You need to really prove to employers that you want the job you’re interviewing for. A basic motivation for the role, an interest in the company, and some prior knowledge about the industry is essential. Of course you want it – you applied after all! But how do you prove it?
Commercial awareness – it’s considered one of the most sought-after skills in graduates. We follow up with employers regularly to find out how our students performed in interviews, and often greater commercial awareness is the only area interviewees could have been better prepared in.
Put simply, commercial awareness is all about having an understanding of the business and its wider sector. Do you understand what makes the business successful and appreciate the factors that influence their success? All organisations, whether private or not-for-profit, are subject to commercial pressures. Everyone has a bottom line that must be met if the organisation is to succeed and grow. Ignore this and you’ll find you won’t get very far in the interview.
You don’t just “become” commercially aware, you must develop it over time. But if you’re studying, time isn’t something you have a lot of. So what can you do now to be ready for your interview?
Read! There is a great deal of information at your fingertips. Read newspapers – especially the business pages, as well as online and print magazines like the National Business Review, Unlimited, NZBusiness and Scoop. Form an opinion on what is being reported and then challenge yourself on your stance with (you guessed it) some further reading.
Draw on prior work experience. Say you’ve been working part time in a café. What issues are facing the hospitality industry? Were you competing with big chains or boutique cafés and why? How do you attract new customers and retain the regulars? What have you learned about the business? You can apply these questions to any job and any industry, and you probably learned more than you realise.
Research employers. Never apply for a job or go to an interview without carefully researching the organisation. Look at their web pages and follow their social media accounts. If you can, attend their employer presentations and their tables at the careers expos on campus. Use these resources to develop a great general knowledge of what is going on in their business world, and learn about the specific issues and developments that are influencing your industry of choice.
Practice answering some interview questions. Here are some questions an employer might ask you to gauge your commercial awareness:
- Describe a company you think is doing well/badly. Explain why you think this is so.
- What do you think are key qualities for a company to have to be successful?
- What significant factors have affected this industry in recent years?
- Tell me about when you were given the task of improving a service or product?
- Tell me about when you provided excellent customer service.
- Tell me of a time when you have been responsible for a budget.