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Focus on Key Personality Traits
When you’re asked in an interview, “What makes you unique?” the hiring manager is trying to get a feel for what sets you apart from the competition. Strategic responses to this somewhat tricky question should be layered with professional traits that make you a good candidate for the job.
Your Work Ethic
When asked about work ethic, many interview candidates respond by saying they’re responsible, detail-oriented, honest and trustworthy. When asked what makes you unique, build on this common theme by giving examples and detailed accounts of your work ethic in action.
- “I wouldn’t ask my employees to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
- “I pride myself on ensuring every decision I make is both morally and ethically sound.”
- “I feel every piece of work product I produce is a personal and professional reflection on me, which is why I take exceptional pride in everything I do – no matter the size or scope.”
While you want to emphasize that you're both professional and easy to work with, the "unique" interview question is looking for something more.
- “I want the people around me to feel appreciated and inspired every day.”
“I enjoy seeing others succeed –
I believe it raises the morale of the entire office when we celebrate each other’s achievements.”
* “ I think everyone has the potential for greatness; they just need encouragement and opportunity.”
Creativity and idea generation are desirable traits in many lines of work. Offer examples of how you approach this type of team effort.
- “My motto is: the more ideas, the better. You can’t have too many good ideas on the table.”
- “When everyone pulls together and harnesses their own personal area of expertise, we can achieve great things.”
- “I like to participate in brainstorming sessions because the collective energy feeds itself, and the ideas that result are often amazing.”
Approach to Problem-Solving
Employers don't want to have employees or even managers coming to them for everyday problem-solving. Demonstrate how you approach this often tricky workplace issue.
- “A workplace is like a family in many ways, and I believe we all owe one another respect and tolerance.”
- “I believe that addressing potential problems before they get out of hand is key to a harmonious workplace. As a manager, I focus on conflict resolution solutions rather than on finger-pointing and blame.”
- “I’m a big fan of team-building activities. I think working together in a non-work environment lets people see different sides of each other.”
Stress is a factor in every work environment, and being able to creatively and effectively mitigate burnout is an important trait.
- “Sometimes people are just having an off-day, and I’m okay with taking a break – going home, recharging and hitting it again tomorrow.”
- “Work should make you feel fulfilled – not crazy. I encourage short breaks for meditation, yoga and relaxation techniques.”
- “I tell my employees to think of me as a pressure valve – come to me before things reach a dangerous level, and we’ll find a way around it.”
Regardless of the business or industry, good people skills are desirable traits. However, with this type of interview question, it's not enough to simply say you have good people skills.
- “I learn the most from people I might not necessarily choose as friends outside the workplace. They make me see things in a different light, which, in many ways, makes me more well-rounded in the workplace.”
- “I believe the first step in creating a productive and vibrant work environment is to acknowledge the fact that everyone won’t agree and get along every single day – and that’s okay.”
- “I feel that when you make a habit of looking for the good in people rather than the bad, you almost always find a way to forge a relationship that works.”
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.