Job Interviews: Are Unique Answers Good?

Topic(s): interviewing, selection
Publication: Personnel Psychology (2011)
Article: The uniqueness effect in selection interviews
Authors: N. Roulin, A. Bangerter, E. Yerly
Reviewed by: Jade Peters

The absence of past and present interview selection literature revolving around the “uniqueness effect” is shocking. The uniqueness effect is when an applicant gives unique or individual answers to traditional interview questions that are different than what is expected in the interview and the interviewer sees this as a good quality. This is entirely different from the “contrast effect” in which a poor interviewee performance can make the next interviewee look even better than it should to the interviewer (the two concepts are often confused). 


Generally, the uniqueness effect can significantly impact how the interviewer perceives the interviewee and can change the result of their selection decision. However, because candidates want to sound intelligent and prepared for an interview, this could also work to their disadvantage: when interviewees use nontraditional answers, it appears that there is a degree of faking or lying at play.


The current article suggests that with the use of a more structured interview type, getting at unique information about an applicant can help with making good selection decisions and truly differentiating similar applicants from one another. Though odd answers might be perceived as lying or faking, it is much more likely that the experience is indeed true and not made up. With the proper training, interviewers can learn how to spot lying or faking and focus on the unique experiences many people have had in their past.   


Roulin, N., Bangerter, A., & Yerly, E. (2011). The uniqueness effect in selection interviews. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 10, 1, 43-47

Image credit: istockphoto/jacoblund