Looking for a new job is hard.
The job market is tough at the best of times.
Answering tricky job interview questions can feel like the worst part of the process.
But with preparation and hard work, you can succeed.
You want to give a great answer, which is easier when the questions are about hard skills you learned.
If a hiring manager asks about your strengths, you can list them.
When the hiring manager asks, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” it can seem hard to answer without grabbing or comparing yourself to others.
There are a lot of ways to answer the question poorly.
Let’s look at some of the best answers to this common interview question.
What Is the “What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates” Question?
Human resources staff give countless job interviews.
They probably ask people about their strengths thousands of times in their careers.
The question, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” is a twist on those questions.
A great answer requires you to tell them your strengths.
The more familiar you are with the job description, the easier it will be to answer.
Your answer shows them whether you’re confident in your ability to do the job.
The question is tricky, so it also shows how you handle tough moments.
They want to see if you’re a candidate who knows something about the company.
If you didn’t do some research, it could show in your answer.
They’ll know if you’re a job seeker looking for any position you can get.
Hiring managers want to know what you can do for the company, not how the job will help you.
How to Answer “What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?”
If you read a lot of career advice, you know there are many ways to answer this question badly.
Let’s focus on how to give the best answers to this tough interview question.
Keep It Work Related
You may have skills and talents that set you apart in your personal life.
Maybe you can juggle or solve a Rubik’s cube in less than five minutes.
The hiring manager won’t care about those things.
Stick to work-related skills that have some bearing on the job you want.
Talk about a unique skill or some intangible skills you have.
Mention your patience or a good personality trait.
Give specific examples of things you’ve done in the workplace.
Focus on things that made a positive difference.
If the job is to work in a warehouse, an example might be steps you took to maintain a good safety record at a past job.
Mention the good safety record of the warehouse where you’re applying.
Include anything positive you learned while researching the company and position.
No matter how discouraged you feel about your job search, try to stay optimistic.
One of the best pieces of interview advice is to be optimistic from the moment you look at open jobs.
Your attitude can make a difference.
Your optimistic attitude is also a positive workplace trait.
You can mention it when asked, “What sets you apart from other candidates?”
Kindness is important in a workplace.
Hiring managers want to hire kind people who treat others with respect.
Point out that you practice kindness in every interaction.
If you can give a specific example of it in the workplace, that’s even better.
Relate an experience on the job where it mattered, if you can.
Possess Empathy and Self Awareness
When you’re asked, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” in an interview, they want specific answers about skills and abilities.
They also want to test your emotional control.
Questions about your strengths and weaknesses are empathy questions.
They reveal your level of self-awareness.
If you stammer and talk about other people, the interviewer will think you’re not the best fit for the job.
Don’t be falsely modest when answering this interview question, but be aware of how you sound.
Pointing out your next-level ability to manipulate a spreadsheet is great.
Saying that you’re better at spreadsheets than anyone else is not.
It comes across as exaggerated and unpleasant.
Also, use empathy to put yourself in the interviewer’s place.
If you had to hire someone, how would your answers sound?
When someone has integrity, they own up to their mistakes and try to make things right.
Let the employer know that you take responsibility for your actions.
You admit to a mistake as soon as you’ve made it and work hard to fix it.
People with integrity don’t try to belittle others to make themselves look better.
Be sure not to exaggerate or use comparisons with others to make your points.
Conclude With Confidence
After telling them what sets you apart, be confident when finishing your answer.
Don’t trail off.
Use what’s known as a “call to action” at the end, where you point out that you’re a qualified candidate.
An example would be ending with a positive statement.
A sample answer could include: “Those are traits that will make me a good fit for this company.”
How to Prepare Yourself for This Question
Don’t wait until you meet with a human resources manager to consider your qualifications.
A little preparation can go a long way toward a successful interview.
Research the Company and Requirements
Your potential employer wants someone who understands the job and the company.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an entry-level job or something higher-level like management.
They’re interested in what you can do for them.
The more you study the job description, the better your chances.
Know everything you can about the job requirements and the company in general.
Don’t stop at the job description, though.
If you learn that the company donates to local shelters or charities, you can mention those.
You could say that you want to work for a company that cares about the community.
You need to impress a hiring manager who’s been through the interview process countless times.
Show them you know something about the company.
Make a List of Your Qualifications
You won’t repeat this list during the interview process.
But you need to refresh your memory on a unique skill and your relevant experience.
When you list your qualifications, it’s easier to focus on one or a few.
If you don’t have technical skills, you can focus on soft skills.
A soft skill is a character or personality trait that can make you a good candidate.
A strong work ethic and excellent communication skills are examples of soft skills.
Integrity, empathy, and patience are more examples.
These skills affect how you work with others.
Mentioning a soft skill like work ethic with a couple of specific skills is a good tactic, too.
Stick to the Position
Sample answers for a warehouse job interview will be different for an office job.
You might be a wizard with PowerPoint, but if the job involves driving a forklift, that fact won’t help.
Answer the question focusing on the position you want and leave everything else out.
Provide Work Examples
Use examples from your work history if you have them.
Sample answers could mention how you increased the efficiency of an assembly line.
Point out how you changed a billing process to make it easier to follow up with customers.
Use specific examples of how your skills helped at a previous position if you can.
Doing this will show them you can be a valuable team member.
Consider What the Employer May Find Valuable
What skills do you think a job candidate needs to have for the position?
When the hiring manager asks, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” what do you think they’re hoping to hear?
They might not find Microsoft Office skills that important if the job is physical labor.
But the time you spent learning to use the software speaks to your determination to learn new things.
The willingness to work hard and learn is a valuable trait.
Mistakes to Avoid When Answering
The best way to answer this and every job interview question is to be direct.
Answer the question in a professional, clear manner.
Avoid these common mistakes when answering, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” for a better interview.
- Don’t answer with a clever or joking comeback that could sound sarcastic. Answer seriously and earnestly.
- Don’t say things like, “Nobody can do X better than me.” You can explain your job-related skills without sounding like a braggart. Comments like that cast you in a poor light.
- Don’t say negative things about other candidates. Point out what sets you apart without belittling or insulting others.
- Don’t insult the company by saying negative things about its performance. Don’t mention any negative news or reports.
- Don’t forget to tie your answer to the job requirement. Don’t miss an opportunity to tie your response to what they want in the position.
Get That Job Offer
Be polite, patient, and optimistic while answering questions like, “What sets you apart from other candidates?”
It won’t matter as much if you don’t have all the technical skills and related experience if you do well in the interview.
Your confidence and communication skills can help you get that job offer.