions can be asked in various ways including
When you go for an interview, there is a high chance that the interviewer will ask you “What sets you apart from other candidates?”
Most times they won’t phrase this question like that, it could be something along the lines of “why should we hire you?” “tell me why you are the best person for this job?” “What makes you special?” “how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates?”
Whichever way the question is asked, one thing that remains the same is the fact that you would want to be prepared with your answers to this question, before going for an interview.
Here is how to prepare:
1. Stay On Track
The answers you give for this question should be relevant to the job position you are being interviewed for, don’t digress and start talking about trivial things.
Base your answers on the essential skills and qualifications needed for the job which you possess, talk about how your experience will benefit the company, and how it makes you a better candidate than the other applicants.
2. Go Through The Job Requirements And Make Sure You Meet Them
Make a list of all the requirements in the job description and see if you fit the ideal candidate the company is looking for.
If you can’t find a clear stated requirement by the company in the job description, then research similar job titles on job sites like MyJobMag to see what requirements are usually needed for the job.
Usually, a requirement will contain personality traits, qualifications, level of experience, and skills needed to do the job.
3. Make A List Of Your Qualifications And Skills
To know if you really meet the requirements that the company set for their ideal candidate, compare a list of skills and qualifications you already have, to the ones that are on the job description.
Based on your comparison, pick your skills and qualifications that match the job description, and use it as your core answer on what gives you an edge over other candidates. These are your strengths.
4. Pick An Edge You Have Over The Other Candidates
While gathering your answers, try thinking of common things they other candidates may give as an answer to what makes them outstanding, or skills they are likely to possess and find a way to outdo them in those areas.
Whichever skills that are common or relevant in your field bring your own twist or expertise to it in such a way that it outperforms your competition. That is your edge.
5. Find Your Distinct Trait
There are a lot of people in your field who possess the same skills as you, so to stand out you have to find a quality or two about you or experience that is distinct and different from what every other candidate will bring to the table.
It could be a skill that is hard to find in people in your sector.
Here are some tips on how to answer “what sets you apart from other candidates?” in an interview.
1. Research The Company
Researching a company before you are invited to a job interview is one of the smartest things you can do and is a huge step towards impressing the interviewer.
Take your time to learn about the company’s mission and vision statement, accomplishments/achievements, impact in the society, their strengths and weakness, and then present to the interviewer how your skills, experiences, and knowledge of your field can make the company better than it already is.
2. Tell The Interviewer How Relevant Your Background Is To The Job Requirements
Pitch yourself to the interviewer by highlighting key parts in your work background that fit the requirements in the job description and make you a perfect fit for the role.
Make sure that the experience and skills you possess, are truly unique.
3. Back Up Your Answer With Examples
While talking about your skills and how you an ideal candidate, always back it up with examples and evidence that show that you really do possess those skills and experiences.
Don’t just talk about how excellent your “project management” or “sales skill” is, tell the interviewer about a scenario where those skills came in handy or how the company’s sales sky-rocketed because of a tactic you used.
4. Describe A Project You Worked On
Interviewers just don’t want to hear about how you rigidly followed the duties in your description, they want to hear how you went beyond your JD.
Tell them about an initiative you took or a project you worked on at your previous job where you implemented your expertise, or a problem you identified and how used your skills to fix it.
5. Keep Your Answer Strictly Professional
Any skill, experience or talent you have which you want to share with the interviewer should be strictly professional and work-related.
6. Keep Your Answer Short And To The Point
Don’t go on and on with your answer, just get to the point.
Tell them what you think they need in a candidate, how you fit that description perfectly, give instances where your skills saved the day, and what makes you unique.
7. End Your Answer On A Confident Tone
Your tone when speaking should emanate confidence. Sell yourself to them like you’re the cure for cancer, brag a bit about your (hard-earned) skills, and speak confidently.
You want to show them that you are well put together and capable of handling responsibilities.
Here are some of the best ways to answers “what sets you apart from other candidates?”
"At my old job, I was the Operations Supervisor and was in charge of overseeing the packaging and distribution of our manufactured goods. One time at my job, one of the workers had filled a “What sets me apart from other candidates, would be my punctiliousness. Carton with less the number of packets than it should contain and sent it off to be sealed and distributed.
Right before that batch of goods were, I decided to double-check the weight of the cartons as I always do. When I did, I realized that not only was the weight of one of the cartons lower than the others, but the product was packed in the wrong packet.
Due to my discovery, I was able to save the company money, because our clients could decide not to pay for a carton if there was any fault in it and our credibility as well.
During my time as the Supervisor, my company never recorded a fault or lost money because of one”.
“I saw on the job description that you were looking for a person who had experience in managing client accounts and communicating effectively with clients as well. One thing that sets me apart from the other candidates is my work background in Account Management, where I was asked to be in a client-facing role, acting as a liaison between the clients and the company, but still managed things internally.
I think I have an advantage over all the other candidates in this role, and I will adapt quicker working this position at your company than all the other candidates”.
“While all the other candidates have a similar experience in Project Management as I do, I have certifications like PMP, PRINCE2, CAPM, CSMP backing up my level of expertise in this area.
Having taken classes even when I was already working as a Project Manager shows that I not only understand the basics of project management, but it shows that I constantly strive to acquire new skills and certifications necessary in my field and my skills will not become irrelevant because they are current.
In addition, possessing these certifications attests to the fact that I am a verified expert in Project Management, and clients will more comfortable with me handling their projects because of this”.
“What sets me apart from other candidates is my excellent communication and problem-solving skills, which is definitely required in the Customer Service sector. At my previous job, I worked Customer service and one of the major issues we faced were clients feeling like they couldn't effectively communicate their complaints to us, or have someone address their questions in a timely manner.
This didn't come as a surprise as we were understaffed and most of the Customer Service Representatives had to play other roles too, leaving the phones unattended. What I did was create a roaster that allowed some of us to attend to customers, while the other representatives did other jobs and both batches would switch duties during a particular time of the day.
I also kept a list of every customer that called, took down their complaints and phone numbers so that whoever was in charge of the phones the next time they called back, knew immediately who they were and how to assist them.
Following what I did, our customers felt more heard and the representatives were able to help more customers without mixing them up or forgetting to call them back”.
When answering “what sets you apart from other candidates?” interview question there are a lot of mistakes you could make with your answer which you may not even notice but would ultimately cost you the opportunity.
To check yourself and make sure you are on track the next time you are asked this question, here are mistakes you should avoid:
Insulting the other candidate’s expertise or judging their race, colour, age, or gender.
Selling yourself short so as to appear humble.
Bragging about how incredible you are even when you are over-qualified for the job.
Giving an abrupt answer “I am different from other candidates because I have more experience”, and leaving it at that. Or giving a lengthy answer.
Pointing out flaws in the company, that your expertise could fix. Don’t do this, unless the interviewer presents a problem their company faces, to you and asks how you can fix it.
Listing traits and skills you possess that are not in any way relevant to the job you are applying for or are not transferrable to the new job.
As a job applicant, being asked “what sets you apart from the other candidates?” by an interviewer is an opportunity for you to convince them to hire you, even if you are not exactly the type of candidate they imagined for the job.
That 5 to 10 minutes where you are given the floor to pitch yourself in a way that you couldn’t do in your personal statement, CV, or Cover Letter because of the length is important in influencing their decision so don’t waste it.
For more resources on answering job interview questions, read: