3 ways to REALLY improve your business acumen before an interview

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“Commercial awareness” – one of those opaque terms that get bandied around careers events and employer websites. However, important as it is to your job prospects, it’s not nearly as scary a concept as you might think. 

Simply put, commercial awareness means having an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates, including the relevance of its customers, competitors and suppliers.

Gaining commercial awareness is also relatively easy to do, and you don’t have to be a business or economics graduate to get there. The question is, then, how do you show your knowledge of your potential company’s commercial environment? Here are some useful pointers to guide you:

1. Keep an eye on current events
Different economies and sectors will go through ups and downs, and be influenced by factors such as oil prices and political upheavals, among countless other headwinds and developments. An easy way to build up this understanding is to start reading. Buy yourself an edition of the Financial Times or the Economist every week and set yourself a target to finish it by. Take note of the major issues that keep cropping up and find out why they’re important. Speed things up as you get closer to your interview, and make sure to read the business pages of the newspaper on the morning of the big day.

2. Get your head around key commercial concepts
As a potential future employee you should be able to explain how different financial structures and developments affect the company in question. What are things like cash flow and profit margins? If the stock market is up, how will that affect the financial stability of your institution? Are debt and equity finance relevant to your company?

An easy way to do this is to buy yourself a dictionary of financial terms which you can keep handy and refer to whenever a new term or piece of theory crops up. Websites such as Investopedia are another excellent resource, or ask a friend working in finance (or a similar environment) to give you a crash course.

3. Understand the issues affecting the employer
Having developed a picture of the wider landscape, it’s up to you to try and get under the skin of the business in order to demonstrate that you’re really serious about the job. Try to drill down into issues or developments that directly impact the company’s sector. During your research, try to identify relevant industry news items and themes, or those that involve the organisation’s clients.

Better yet, do your best to isolate stories involving the company itself – look at how they are reacting to different events or why the business is making particular choices. If you’re applying to a publishing house, you might want to consider how they’re adapting to changes in intellectual property law, for example.

As you can see, commercial awareness really just boils down to having an interest in the world around you and being able to understand the context that a particular employer is operating in. With plenty of resources to draw from, a little time invested in broadening your knowledge and understanding could really pay dividends.

Source: HN Global