How much commercial awareness is necessary for a finance graduate scheme?

Yes, we know that commercial awareness is good stuff when it comes to the application process for a finance graduate scheme and the many years of working professional life that lie ahead. But how should your level of commercial awareness shape up at this stage?

All students, take note…

Any job specifications stating that it’s looking for finance-related degree graduates probably mean that the employer is looking for a degree-level understanding of the financial markets. But hang on! This doesn’t mean you can sit back and cruise on past go, straight into the warm embrace of a secure graduate position…

What kind commercial awareness is necessary for a finance graduate scheme?

No matter what your degree background, employers want to see that graduate position candidates possess a level of commercial awareness that makes them ready and able to get stuck in at the deep end in a finance job and know enough to pick up more jargon and knowledge quickly. They will assess your commercial awareness as part of your interview.

You may be asked to talk about a current business issue that interests you. Make sure you’ve checked the news before your interview so that you’re up to date, and that you know the back story to any breaking headlines. It’s highly likely you’ll get a follow-up question or two, perhaps on your opinion, when you bring up a story—so be prepared for this! And it’s probably best to focus on the relevant stories that interest you the most; it’s much easier to talk about something you have a genuine interest in, and this will shine through in an interview.

In simple terms, interviewers are looking for evidence that you understand how businesses work and the kinds of challenges they are facing. When you read or listen to the news each day, think of these pointers. You should be in the habit of “dissecting” what you hear by the time you get to your interview. They’ll be able to spot this skill as they discuss business issues with you.

Be warned…

You won’t be able to wing something like this from some cramming the night before your interview: they’ll catch you out! The more you engage with different opinions and the progress of a business issue through the media over an extended period of time, the more familiar you’ll become with business terms and what developments mean for a business. Discussion on the topic will come much more naturally to you in an interview, and evidence of this groundwork is just what interviewers are looking for. So if you haven’t already, get started now! You can find out more on what to read and how in the other articles in this section.

Don’t underestimate the necessity for commercial awareness if you’re going for a role in an area like human resources or marketing in the finance industry, either. Part of being able to impress is demonstrating you understand the challenges the firm faces, and one of the best ways to do this is to develop your own commercial awareness and knowledge of the markets in which they and their clients work.

Use your work experience to the max

If you’ve already completed an insight programme, such as an insight day or Spring Week and/or have completed an internship with a firm in the finance industry, then the good news is that on paper you already look like you’ve been developing your commercial awareness in terms of getting to know how a business works. So good for you! Now, in the interview it’s your challenge to show how you can relate what you learned during your work experience to the wider picture… and then relate that back to how you would approach the role you’re going for!