If you’re applying for jobs at the moment and you’ve already managed to bag yourself some interviews then it goes without saying that you need to get prepared.

No one likes to be caught out at a job interview and end up gasping around for an answer – and the only way to avoid this situation is to spend a bit of time preparing answers for some of the most common interview questions which will probably crop up in one form or another at any interview.

Now, Lauren has already written about how to research an employer before an interview and we’ve covered a lot of the major interview questions in our Interview Advice section already, so today I thought I’d cover one we’ve never really discussed before – the dreaded “What sets you apart from other candidates?” question.

It’s fair to say that this question is tricky for a couple of reasons – the main being that you have no idea who else has applied, so how on earth can you compare yourself to the other candidates?!

With that in mind; I’ve come up with some top tips on how you can begin to prepare for a question like this.

Why Do Interviewers Ask ‘What Sets You Apart from Other Candidates?’

Interviewers often ask the question “What sets you apart from other candidates?” for several reasons:

  1. Self-Assessment: This question allows interviewers to gauge how well you understand your own strengths and skills. It’s a chance for you to reflect on what makes you unique and how your specific experiences or abilities could contribute positively to the role and the company.
  2. Confidence and Communication Skills: How you answer this question can demonstrate your confidence and your ability to communicate effectively. It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it – whether you can articulate your thoughts clearly and persuasively.
  3. Fit for the Role: Interviewers are interested in finding out whether your unique qualities make you a good fit for the specific role and the company’s culture. By understanding what sets you apart, they can better assess how you would integrate with their team and contribute to the company’s goals.
  4. Competitive Edge: Companies are always looking for candidates who can bring something extra to the table. Your answer helps the interviewer understand what competitive edge you might bring and how your individuality could benefit the company in ways that other candidates might not.
  5. Motivation and Passion: Your response can also reveal your level of enthusiasm and passion for the role. Interviewers are interested in candidates who are genuinely excited about the opportunity and motivated to contribute in a meaningful way.
  6. Problem-Solving and Creativity: The way you identify and articulate your unique qualities can also give insights into your problem-solving and creative thinking skills. It shows how you approach challenges and differentiate yourself in a competitive environment.

Ultimately, this question helps interviewers create a more complete picture of who you are as a professional and how you might fit within their organization. It’s an opportunity for you to highlight your strengths and showcase your potential value to the team.

Breaking Down the Components of Your Answer

When responding to the question “What sets you apart from other candidates?”, it’s crucial to break down your answer into key components.

This structured approach ensures that you effectively communicate your unique value proposition to the interviewer.

Here’s how you can organize your response:

Identifying Your Unique Qualities

Start by introspecting to identify what truly makes you unique.

This could be a combination of your personality traits, work ethic, life experiences, or even your approach to problem-solving. Perhaps you’re someone who thrives under pressure, or you have a unique background that gives you a different perspective on the industry.

Maybe your multicultural upbringing has given you exceptional cross-cultural communication skills. The key is to pinpoint qualities that are not just unique, but also relevant to the role you’re applying for.

Determining Your Relevant Skills

Next, focus on the skills that make you a strong candidate for the specific job.

These could be hard skills like technical expertise in a particular area, or soft skills like leadership, teamwork, or communication. It’s important to align these skills with the requirements of the job.

For instance, if you’re applying for a role in a tech company, mentioning your advanced coding skills would be pertinent. Or, if the role requires a lot of teamwork, highlight your experience in collaborative environments.

Remember, it’s not just about having the skills, but also about how they’re relevant to the role at hand.

Highlighting Your Accomplishments

Finally, support your claims with concrete examples of your accomplishments.

This could include successful projects you’ve led, challenges you’ve overcome, or recognition you’ve received. Quantifying these accomplishments with data or specific outcomes can be particularly powerful.

For example, rather than just saying you’re good at sales, mention that you increased sales by 30% at your last job. This not only demonstrates your competence but also provides tangible proof of your abilities.

In crafting your answer, balance confidence with humility and ensure that every part of your response is tailored to the job and the company. This approach will help you create a compelling narrative that clearly articulates why you are the ideal candidate for the position.

How to Actually Answer “What Sets You Apart from Other Candidates?”

Answering the question, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” effectively requires a strategic approach that combines self-awareness with an understanding of the job you’re applying for.

Here’s a guide to crafting a response that is both authentic and aligned with what the employer is seeking:

Stay on Topic

It’s crucial to keep your answer relevant to the position and the company.

Avoid veering off into personal anecdotes that don’t directly relate to the job. Your focus should be on demonstrating how your specific qualities and experiences make you the ideal fit for this particular role.

Tailor your response to address the core competencies and values the company is looking for, as indicated in the job description or from your knowledge of the company.

Research the Job Requirements

Before the interview, thoroughly research the job requirements and the company.

Understand the skills and attributes that are most valued for the role. This research will give you insights into what the company is looking for and help you align your answer with these needs.

For instance, if the job requires strong analytical skills, you might highlight your experience in data analysis or successful projects where your analytical skills led to positive outcomes.

Focus on Your Most Valuable Assets

Identify the aspects of your professional profile that are most valuable and unique, especially those that align with the job requirements. This could include:

  • Unique Skill Sets: Highlight specific skills that are highly relevant to the job but not common in every candidate.
  • Professional Experiences: Discuss unique experiences that have equipped you with valuable insights or skills. For example, if you have international work experience in a role that requires global awareness, this could be a significant differentiator.
  • Personal Qualities: Mention personal qualities that would contribute to your success in the role, such as resilience, creativity, or a strong work ethic.
  • Achievements: Point to specific achievements in your career that demonstrate your ability to excel in this role. Use quantifiable results to make your accomplishments more impactful.

When constructing your answer, it’s important to strike a balance between confidence and humility.

Be assertive about your strengths and what you can bring to the table, but avoid overstatement or arrogance.

Articulating your unique value proposition clearly and concisely can significantly increase your chances of standing out in the eyes of the interviewer.

Examples for Answering to ‘What Sets You Apart” Questions

Here are examples of how you might answer the question “What sets you apart from other candidates?” Each example focuses on a different aspect, such as unique experiences, talents, skills, or qualifications.

Example One: Highlight a Unique or Impressive Experience

“I believe what sets me apart is my extensive experience in renewable energy projects in developing countries.

For instance, I led a solar power installation project in three rural communities in Kenya, overcoming significant logistical challenges and collaborating with local governments.

This experience not only honed my project management skills but also gave me a unique perspective on sustainable development and stakeholder engagement, which I think would be highly valuable in your company’s global sustainability initiatives.”

Example Two: Explaining a Unique Talent

“My unique talent lies in my ability to communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders.

Throughout my career, I’ve developed a knack for bridging the gap between technical teams and business units, ensuring seamless project execution.

For example, in my last role, I facilitated a series of workshops that helped our sales team better understand and sell our tech products, leading to a 20% increase in sales for those products.”

Example Three: Detailing a Relevant Skill Set

“What differentiates me from other candidates is my combination of technical expertise and customer experience skills.

I have an advanced proficiency in Python and data analytics, which I’ve used to drive data-driven decisions in my previous roles. Additionally, I’ve spent two years in customer-facing roles, which has equipped me with a deep understanding of customer needs and how to translate them into practical tech solutions.

This blend of skills enables me to contribute effectively to both product development and customer engagement strategies.”

Example Four: Highlighting a Special Qualification

“I believe my special qualification is my dual degree in Computer Science and Marketing.

This educational background gives me a unique vantage point in understanding both the technical and commercial aspects of digital products.

In my recent role, I leveraged this combination to lead a cross-functional team in developing an AI-based marketing tool that increased user engagement by 40%. My ability to see the big picture and integrate technical solutions with market needs sets me apart in roles that require both tech savviness and market understanding.”

These examples showcase how you can effectively articulate your unique attributes in a way that’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, demonstrating the specific value you can bring to the role and the company.

5 Pro Tips to Keep in Mind When Answering

When preparing to answer the question, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” there are some additional tips to keep in mind to ensure your response is impactful and memorable.

Be Honest and Authentic

  • Stay True to Yourself: It’s important to be genuine in your response. Avoid exaggerating or misrepresenting your skills and experiences. Authenticity tends to resonate more with interviewers, as it demonstrates integrity and self-awareness.
  • Reflect on Your Journey: Take time to reflect on your personal and professional journey. Think about the experiences and qualities that have shaped your career and character. This reflection will help you speak more naturally and convincingly about your unique attributes.

2. Focus on Key Selling Points

  • Tailor Your Response: Customize your answer based on the job description and company culture. Identify the key selling points that are most relevant and appealing to the potential employer.
  • Be Specific and Concise: Rather than giving a generic response, be specific about your skills and experiences. Use concrete examples to illustrate your points but keep your answer concise to maintain the interviewer’s attention.

3. Practice and Prepare

  • Rehearse Your Answer: Practice delivering your response out loud. This will help you refine your points, ensure clarity, and build confidence. Consider practicing in front of a friend or mentor who can provide feedback.
  • Use the STAR Method: To structure your examples effectively, consider using the Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) method. This technique helps in structuring your responses clearly and concisely, ensuring you cover all relevant aspects of your experience.
  • Anticipate Follow-Up Questions: Be prepared for potential follow-up questions that might delve deeper into the examples or points you raise. This preparation shows that you have thoroughly considered your unique selling points.

4. Forget The Other Candidates

If you do get this question, I know this sounds silly but you actually need to forget about the other candidates.


Because, as I just mentioned, it’s highly likely you don’t know them so there’s no way you can say something brash like “I have much more experience than every other candidate” because this might not actually be true.

5. Focus On Your Own Personal Profile

Instead of focusing on other candidates and trying to guess what skills, experiences, and strengths they might have, focus on your candidate profile and what you can bring to the role instead (in a way, this the old “Why should we hire you?” question in disguise!).

With this question, the employer is keen to see how well you know yourself as a candidate in terms of your strengths and experience – and how this could benefit the role you’re applying for.

With that in mind, a great way to start your answer could be; “I’m not sure what other the candidates can offer, but I believe my 10 years in the industry, combined with my strengths in A, B, and C and my passion for your brand definitely sets me apart.”

6. Don’t Badmouth Other Candidates

If you do happen to know some of other candidates, it can be tempting to badmouth them, particularly if you dislike them on a personal level – but you need to remember to try and keep it professional.

If you’re interviewing for an internal role or a promotion, in this instance it’s OK to compare yourself to your colleagues – but rather than focusing on their personality traits or previous incidents at the company, focus on quantifiable facts which can’t be disputed e.g. how many years they’ve worked in the industry or their qualifications.

Similarly, if you’ve had a run-in with one of the candidates before – it’s probably best not to mention that candidate because it could come across as childish and look like you’re holding a grudge.

That said; while it’s okay to name check other employees in this instance, I’d always urge you to focus more on what makes you right for the role, over what makes other candidates wrong for the role.

7. Remember The Role You’re Applying For

Last but not least, when answering this question, it’s important to keep your answers relevant – remember; you’re interviewing for a job, not a date so it’s probably best to avoid mentioning random things like your love of going for long walks or your most recent holiday – unless it’s relevant of course! When preparing your answer for this question, think about the role on offer and how your skills and experience fit.

Wrapping Up

So there you go; my top tips for tackling this tricky question “How to answer “What sets you apart from other candidates?”. With a bit of preparation, you should be easily to give an answer that truly stands out.

Think I’ve missed anything out or have something to add? Leave a comment below.