Tough Interview Question - What sets you apart from other qualified candidates?

What sets you apart from other qualified candidates?

Similar interview questions:
Tell me why you are the best person for this job.
How do you compare yourself to others who might be interested in this role?
What makes you special?
How do you differentiate yourself from other candidates?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is giving you an opportunity to go into sell mode on your key differentiations as a candidate. This is partly to see if you understand what sets you apart from the competition. But it is also an opportunity for you to make note of areas which may not have been part of the standard interview questions to this point. As such, it is a very open ended question giving the candidate plenty of opportunity to make the case for their candidacy. It is usually not part of the standard interview question set and is typically only asked of finalist candidates.

The best approach to answering this question:
You first have to believe you are the best candidate for the role. But you also have to know why you are the best candidate for the role. This question is your opportunity to make your case for why you are the candidate who should be hired over others. Do not dwell on the areas where you might be lacking. Instead, focus on the area (or areas) which set you apart as the best candidate for the role. You can acknowledge the common areas which many (or perhaps even most) candidates for the role may have as your intro, but then drill into what makes you uniquely qualified.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"While I realize that there are many candidates with similar technical skills, the one thing that uniquely sets me apart from other candidates is that I have played a lead role in delivery of my recent projects. So my technical skills are at a level where I can not only deliver personally, but also serve as the technical lead to others on my team. Let me give you an example from my current project…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"While I realize that there are other candidates with similar academic experience, what sets me apart is the real world experience I gained in my recent internship. My internship was focused on deliverables of solutions that would be put into practical use. And because I was able to deliver the beta of my project ahead of schedule, I was able to integrate detailed user feedback into the updated first version that went live before the completion of my internship. Let me tell you more about my deliverables…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I wasn’t really thinking about there being other qualified candidates for this role. I was kinda hoping that I was the only one you were interviewing. I’m usually not the best or brightest in my classes and in my work I guess I am maybe average at best. But I do live nearby, so I guess that’s one thing that sets me apart, that I would probably have the shortest commute to work…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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