What Qualities Set Apart from Others?

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Everyone has qualities that make them unique and help set them apart from others. When it comes to standing out—whether it’s on a job application, in an interview, or just in life—highlighting those special traits can go a long way. But what exactly are the qualities that allow someone to rise above the crowd?

Skills and Qualifications

One of the most obvious ways to differentiate yourself is through concrete skills and qualifications. While everyone brings a distinct mix of abilities to the table, focusing on strengths that align with specific roles or opportunities can make you stand out as an especially strong candidate.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are abilities that are quantifiable and tend to be learned through education or training. Examples include:

  • Proficiency in particular software, coding languages, tools, or equipment
  • Degrees, certifications, or other credentials
  • Quantitative skills like financial modeling or data analysis
  • Technical knowledge in areas like engineering, IT, or sciences

When applying for jobs, carefully review the skills listed in the position description. Call out any hard skills you possess that match their needs. For example, if the role requires SQL and Java, highlight your SQL queries and Java development experience.

Quantifying your proficiency can also help differentiate you. Rather than just listing a skill, provide measurable details:

  • 5+ years experience with Java and Spring Framework
  • Completed 50 hours of SQL training and administered databases for 3 companies

The more you can tailor your hard skill set to the role, the more you will stand out.

Soft Skills

While hard skills show what you can do, soft skills demonstrate how you do it. These intangible qualities include things like:

  • Communication abilities
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership capabilities
  • Work ethic
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Adaptability

Soft skills allow you to showcase personality traits beyond your technical capabilities. For example, you might highlight how your positive attitude and teamwork skills enabled success on past projects. Or how you overcame obstacles through resilience and determination.

While harder to quantify than hard skills, soft skills still offer ways to differentiate yourself:

  • Share positive feedback given on performance reviews
  • Give specific examples that exhibit strengths like initiative or creativity
  • Take online assessments to measure soft skills like empathy, optimism, or emotional intelligence

Developing and displaying soft skills shows maturity and people skills that employers seek. Combined with hard skills, they present a complete package.

Relevant Experience

Your past experiences offer another opportunity to show what makes you the ideal choice. When sharing your background:

Tailor Details to the Role

  • Study the position posting and pull out important keywords
  • Identify parts of your history that align with those needs
  • Emphasize the most relevant pieces of your background

For example, if the job requires ecommerce experience, highlight any past roles in online retail or digital payments. Even if a previous position wasn’t an exact match, focus on transferable duties. If the role demands project management skills, detail examples of you leading initiatives or overseeing complex tasks in past jobs.

Showcase Achievements

Merely listing responsibilities is expected. Get noticed by spotlighting standout accomplishments like:

  • Increased sales by 30% over 2 years by expanding territories and implementing new marketing campaigns
  • Improved team productivity by 25% after leading workshops on agile methodologies
  • Reduced support ticket volume 37% by launching live chat customer service

Quantifying achievements demonstrates the value you delivered in concrete terms.

Share Unique Experiences

Don’t just state job titles and regular duties. Provide details that make your background unique:

  • Technologies or processes only used by that employer
  • Rare opportunities you made the most of
  • Interesting challenges or projects
  • Exposure to distinct corporate cultures or clientele

For example, highlight specialized training or software expertise only available at that company. Or describe eclectic assignments like leading robotics teams or traveling internationally to open new markets. Illustrate that you seized one-of-a-kind chances to grow.

Unique Experiences or Talents

Digging deeper, backgrounds that stand out from the norm can really capture attention. Reflect on whether you have:

Impressive Experiences

  • Participated in prestigious programs like internships at renowned companies or organizations
  • Studied abroad or traveled extensively, gaining worldly knowledge
  • Learned lessons from impactful mentors or coaches
  • Overcome major obstacles that shaped your perspective
  • Won distinguished academic or extracurricular honors
  • Worked in exotic locales or distinctly unique roles

For instance, detail how interning with an exclusive group challenged you to excel. Or explain how backpacking across Europe expanded your cultural horizons. Show off awards recognizing your accomplishments. Use interesting stories or adventures to show your moxie.

Unique Talents or Skills

  • Do you have artistic, musical, athletic, or intellectual gifts?
  • Are you fluent in multiple languages?
  • Have you mastered niche technical abilities like semiconductor fabrication or genomic sequencing?
  • Can you showcase clever DIY innovations or robotics projects you designed?

Examples include performing as a concert pianist, earning a black belt in karate, or placing first in regional hackathons. Leverage whatever makes you extraordinary, even if just an intriguing hobby, to pique employer interest and stick in their minds.

In a sea of similar applicants, achievements and talents that wow will make you unforgettable.

Work Ethic

Your attitude and approach to working also helps determine your success. A top-notch work ethic can truly elevate you as a candidate. Hallmarks include:


  • “I regularly asked for additional assignments and trained to expand my capabilities.”
  • “When I saw inefficiencies in our systems, I worked to improve processes.”

Proactively seeking out opportunities and improvements shows you get things done without waiting around to be told what to do.


  • “I overcame rejection from 5 companies before finally landing my first job in my desired field.”
  • “Even after failing my certification exam twice, I persisted and passed on the third try.”

Persisting through setbacks demonstrates grit and tenacity that employers find admirable.


  • “I routinely completed projects ahead of schedule by putting in extra hours when needed.”
  • “Despite being assigned routine tasks, I always sought to exceed expectations and took pride in my work.”

When you show commitment to high-quality work and going the extra mile, it proves your work ethic is top-notch.


  • “When my team struggled to deliver, I worked with each member to improve their skills.”
  • “If ever I made a mistake, I owned up to it immediately and made sure to learn from it.”

Taking responsibility when things go wrong, rather than blaming others, is the mark of a leader.

Positive Attitude

  • “Even on tough projects, I stayed upbeat and focused on finding solutions.”
  • “My optimism and humor created an enjoyable environment for my team.”

A can-do mindset and cheerful disposition demonstrates someone people enjoy working with.

A strong work ethic mixed with talent convinces employers you have what it takes to thrive. It shows maturity and reliability beyond your qualifications.

Supporting Your Standout Traits

Once you identify qualities that help you stand out, you need to effectively convey them. Some tips:

Profile Them Prominently in Your Resume

  • Lead with a powerful summary statement highlighting your most relevant strengths and achievements. Draw them in.
  • In your experience section, emphasize skills and accomplishments that align with the role.
  • Spruce up your skills section with keywords and proficiency levels that match needs.
  • Add sections like Awards or Publications to showcase unique distinctions.

Discuss Them in Interviews

  • When asked about your experience or background, respond with answers focused on your standout qualities.
  • Offer specific examples and anecdotes that illustrate those abilities and strengths.
  • Tie your traits directly back to the job requirements and the value you offer.

Include Them in Your Cover Letter

  • Right up front, explain how your standout skills make you the ideal candidate.
  • Use vivid details to showcase exactly how you exceed expectations and add unique value.
  • Help them visualize you performing excellently in the role.

Demonstrate Them in Your Work

Show don’t just tell. For example:

  • Provide code samples demonstrating programming expertise
  • Give presentations to exhibit communication skills
  • Share videos performing music or athletics
  • Showcase art/design portfolios
  • Highlight publications or academic papers you authored

Tangibly displaying your abilities can make an impression.

With a combination of qualifications, achievements, skills, traits, and experiences that make you outstanding, you’re sure to impress. Identify what makes you different and leverage those qualities so you stand head and shoulders above other candidates.

Why Standing Out Matters

You might wonder why differentiating yourself is so important these days. There are a few key reasons:

Tougher Competition

The workforce is fuller than ever with more qualified talent competing for jobs. When up against more applicants, you need powerful differentiation points to avoid blending into the masses.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows over 158 million Americans employed as of 2022 – an all-time high. And the supply of college graduates has steadily grown over the past decade, meaning more skilled workers vying for roles.

Standing out helps ensure you’re properly valued.

Increased Recruitment Use by Companies

To sift through expanding applicant pools, organizations rely more heavily on talent recruitment tactics. That means submitting more impersonal applications and resumes versus directly interacting with decision makers.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2022 report, 96% of organizations use standard online applications while 91% source candidates from resumes.

Making a strong impression on paper/digitally is critical when you might not get facetime.

Rise of Personal Branding

In the social media age, personal branding matters more. Prospective employers search your name online and examine profiles.

A 2022 Jobvite survey found 77% of recruiters review candidate social profiles. And a 2020 CareerBuilder study showed 70% of employers use social media to screen applicants.

What they uncover better align with your standout qualities. Showcasing an authentic, professional brand builds trust.

More Emphasis on Culture Fit

Chemistry matters more today. Companies want assurance that new hires reflect and enhance their culture.

According to a 2022 LinkedIn survey, 75% of talent professionals and hiring managers place greater weight on alignment with company values and norms.

Getting your unique personality, work style, and strengths across gives insight into your culture fit.

The combination of increased competition, impersonal recruiting tactics, branding importance, and cultural emphasis magnifies the impact of standing out from the crowd.

How to Discover Your Distinguishing Qualities

Determining precisely what sets you apart takes self-reflection. Here are some exercises to gain insight:

Review Past Feedback

  • Look over old performance reviews, letters of recommendation, and references.
  • What praise and positive remarks do they consistently highlight?
  • What unique contributions do they emphasize?

See what others identify as your differentiators.

Analyze Your Own Journey

  • What successes are you most proud of? Why?
  • When did you truly excel and what made that possible?
  • What compliments have stuck with you and felt genuine over the years?

Consider your proudest moments and strengths noticed by others.

Personality Assessments

  • Take free online personality tests like from 16Personalities or Crystal to learn about your inherent traits.
  • What qualities do these tools commonly associate with your personality type?
  • Do you strongly identify with certain characteristics?

Formal assessments can validate your natural tendencies.

Reflect on Passions

  • What activities energetically engage you? Why?
  • When do you lose track of time because you are in the zone?
  • What interests inspire you intrinsically (not for fame or fortune)?

Your passions reveal innate strengths.

Identify Growth Areas

  • What skills have you invested lots of time developing? Why?
  • Where are you not yet content with your abilities? Why is improvement important?
  • What knowledge have you worked hard to amass?

Your commitment and growth reveals what you value.

Seeking insights through varied means helps identify well-rounded differentiators others may recognize in you before you do yourself. But avoid just listing generic strengths like “problem-solver” or “team player” – find specific examples that truly set you apart and bring those qualities to life.

Presenting Yourself Authentically

While highlighting your finest qualities, it’s critical to remain authentic. Dishonesty or exaggeration can undermine your shot at standing out advantageously. Here are some tips:

Be Truthful

  • Never lie or stretch the truth on your resume, applications, or in interviews. Rather than landing a job, it can cost you the opportunity or even your reputation if caught.
  • If you lack experience in an area central to the role, don’t claim you have it. Instead, show a willingness and ability to learn.
  • Honesty and integrity matter. As Warren Buffet says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Stick to the facts – embellishment is unethical and unnecessary.

Admit Shortcomings

  • Occasionally mentioning areas you seek to improve on demonstrates awareness of your weaknesses.
  • For example, you might say public speaking makes you nervous, so you joined Toastmasters. This shows self-improvement.
  • Being upfront about growth areas counters notions you see yourself as perfect.

Vulnerability and self-awareness can be appealing.

Align With Company Values

  • Research the organization and mirror language from their core values, mission statement, and culture descriptions.
  • For instance, if collaboration matters, focus on teamwork examples. Or if creativity is key, highlight imaginative problem-solving.
  • This shows your priorities align. But sincerely reflect alignment rather than forcing it.

Shared values matters more than drastic overhauls.

Project Professionalism

  • Keep online profiles clean of inappropriate content. Google yourself and tidy up social media.
  • Behave professionally in interviews. Avoid badmouthing past employers. Exhibit courtesy and manners.
  • Seek constructive feedback from mentors on improving executive presence. Polish your brand.

The way you present and conduct yourself also reflects your character.

Showcasing standout qualities effectively involves balancing authenticity with putting your best foot forward.

Standing Out Isn’t One Size Fits All

What distinguishes candidates ultimately depends on the position and the people doing the hiring.

For example, a software engineer who knows 10 coding languages and has published innovative applications certainly stands out from developers with minimal experience. But that same engineer might seem wholly ordinary applying for a CFO position against candidates with decades of financial management experience.

Or perhaps a sales representative who shattered their quota and earns lavish bonuses is a superstar in the eyes of executives laser focused on profits. But a humble non-profit organization might prefer someone with passion for their cause rather than cutthroat competitiveness.

Cultural fit also varies drastically. At a hip tech startup, amateur DJ experience might be intriguing. But a longstanding law practice might raise eyebrows at such unorthodox hobbies.

Study each opportunity and do your homework on the company, hiring manager, and team to determine what they likely value most. Reflect on how your background lines up. Then decide which of your qualities to play up and how to best resonate within that context.

There’s no one formula for standing out. But self-awareness of your unique attributes combined with understanding the target’s preferences puts you on the path to making a remarkable impression.

Standing Out Never Stops

Getting noticed and snagging an opportunity isn’t the end goal. Once in a role, it takes continuously delivering outstanding performances and contributions to thrive long-term.

Here are some tips to keep excelling within an organization:

Maintain Positive Relationships

  • Treat co-workers, managers, and leadership with kindness, empathy, and respect.
  • Collaborate versus compete. Find ways for the entire team to shine together.
  • Become the energizing person colleagues enjoy working alongside.

Strong work relationships create goodwill during tougher times.

Seek Out Challenges

  • Raise your hand for pilot projects, special initiatives, or stretch assignments.
  • When processes seem inefficient, proactively develop solutions.
  • Find ways to expand your role’s impact and value.

Saying yes to challenges helps you grow…and gets noticed.

Continue Learning

  • Take courses to gain skills needed for the next step in your career path.
  • Attend conferences and training sessions to stay atop industry advancements.
  • Cross-train and volunteer for assignments to broaden your capabilities.

The desire to keep improving impresses.

Manage Up, Down, and Sideways

  • Make your manager look good by producing excellent work.
  • Mentor more junior employees to develop the rising talent.
  • Collaborate seamlessly with peer teams to enable success across silos.

Leaving every interaction better benefits the whole organization.

Champion the Culture

  • Promote and exemplify the organization’s core values in all you do.
  • Enthusiastically share the company vision and rally others behind it.
  • Suggest new ways to strengthen culture as business needs evolve.

Serving as a culture ambassador gains influencer status.

Standing out, adding value, and driving progress should be consistent goals rather than a one-time occurrence. Let your uniqueness lift up yourself and everyone around you.

Questions to Reflect on Your Distinguishing Qualities

Identifying your key differentiators takes self-examination. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What are you most proud of achieving in your career and why?

What compliments or praise have you received multiple times from others?

What skills or talents come most naturally to you?

What unique experiences, hobbies, or abilities help you stand out?

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