babel

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So, I had this question at my mock interview: "What makes you special and unique; or said another way, why should we choose you over any of the other highly qualified applicants we are interviewing?"

I tried answering it with some of my "strengths": teamplayer, reliable, excited to enter the field - but after going through all that my interviewer said "Well, those are all fine qualities to have, but they are all rather generic - what is it that makes you standout from the crowd?"

Geez, how does one answer this question? I find the weakness question so much easier to answer. :rolleyes:
 

ShyRem

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This is a difficult question for us to help you with I think. You're asking US what makes YOU unique. This (pardon any inference of sarcasm here, it isn't intended) is difficult for us to answer for you as it is a unique answer (one hopes). What makes someone unique is different for everyone (thus unique).

They're asking why they should choose you over someone else. This is your chance to sell yourself - not to answer with generic strengths/weaknesses/team player stuff. What makes you different? Why should they pick you? What makes you special? At this point every applicant is smart, a team player, excited for the field, all applicants say "well-rounded"... I suppose a good place to start is what does "well-rounded" mean to you? What else do you bring to the table besides smart, good grades, excited for the field, team player? What makes you tick? What can you teach, share, bring that is new and different?

For everyone this is something germane to them and often only them. I have one colleague who has done two years of medical mission work - she brings to the table a wealth of personal first hand knowledge of working in poor countries with few supplies, making do, living in harsh conditions for little to no pay, a sense of humanity that only those experiences can bring. Another colleague I know had cardiac surgery with first hand knowledge of what it's like to be on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship. That brings a sense of humility and empathy. These are extreme examples. But examples nonetheless. Everyone has something that makes them different. What is it about you? They're asking for insight only you can provide.
 
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babel

babel

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This is a difficult question for us to help you with I think. You're asking US what makes YOU unique. This (pardon any inference of sarcasm here, it isn't intended) is difficult for us to answer for you as it is a unique answer (one hopes). What makes someone unique is different for everyone (thus unique).
I understand exactly what you're saying here - this is definitely something each person has to think about for themselves. I guess wasn't asking so much what I should say specifically, but what anyone would say in response to this - so thank you for the examples, those were very helpful. My problem comes from the fact that I feel like any response to this question is going to sound like bragging. I was raised very much to feel that talking about one's successes is very distasteful - humility, in a sense, was admired more than anything else. So, my instinctual response to that question is "there's nothing special about me" - I am hardworking and dedicated, yes, but I am not better or more special than anyone else.

I realize this is my own little quirk that I have to get over, but if anyone else has other examples of how they would answer this question, I would find that very helpful. Thanks!
 

gutonc

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I never got asked exactly that question, but similar questions brought up 2 things for me.

1. I'm a PhD which is not, in and of itself, anything all that special IMHO. What does make it (and therefore me) special is that it is a different way of learning and thinking than taught in med school. Using those skills gives me a different (not better, just different) way of approaching complex cases that someone without that type of training.

2. I'm older than the average med student/resident (but not so old that I can't rock a Q3 o/n ICU call schedule) which gives me a different perspective on my patients, my colleagues and the work of medicine.

Whether anybody bought any of that is beyond me but I matched #1 for residency and fellowship so I must have done something right.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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If you were standing next to someone in line, what would you tell them about yourself that they'd want to hear more about? Think about cool ECs or interests you have, unusual things you've done, etc. Basically, whatever makes you a cool and interesting person in general. You aren't bragging about your accomplishments--you're sharing your interests with someone else and letting them get to know you as a person rather than as just a residency applicant.

For me, I did research in a remote location that always gets brought up at interviews (it did when I applied for med school, too!). During med school, I went on an unusual international elective that interviewers have been asking me about quite a bit. One of my passions is teaching--I have a lot of teaching experience and got involved during med school with writing educational materials for med students. This is my fourth year serving as a student adcom at my med school. I've been an SDN mod for five years. Probably these are the things that are the most "unique" about me, although I'm also a nontrad with a PhD like gutonc.

If you think about it, there will be several things you can share in response to this question. You can't go wrong by picking something you're really passionate about, IMO. Best of luck to you. :)
 
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babel

babel

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gutonc and QofQuimica - thanks for the great responses. Fortunately I have a few more days before I start interviews, so I've got some time to mull this over. I think focusing on the things that I am passionate about is definitely a good place to start. I also like gutonc's suggestion of thinking of things that may set you apart even without necessarily being accomplishments/things on a resume (like being an older student, or growing up in a certain setting/part of the country etc) - it's a way to show that you are mature and insightful without bragging. Thanks for the thoughts!
 

fergustsi

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Im much talller than the average applicant, which means i can get things down from the top shelf.