What is Commercial Awareness? What do employers mean by this?

So what is commercial awareness and what do employers mean by this? We hear this term banded about by employers or recruiters at job fairs and events, in interview, online and in articles, but what does it really mean and what do employers really want?

It’s not as complicated as it sounds, simply put commercial awareness is understanding the business as a whole that you are applying to. This includes understanding the company culture, values, objectives, the businesses competitors, the sector as a whole as well as business/sector trends. 

Now you might be thinking this sounds like hard work, how much time do I need to research all this?

The answer again is simple, you are investing in your future and only you can do it, this is YOUR Career so invest the time and research.  If you are looking to become successful and get a career here in the UK or elsewhere in the world you need to firstly understand what is commercial awareness and how do I demonstrate it?

When speaking to graduates and young professionals I hear the following complaints more often than I would like: “I have sent off several applications and I haven’t heard anything back” or “I get as far a the assessment centre/group exercise/interview and don’t get any further what am I doing wrong?”.

The feedback when I speak to employers is the same time and time again, applicants are failing to demonstrate commercial awareness in their application, the initial phone interview, at assessment centres or in interview. This can be lack of knowledge around who the organisation is, what they do or being able to clearly articulate why you want to work for them.

So here are my tips on where to start!

1. Research, Research, Research!!!! Google the organisation you are applying to before you even submit the online application. In most cases as soon as you submit that CV, cover letter or form you may receive an initial phone interview 10 minutes, an hour or a week later so it’s better to be prepared!

2. Demonstrate on the application your motivations for wanting to work for the organisation and this is generally done through a cover letter. Your motivations will be based on your knowledge of the business, what it does, how it operates and what it has to offer you.

In addition to your motivations, you need to demonstrate through your cover letter what YOU can bring to the business in terms of skills or knowledge and a strong understanding of the business can help you formulate this. 

3. Phone interview as I said before be prepared, have your documents in front of you including the notes you made about the company. Go beyond the “About us” section of their website, Google trends, company projects and accounts if applicable. Demonstrate your passion and knowledge through the research and this will make a big impression with the recruiters. They need to know that you aren’t looking for just any job you are looking for a career with them. It costs a lot of money to recruit and train a person into a role so demonstrate that you are worth their time and money!

4. Assessment Centres & Group Exercises are an opportunity for you to show an assessor in person this is how I can contribute to your organisation. The majority of recruiters I have spoken to in the UK and overseas want to see you are passionate about their company and brand. Don’t be afraid to show this, remember the group exercise is not a competition it is a chance to show you can work as part of a team and contribute ideas while valuing other members. That being said do take this opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and its competitors depending on the group exercise topic. Be prepared for anything but don’t hesitate to speak up and be heard. Commercial awareness will get you points as well as contributing ideas, and time keeping. 

Even with these hints, tips and employer feedback you would still be surprised how many people turn up to interview with no preparation and expect to wing it. In some cases applicants arrive for an interview and know nothing of the organisation. In simple terms it’s like arriving for an exam having never opened a book – would YOU do that? Certainly not so why do some candidates think it’s OK to do this when applying for a job?

No matter how many years you studied or how many years experience you have it’s important to know the business you are interviewing for and more! Give yourself the best possible chance, don’t gamble with your career, be smart and make the right decisions from the start. 

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