“Commercial awareness”. It’s a buzz phrase in job descriptions and on graduate recruitment websites. But what does it mean?
Commercial awareness is about you demonstrating an understanding of the sector you want to enter. It’s about knowing where a company has been, where they are, and where they are headed, and being able to talk about that to a potential employer. Moreover, it’s as relevant to teachers as it is to lawyers and business people, because in the fast-paced world we live in, knowing your sector will always give you the edge.
Still unsure? Here’s an example:
Candidate A wants to be a journalist. They regularly read newspapers. In the interview, they talk about reading newspapers.
Candidate B also wants to be a journalist. They have read 3 different newspapers for three weeks prior to the interview. In the interview, they talk about the 3 different perspectives on a prominent news article, and discuss the benefits of those approaches to the newspapers.
Candidate A does not show commercial awareness. This person could read newspapers every day for the rest of their lives and this would not necessarily demonstrate commercial awareness. What employers are looking for is a person like Candidate B, who can turn their reading into an analysis of the business, because that is commercial awareness.
A lot of it comes down first and foremost to preparation and research. Research the company, then research it’s competitors. What makes this company different? What are its unique selling points (USPs)? Read their website, and any other posts about them to get as big a picture as possible.
Once you’re equipped with that research, you’ve just got to show it. Is the company passionate about customer service? Talk about how you used your customer service skills to drive sales at your Saturday job. If they ask about why you applied for the company that is a vital opportunity to demonstrate not just what you know but how you fit in. Will you contribute to growth, or maybe drive and exceed targets? Commercial awareness is about knowing how you can contribute to the business and being able to articulate it.
The best thing to do is start straight away. If you have a part-time job, ask how sales are for that day, or set yourself a target to drive a particular item. Talk to your manager about their targets. If you are doing an internship then find out about that company, use past performance to make predictions. The key is in the phrase commercial awareness. It’s not about knowing everything inside out, but about making what you do know count!
Photo: Flickr / Steve Leverett
Can you think of any other ways to demonstrate commercial awareness to an employer? Let us know in the comment section below!
I’m a serial multi-tasker who loves having no spare time. Also an English Literature student.