What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates? Acing The Interview Question

It's a common question asked in many interviews so we've prepared an article to help you prepare the best answer.

What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates? Acing The Interview Question

One of the most common asked questions during interviews is “what sets you apart from other candidates?”. Your response to this must make you stand out, but how do you answer correctly?

Let’s explore this question in-depth below:

Why Interviewers Ask: “What Sets you Apart From Other Candidates?”

Interviewers ask this question to learn about the skills and qualities you can bring. Your response provides insight about your experience and if you're ambitious about the role. They don't want to hear a static response, but instead would prefer a unique answer.

Tips on How To Answer “What sets you Apart from Other Candidates?”

If you want to give an answer that really impresses the interviewers, do the following:

  • Read the job description carefully – Researching the job is key if you want to have a grasp of what your future employers are looking for. This information can help shape your answer in regards to skills, qualifications, and traits that interviewers prefer.
  • Make a list of your strengths – List your qualifications on a resume and compare it against the requirements. Pick a few strengths, qualities, and other experiences relevant to the role you're applying for. It would also be beneficial if you discuss achievements at your previous workplaces.
  • Try to predict what other people might say – While preparing, think about what other people might say about their strengths. This will allow you to come up with examples to outdo them.
  • Consider what makes you unique – Think about what makes you stand out. Pick a few qualities or experiences you think are different from others who also applied for the role.
  • Stay on the topic – When answering, many people stray from the topic. Remember to respond with relevant statements regarding the role you're being interviewed for, and let your future employer know why you would be the best fit for the job.

How to Set Yourself Apart from your Competition

A few things that will set you apart from other candidates during an interview include:

  1. Being optimistic
  2. Being kind
  3. Curious nature
  4. A strong work ethic
  5. Binge empathetic
  6. Having integrity
  7. Being proactive
  8. Self-confidence
  9. Trainability

1. Be Optimistic

Every company wants to have optimistic employees as they can motivate others when the times are rough. They're also the first ones to take on harder assignments. Show interviewers a 'can-do' attitude and let them see your interest. It's also good to talk about when your positivity influenced team members and made a difference.

2. Be Kind

Being kind not only goes a long way in our day-to-day life, but also professionally. No one wants to hire a person who doesn't have basic manners and will be a negative influence. So, try to be kind to the interviewer and anyone else you meet along. Remember, negativity spreads just as fast as positivity.

3. Be Curious

Interviewers are on the prowl for people who are excited to work for the company and have a genuine interest in the role. They will try to figure out if you’re really passionate about the position and the company or you’re faking it. To display a curious nature, make them think you never want to stop learning and that you want to stay with their company.

4. Have a Strong Work Ethic

No one wants to hire someone lazy, even if they are qualified for the role. Most people start strong when hired, and show up on time, stay late, work extra hours, but it eventually changes. Over time, employees start coming late, leaving early, and the results take a hit. To make your interviewers believe you're not going to bail after a few months, show them your work ethic through examples of when you went out of your way in previous positions. It would be best if you don’t overdo it since no one also wants to hire a show-off who works 24 hours a day and thinks he/she is better than everyone else.

5. Be Empathetic

Being self-absorbed won't get you hired even for a remote position. You need to show you can be empathetic towards coworkers, your boss, and other people. To prove this, give interviewers an example of when you were aware of your actions and how it affected others. This will show your empathetic side, reveal you have strong communication skills, and that you get along with others.

6. Have Integrity

You need to show interviewers some integrity, and that you’re not the type of person who will take all the credit for a project, especially when your team has done most of the work. This simple trait shows you value team members, their work, as well as your own, and most importantly, that you are honest on a personal and team level.

7. Be Proactive

To get the job, you want to show you mean what you say and that you are trustworthy. This will let interviewers know you're proactive about promises. Remember, no one wants to work with someone who always submits tasks late, who can't fulfill their promises, or someone unreliable.

8. Have Self-Confidence

Not hearing back from employers once you hit the ‘submit application’ button can hurt your ego and affect confidence. However, remember that it’s important to be confident during your search and especially during the interview. Confidence is a trait that tells employers you mean business as very few people are confident during an interview, and this can help you stand out.

9. Be Open to Training

No one likes a know-it-all. Give interviewers the impression you can not only get the job done but also that you're willing to learn new things. Present your skills, qualifications, and experiences and let interviewers know you're eager to learn new practices and align with the company vision.

Share Past Experiences Using the STAR Framework

Now that you understand how to answer “what sets you apart from other candidates?”, it's time to practice.

The best approach to this question is using the STAR framework, as it allows you to share past experiences and stories in a simple fashion.

STAR is an acronym for:

  1. Situation – Setting the scene of the task ahead and providing details about the story
  2. Task – Highlighting the goal you were trying to accomplish
  3. Action – Explaining how you solved the problem
  4. Result – Sharing the outcomes of your actions

Let’s see how you might answer this question using the framework.

  1. Setting the Scene

When selecting an example, pick a unique situation you were part of at your previous workplace.

For example, you may say something like: “At my previous job, the sales team had started to severely underperform due to being overworked and understaffed.”

  1. Lay Out the Situation and Describe Your Responsibilities

Set the tone and the scene of the story. Don't include unnecessary details and only focus on the important bits so your interviewers can understand.

For example, you might say something like: “We had the herculean task of closing 30 new clients in 1 week among a team of five in one week to meet our monthly target.”

  1. Explaining How You Solved the Problem

This part of the framework should highlight the actions you took to solve the problem. You should include specific steps you think others wouldn't have thought of or used.

For example, you might say “At this stage, I stepped up to devise a better way to allocate our resources. Instead of having each rep do the entire sales cycle from start to finish, I identified the strength of each rep and made sure they focused on tasks where they would be most effective at passing a lead down the funnel. This way, not only did the sales team become happier, but more efficient.”

  1. Share the Outcomes of Your Action

Last but not least, talk about the outcomes of the situation you were a part of and explain your role in int. Showcase your contribution and the contribution of your team because many people only include themselves and forget coworkers

For example, you might say: “In the end, we not only met but exceeded our expectations. Each sales rep played their specialist role enthusiastically and the work flow had become so much better than before that the company chose to adopt this model going forward for better results.”


Now that you know how to answer this tricky interview question, all that’s left to do is prepare through practice. And if you're interviewing at a FAANG company, checkout our in-depth interview guides: