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How To Answer “What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates?”

By Amy @BubbleJobs

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.

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. Why? 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.

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 is 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 the other 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”.

Don’t Badmouth Other Candidates

If you do happen to know some of the 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 eg. 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 OK 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.

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 to this question, think about the role on offer and how your skills and experience fit.

So there you go; my top tips for tackling this tricky question. Think I’ve missed anything out or have something to add? Leave a comment below.

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