What Makes You Unique…in 150 Characters or less?

150 character unique questionPlease raise your hand if you, like me, really dread seeing this question on your job application: “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”

Do you answer in a fun, creative way or go for a concise professional summary? It says to be creative. But I know you’re thinking…what do the recruiters really want to see?

I tried to find a good how-to guide when I encountered this 150-character question on the Resumator and Jobvite applications I was sending. And certainly, there are a number of not-so-helpful guides like this one, this one, and possibly this one.

To save you time, let me say that I found them pretty useless when it came time to actually write my answer. First, they recommend stunning your audience with a witty and colorful comment. But then they tell how to formulate a 150-character that is professional and very, very boring. So how do you find a good balance between informative and creative?

If you follow the formulas recommended in the guides above, your sentence comes out plain and to the point. Which makes you sound like a dried ol’ fart if you write it semi-truthfully…

5-yr assistant brand manager who makes YouTube videos doubles sales through rich media ads

Recent business school grad who plays in a jazz quartet knows SAS, SQL, and excels at market analysis

…or does it?

In actuality, if you have a cool and relevant hobby, you might not need any help in this area. But if you’re normal (or feel like your brain cells have exploded after tweaking your resume too many times), there are ways to improve your “unique” statement.


How to Answer the 150-character Unique Question:


1. Start with your current position or relevant experience


2. List your hobbies or passions on a piece of paper


3. Look at your hobbies list and cross out the ones that are too normal.

Switch out weak verbs with strong ones like “excel”, “masters”, “accomplish”, etc. Also, if your current job is analytical or numbers-related, try and pick a creative “right-brain” activity to include in your statement. And vice versa. You want to seem well-balanced.

4. End with relevant key words for the position to which you are applying.


Need some real examples? Let’s look at a few scenarios:

a) 50-yr-old engineer who was recently fired and has worked the past 15 years in the same company. He likes to play golf on the weekends, is a huge basketball fan, and zones out on the couch in his free time.

b) 22-yr-old recent college graduate has no professional experience. She is obsessed with posting Instagram photos of her travels around the country.

c) 30-yr-old admin assistant has no college degree. She maintains a personal cooking blog and designed the site herself.

A: Biomed engineer with 20+ yrs experience plays community sports and designs cutting-edge devices for research purposes

B: Recent communications college grad who practices travel photography excels at social media management and promotion.

C: Senior admin assistant with 5+ yrs experience who designs and writes for a cooking blog is adept at Excel and back-office management.

And like this, you can turn normal free-time activities into performance-boosting passions.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!