So we hear this term banded about by employers or recruiters at fairs, online and in articles and even in class but what does it really mean and what do employers really want? It is 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 so it will take as much time as it takes. This is YOUR Career and your responsibility. For some of you there may be several decades ahead of you for your carers so investing time and research in to what you want to do next is crucial. If you are looking to become successful and get a career here in the UK or back in your home country you need to firstly understand what is commercial awareness and how do I demonstrate it?
When speaking to students 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 and don’t get any further what am I doing wrong?”. The feedback when I go to employers with the questions is the same time and time again, applicants are failing to demonstrate commercial awareness in their application, the initial phone interview and at assessment centres.
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. Why you may ask, well 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 is 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. In the majority of recruiters I have spoken to in the UK and overseas they need to know 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 assessment centre and know nothing of the organisation. In simple terms it is like arriving for an exam having never opened a book – would YOU do that? Certainly not so why do some graduates think it is OK to do this when applying for a job? The only thing I can say in this instance is no matter how many years you studied or what your grades are it is 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.