Answering the question, "What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?" can put you in a pickle in an interview. You want to sound impressive but not conceited. And it’s not like you even know the other candidates!
It may help to know what the interviewer is getting at. "Tough questions like this are an attempt by an interviewer to uncover how the candidate problem-solves and thinks on his feet," says Todd Horton, who has over 15 years of HR experience for companies such as IBM and Honda, and is the CEO of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company KangoGift.com.
Use this dialogue to help you prepare for this common job interview curve ball.
Just because you’re explaining what could make you the better man or woman for the job, don’t make the mistake of talking badly about others. The truth is, you don’t know the other candidates, so keep the focus on your strong points, not their weaknesses.
"The absolute wrong way to answer that question is to appear to be bragging," says Barry Maher, consultant and author of Filling the Glass.
Also avoid speaking negatively about others who aren’t candidates. Don’t badmouth past coworkers who didn’t work very hard in an attempt to make yourself look good, says Steve Gibson, director of jotform.com.
Your answer should start with an acknowledgement that you aren’t trying to diss the competition, which will reflect well on your character.
You say: "‘I have no idea what the other candidates you’re considering might be able to do. My guess is you’re looking at some top people, but let me tell you what I can do for you, and why I think I have a unique set of qualifications that I hope would make me the best candidate for the job."
To correctly answer this question, you need to be able to comfortably describe your strongest attributes.
"Enter the interview with an understanding of what you bring to the table," Horton says. "What are the one or two things that make you special?"
Your strengths may be a specific set of skills or experience you gained in another industry or position. Describe some part of your experience, then detail a few strong skills from that experience, he adds.
Be careful not to sound too cliche, says Lisa Baker-King, a San Antonio-based business consultant. Don’t list attributes that you’re expected to have such as, "I’m great with people," "I have a strong work ethic," or "I have a great attitude," she says.
Be precise about your skills and experience.
You say: "My experience at Righteous Records taught me the importance of streamlining communication among all members of the team for any type of project. I am able to organize and maintain a cohesive, smooth process to keep all members up-to-date and on board with a project from start to finish."
In your next sentence, you’ll want to show how your skills and experience can benefit the company you hope to work for.
Hopefully, you’ve researched the company you’re applying for so that you can tie your special skills directly to the job, says Danny Groner, a manager of New York-based stock photography company Shutterstock. "Show that you're up to speed on the issues and topics that the hiring managers are grappling with. That way, they'll know you can slide right in from day one and lead the solutions."
You say: "You’ve mentioned to me the challenges this department has had getting projects done on deadline and with high quality control, with all stakeholders satisfied with the end result. My experience at Righteous Records proves that I can help the department accomplish this goal."
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.