Graduates: The Importance of Commercial Awareness

“Must be commercially aware” is a requirement that seems to be popping up on job adverts more and more often. You’re not entirely sure what it means but surely it can’t be that important, can it?

Why being commercially aware is important

In the competitive graduate job market, employers need to know that they’re going to put the right person in the right job. This means that during interviews they are going to put you through your paces; one way they can assess the breadth of your abilities is by testing how commercially aware you are.

Commercial awareness is an asset that companies value in a candidate. However, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, it is the number one skill that graduates lack. Therefore, making sure that you are commercially aware could help you stand out when looking for a job.

Commercial awareness is so important to employers – having it demonstrates commitment, professionalism and general intelligence. Additionally, it shows the interviewer that you are keen on the opportunity. For graduates, being commercially aware demonstrates that you are ready to work in a business environment. This is especially helpful if your professional work experience is limited.

What is commercial awareness?

So, what on earth is it? As a concept, it’s quite hard to define as it encompasses so many different things. Generally speaking, commercial awareness consists of having a demonstrable interest in and at least a basic understanding of the business world and the industry you desire to work within. It also helps to have awareness surrounding the importance of things that affect a business. These include things such as the economic climate, efficiency, customer satisfaction and profit/loss.

How to use it in an interview

In an interview setting, the trick is to ensure that your knowledge translates to the business you are interviewing for. You need to show your potential employer that you know about the company. This includes knowledge about their market, customers, competitors and suppliers.

It will also work in your favour to demonstrate your understanding of the wider business or industry the company operates within. Don’t worry, if you have an interview, you won’t need to become a business and economics expert overnight; simply staying up-to-date with current affairs of the industry and understanding any successes or difficulties that the company may be facing within this will be more than enough.

TOP TIP: Flagging up that you are commercially aware on your CV or application forms is a great way to catch an employer’s attention early on in the process.

How to develop commercial awareness

There are lots of ways you can build your commercial knowledge and thanks to digital media, it’s easier than ever. If you’re online, instead of browsing the celebrity gossip pages, watching the baby monkey riding backwards on a pig for the millionth time or chuckling at memes (we all do it), spend some time on business and industry websites. The Financial Times, Business Insider and industry-specific sites are great sources for business knowledge. Don’t worry, they’re no way near as boring as they sound! You can also tune into shows on the TV or radio, programmes such as Dragons Den and The Apprentice can help you learn about business.

When you understand what it is, you’ve done your research and you’re feeling totally commercially aware, the work isn’t done there! You now have to be ready to apply your commercial awareness to your interview responses. That’s right, it’s almost certain that your interviewer isn’t going to ask you straight up about it, so you need to tailor your answers to showcase and incorporate your business knowledge.

There you have it, your whistle-stop tour of commercial awareness! It is a great skill and could be what sets you apart when applying for a job.

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