Accountancy and financial management

Commercial awareness: a key requirement for a graduate career in accounting

It's possibly the most sought-after skill by recruiters in the City, but what exactly is commercial awareness and how do you show an employer that you have it?
Researching the firm is easily done and shows a basic motivation

In a nutshell, commercial awareness is knowledge of the business you work in, the sectors you work with, your employer, your employer’s competitors and key business issues.

When speaks with accounting and financial management recruiters, they often say it’s their number one requirement in a potential employee. Make sure you develop your commercial awareness by focusing on the following:

Employer awareness

Applicants need to demonstrate intelligent awareness about the firm to which they are applying and the business environment in which it operates. This includes an awareness of the sector, its regulators, its competitors and current issues facing the industry. Researching the firm is easily done and shows a basic motivation. It takes a short time to look these sort of things up on the internet and the effort you’ve made is always well received by employers

Work experience of all kinds

It is not necessarily the nature of your past work experience that is likely to advance your chances of employment, but how you display awareness of the environment in which your former employer operates. If you’ve worked stacking shelves in a supermarket, demonstrate awareness of that industry - what issues are facing the supermarket industry? Who owns the company? How is it structured? If you’ve worked in a pub you could be asked about the beer industry or issues facing the drinks business. Applicants often give answers to these questions that could easily be given by the supermarket or pub's customers - the recruiter requires an insider's perspective so make sure that’s what you give them. Always answer questions about previous employers positively – no assessor wants an applicant to be overly critical about past bosses as this could be a predictor of future trends!

Business issues

Everybody can read a newspaper to keep abreast of current issues, but it’s the opinions that are formed from this that are important to assessors. They want to see that you have understood the wider implications of a particular news story, that you can form your own opinion on it and, most importantly, support that opinion with a convincing argument. Don’t be tempted to use jargon that you don’t understand.

Specific questions about graduate careers in accounting

As most accounting and financial management employers take graduates from all disciplines, they find it interesting to understand why a graduate has chosen their particular degree degree, what they have gained from it and what elements they can practically apply to the world of work.

Commercial awareness is an attribute that can be easily developed by students and graduates of any degree background, not just those in business-related disciplines. Developing this skill requires you to invest a bit of time and effort, but it is definitely worth it.