How commercial awareness can help your job applications

Recruiters look for many skills in job applicants – team work, communication, problem solving, and more.

One skill that employers like to see, but is one that is often overlooked by candidates, is commercial awareness. It isn’t a skill that is only expected of business or management students – students and graduates of any subject area should aim to have it.

What you should find out

You don’t need to be an expert, but you should do some research to get a basic understanding of: 

  • how organisations operate and what it takes to produce their goods and/or services
  • the challenges and pressures faced by organisations and the sector they operate within

By researching the employer and their operations, you will be able to understand these issues and demonstrate it during the recruitment process.

When applying, think through why you are interested in that particular company as opposed to others in the sector. Maybe it’s the organisation’s culture that appeals to you or its innovation and development. Be prepared to articulate your reasons and interest.

How to develop this skill

1) Work experience can help build up your understanding of the workplace and how businesses work. So, even if you ‘only’ have part-time work experience, use the chance to ask questions and find out the company’s aims. Volunteering is also useful for this – even charitable organisations need to operate smoothly and in a business-like manner.

2) Keep up to date with the latest trends and challenges in your chosen sector. You can do this by checking out company social media (particularly Twitter and LinkedIn); reading the business news.

3) Attend employer and sector events on campus or online. These are a great way of getting an insight into an organisation or sector to find out how they work. This week there’s a skills session about commercial awareness, courtesy of Hogan Lovells (28 October, 2 – 3pm). Check out the rest of this term’s events on Handshake.

4) Engage with some of the Enterprise opportunities – you don’t have to be considering setting up your own business to benefit from what’s on offer. You could also join the Entrepreneurs Society to enhance your business thinking.

5) Help run a student society, whether as an elected officer or in a more informal role. Well-run societies have similar concerns to companies – organising and delivering activities (product/service); how to grow their membership (clients); managing finances; marketing themselves. 

So, don’t shy away from a bit of commercial awareness – it could make a difference to your job hunting. 

If you’re interested in exploring other skills valued by employers, take a look at the Your employability skills and qualities page. Definitions, explanations and suggestions can be found for 17 different skills and qualities.