Do your research
It’s a given that you need to research a company before you go for an interview.
But rather than just being able to name the basics (i.e. who founded the company and in what year), you should consider factors like the company’s position in the market, its competitors, and how the business has grown since its inception.
Check out our graduate job interview checklist.
Company Check, Endole and GOV.uk – that provide a general overview of larger businesses. Cross-referencing this data will give you a solid idea of what you need to know about the company’s history and business trajectory.
For smaller organisations, it can be harder to track down these records. If information is sparse, you should think about the service the company provides and compare it to an industry leader.
This will give you an idea of how the business matches up to those organisations at the very top of the sector – and what they can do to get there themselves.
In those rare cases when the company is totally incomparable and its offering entirely unique, you’ll want to think about the particular gap in the market that its product or service is filling, and how its competitors are falling short.
Engage with the sector you want to work within
Another point discussed in our last blog was managing your personal brand. This isn’t just about making sure you don’t post pictures of yourself totally hammered outside Wetherspoon’s – it’s about engaging with a sector’s community. Use our 5 steps to professional networking to help with this.
Following companies and their business leaders – and actively sharing and commenting on their posts on Twitter and LinkedIn – shows any potential employer browsing your social media accounts that you’re savvy to the market’s goings-on and actively taking part in conversations about the industry.
Check out our tips on top ways to boost your LinkedIn profile.
Additionally, writing your own business-friendly blog has never been easier. LinkedIn’s Pulse platform is used by many influential business leaders and experts from across the globe. Write a few industry specific blogs.
While it might seem like you’re throwing a small pebble into a big pond, the intention isn’t to gain thousands of likes, shares, and comments, but to show that you’re properly engaged with the industry’s community – and that you have deeper thoughts that can’t be contained to the 140 characters of a Tweet.
(Note: It should also be remembered that networking isn’t just constrained to the four walls of your computer. Attend business and sector specific shows, talks and seminars – if you get your face out there, you will be noticed.)
Read the press
You can’t really engage with an industry unless you have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening within it.
Each sector has its own media outlets (some more influential than others), and if you want to show that you’re commercially aware you’ll need to find these websites and publications and keep up to date.
If you participate in online conversations in and around these outlets, this will increase your understanding of the industry and widen your network.
While you might feel a bit awkward offering an inexperienced, entry-level opinion, seasoned professionals are more open to fresh perspectives than you might think.
At Give A Grad A Go, we’ve always been vocal in our opposition to unpaid internships. That said, a paid placement can be a great way to get a feel for an industry without having to commit to a career within it.
Many small businesses also prefer the placement model because they lack the cashflow to commit to a permanent hire right away. It’s often a mutually beneficial employment structure for both employers and graduate employees.
In our case, 86% of our placements end up becoming permanent hires at the company they’re placed with, so there’s every chance you could get a lot more out of the placement than mere experience.
Take a look at graduate schemes UK to see if we have the right one for you.
So why do employers value commercial awareness?
What commercial awareness boils down to is dedication.
Employers want to see 100% from their employees: they want to see commitment, and they want staff who could potentially take their business forward.
If you’re oblivious or seemingly disinterested, you’re at an immediate disadvantage – but if you can show that you truly care about the business and the sector it operates in, you’ll have a clear edge over other candidates.