Commercial awareness

Here are five ways you can impress potential employers as a languages graduate:

1. Know your potential employer

Demonstrate awareness about the firm to which you are applying and the business environment in which it operates. Show that you know about the employer’s industry as a whole including its regulators, competitors and current issues facing the industry.

2. Make use of your past work experience

It is not always what you did in your part-time or holiday job which matters most but how you use that experience to show awareness of the industry you worked in. Say you stacked shelves in a supermarket - how can this help you get a graduate level job?  Think about the issues facing the supermarket industry – who owns the company? How is it structured? If you worked in a pub you may be asked about the beer industry or issues facing the drinks industry. The person interviewing you has probably shopped in a supermarket or been to a pub. Don’t tell them things that any customer would know!

3. Give opinions

Any book about successful job hunting will advise you against criticising former employers. This is sound advice, but it does not mean that you should not give your opinions. If the interviewer asks for an example of how your previous employer might have done some aspect of their work more effectively, see this as an opportunity to provide a specific example of how things might have been done differently.

4. Know what’s going on in the business world

Reading the business pages in preparation for your interview is a good idea, of course. However, you are a graduate or are soon to graduate - the employer assumes that you are able to read! You need to form your own opinions and analysis of what is happening in the business world. What are the implications of the merger of Firm X and Firm Y for the industry? What is your view of Firm Z going into administration? Also be aware of the influence of politics on the company, the industry and the wider economy.

5. Make your study abroad sound interesting

Hopefully you enjoyed your year abroad and it gave you the opportunity to develop your language skills. Your year abroad is also a great opportunity to talk about the business environment in the country where you lived. For example, how does the regulation of British and Spanish banks differ?


You do not need to study business or economics to be commercially aware. Show the employer how well informed you are about the business world and you will have an edge over your fellow applicants.