Thursday, 21 August 2014

Acing your interview: Commercial awareness

A job interview is about more than just how you and your skill set will fill an available role. Many employers will want to know how commercially aware you are – and that requires some preparation.
Here are some common topics you should cover, and the research you’ll need to do to ensure you are adequately prepared to answer all types of questions.

About us

It goes without saying that you should investigate the organisation that may well become your employer. This research will give you an idea of what the organisation does, as well as how they want to be viewed in the marketplace.

The company’s website is an obvious place to start. Check their ‘About us’ page, but also any newsletters, media releases and blogs from recent months to get an idea of their history and the kind of activities they engage in. Employers will appreciate a candidate who is well versed in their company’s ethos and has a firm grounding in how they operate day to day. Consider who their typical clients might be, who their direct competitors are and what the key differences between this company and their competitors are.

Also try to get a sense of their culture. You can do this directly by speaking to people who work there. This is easier if there is already someone within your network employed at the company – you can take them out for coffee and have a chat – or there may be opportunities at networking events to find someone from the organisation.

Indirectly, take a look at networking platforms like LinkedIn. Do employees tend to stick around in their roles? Are they promoted from within? Have they been given educational opportunities while at the organisation? What do they have to say about their managers and colleagues?

Public knowledge

How people outside the organisation view it is also important. You can get a sense of this from the company’s social media engagement. What sort of messages are they trying to send? How do they engage with the wider community, and vice versa? Are they socially savvy? Do they even have a social presence?

News and media coverage over the last year may also give you some insight. Use a search engine to trawl through news coverage of the organisation from the past year. Is the coverage positive or negative? If the coverage is largely different from the messages on the organisation’s website, that will also tell you a few things about your potential employer.

Industry insider

Getting a feel for the industry in general is also a good idea so you have context for where the organisation sits. Media coverage is a good indicator, but delve a little deeper for insight from industry associations, journals and conferences. If you’ve started early by getting involved in the industry as a student and attending networking functions and industry events, you’ll have firsthand knowledge to draw on.

You may also find that competitors have a thing or two to say about the organisation. Although you need to view these comments with a contextual lens, you can often get a sense of how your potential employer is regarded within the industry.

Dedicated research will allow you to see the current issues and changes affecting the industry, as well as how your potential employer compares to its competitors. Being commercially savvy means knowing why you’re interested in the industry – and why you want the job on offer.


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