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How to showcase your commercial awareness in IT applications and assessment centres

You may be technically skilled, but commercial awareness could be the deciding factor on whether you get the job. Graduate recruiter Jessica Davies explains what it is and why it’s needed in IT.

Commercial awareness is very important when you work in the IT business. As a graduate recruiter, I expect candidates to be aware of the commercial context in which our business operates, how we attract and keep customers and more widely, how the world economy impacts our capabilities and the particular sectors within which we operate. In graduate technology consulting roles in particular you should also understand how technology can transform a business’s operations and strategies, as well as the value it creates for clients.

How do graduate recruiters assess commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness can be assessed in many ways. In the earlier stages of a graduate interview process, you can demonstrate it through sharing your understanding of the wider market in which the employer you are applying to operates:

  • make sure you know who the employer’s customers are
  • be aware of the employer’s products and services, and what they do
  • find out who the employer’s competitors are and how they are different.

You can gain this knowledge through researching your target organisations using a range of channels such as company websites, marketing collateral, business publications, the media, etc.

There is a wealth of information available for the discerning graduate who wants to improve their general industry knowledge, as well as find out employer specifics.

Put your IT solutions in a business context

In the later parts of an assessment process you should expect to take part in case studies that simulate real-life business situations. At this stage graduate recruiters will be assessing another element of commercial awareness:

  • how you analyse the given information
  • how you apply your existing business knowledge to it
  • how you articulate the broader implications of your proposed solution.

For example, if you were to propose providing an application or system with additional functionality the original specification you would need to explain the long-term benefits as well as be aware of and justify the extra cost in terms of development time and money.

Make your commercial awareness the deciding factor

Commercial awareness can be a strong differentiator when selecting graduate for jobs in IT. You may have a strong ability to digest information and come up with coherent solutions, but you’ll impress graduate recruiters even more if you also consider and present the wider business context and external variables that might affect the outcome of your solution.

Jessica Davies is the graduate recruitment team lead at Accenture.

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