Commercial awareness is a key employability skill that is valued by employers, but is often viewed as lacking in interview candidates. Commercial awareness has three aspects; knowledge about the company, knowledge about the industry and an awareness of the current affairs such as the political, environmental , technological and economic situation. It is important to be able to apply this knowledge to the company or industry sector. Being well informed about the company, industry and current affairs will help you to answer questions in the interview such as;
"Tell me what you know about our company and why you want to work here"
"What are the main challenges faced by this industry sector"
"How is Brexit likely to impact on our company and wider industry"
Use these databases to find out more about companies or industry sectors. When attending interviews being able to show that you have researched the company demonstrates initiative and enthusiasm and will give you an advantage over other candidates.
Good commercial awareness will help you to answer interview questions, gain an understanding of the industry sector and the impact of current affairs on that industry.
This guide will tell you about the sources you can use to research companies and industry sectors.
Here are a few databases that you can use to research companies and industries.
Keeping up to date with current affairs is a great way to increase your commercial awareness. Reading Broadsheets such as The Times, Guardian and Financial Times will keep you well informed about issues likely to affect different industry sectors. Newspapers are available online via Locate and on the database, Lexis Library.
These are also good sources of news for specific professions. Examples of trade journals include Nursing Standard, Marketing Week and New Civil Engineer. Search for them on Locate or use a database such as Business Source Complete or ABI Inform.
There are also plenty of free resources you can use to find information about companies and industry sectors.
It is usually a good idea to begin your research with looking at the company's own website. From here you can find out about their products and services, location and size, history, corporate social responsibility, how they like to do business and their corporate image.You might also find out about their customers and finances and get access to press releases and their annual report.
Each year a company must complete an annual report and file it with Companies House. As well as financial information the annual report will often contain useful information about the company's structure and different aspects of their business. The reports may have statements from key personnel such as CEO, where they will review the past year and outline intended future developments. These reports are legal documents, so must contain the required financial information, but they are also designed to promote the company to their stakeholders, so some negative aspects may be played down. However, they are still a great insight into the company.
Annual reports can be found on a company's website by going to financials or investor relations. Alternatively, run a Google search for the company and annual report, (e.g. Tesco annual report 2018) or search on the Companies House website.
Companies House provides access to the annual reports of UK companies. Here you will be able to access the original documents filed by the company.
Following a company on social media can be a good way to find out about current issues affecting the company. You can also see how a company interacts with customers and other stakeholders.
Public libraries, especially those in larger cities may be able to provide access to market research and company information databases that you can use without charge. You will usually have to visit the library to use them, rather than accessing remotely. Some libraries, e.g. Birmingham City Library, City Library London and the British Library may have a Business section, which contain trade directories. These are useful to find lists of companies engaged in specific lines of business. They will also have many print resources about companies and industry sectors.