Note: When you have read this page, visit our page of links to resources that can help you develop your commercial awareness.
Developing commercial awareness increases you chances of getting a better job with a higher salary! It enables you to ask highly relevant questions at interview and demonstrate your commitment and the effort you have put into researching organisations you are applying to and the industry in which they operate.
Other phrases you may come across which recruiters use to describe the qualities of commercial awareness they look for are: ‘commerciality’, ‘business focus’, ‘client focus’ ‘passion for the business’, 'understanding customers’ needs’. It means understanding how a business operates, the factors are that enable it to succeed, challenges it may face and aspects of its wider commercial context /environment - political, social, technological etc.
Even if you are getting experience by doing a fairly routine job, take the opportunity to ask questions – for instance, you could ask for an information interview with a member of the staff who does a type of job you’re interested in.
Almost all employers look for commercial awareness, not just banks or companies offering sales or marketing jobs. Public sector organisations, charities and volunteering organisations also need to be business savvy to raise funds and manage available resources as effectively as they can; so the kind of skills you may have gained in a private sector company can be transferable to the public/not for profit sector.
Here are some topic headings to think about when you research organisations you might want to work for:
How a business operates:
- Its staffing structure - the nature of the job roles that exist within it and the professional development/training opportunities available to staff
- Processes: Financial management/accounting, Human Resources, the information technology systems it uses, production/service delivery processes, legislation it has to comply with
- Its mission statement – The purpose of an organisation, what it aims to achieve in the future
- Values - its ethos and culture, management style, family friendly policies, diversity policies, its impact on the community and its approach to Corporate Social Responsibility
- How it markets itself – who are its customers and how it retains them, the niche in the market where it operates, who its competitors are and how it compares with them – who the key players in the industry are
- Who its suppliers are
- The types of products and services it provides and the standards/levels of service it aims to achieve
- It’s growth rate, profitability
- Issues facing the industry in which an organisation operates
- Political – e.g. import/export agreements
- Economic – general state of the economy, effect of competition
- Social – impact on the environment/local community
- Issues connect with an organisation’s impact on the environment and sustainable development
- Technological advances
- Media coverage – whether there been any recent deals or mergers within the business sector generally