You are at the point of your career, where you are ready to jump on a managerial or even senior executive position. But how do you demonstrate to a prospective employer that you are ready for this? The common wisdom says that you need to demonstrate strong business acumen skills.
But…if you ask ten people to explain business acumen, you’ll likely get ten different responses. Some will emphasize the leadership and communication aspect, while others will say that you need strong administrative and strategic thinking skills.
And both groups will be right. As this post will show you, business acumen assumes posing a wide range of soft and hard skills.
What are Business Acumen Skills?
Business acumen skills are an umbrella term, used to describe a combination of analytical, strategic thinking, and leadership abilities that enable a person to understand, manage and resolve various business situations.
In other words — a person with high business acumen, then, is well-versed in various business processes and operations, as well as able to discern quality insights for achieving desired outcomes.
The University of Seattle also highlights that business acumen also assumes having strong interpersonal skills. “[People with developed business acumen skills] should be able to assess what outcomes count as successes and failures for individual groups, what metrics to assess them by, and what standards to hold them to”, the article notes.
So Is Business Acumen a Soft Skill?
Yes and no. Business acumen indicates your ability to understand and respond to various business scenarios — be it new market entry or business model changes. These strategic actions require deep theoretical and practical knowledge of management, sales, business development, and business administration practices. But such major initiatives aren’t a one-person’s job. So soft skills such as negotiation, communication, leadership, and mentoring are also part of the “business acumen” umbrella.
Business Acumen Skills Examples
To make it easier for you to understand what qualities count towards business acumen, here are several quick examples:
- Affinity for problem-solving
- Business strategy development
- Financial management
- Financial reporting
- Operational planning
- Business analysis
- Change management
- Delivery management
- Business model development
- Service management
- Market strategy development
- Product or services management
- Business continuity planning
- Business model transformations
- Service catalog design
- People management
People at C-suite roles are commonly expected to possess the above core competencies. But people in other roles need this skill set too. For instance, 84% of employers believe that business planning and business acumen are important qualities for a sales manager.
At the same time, an earlier Consultancy UK study notes that 41% of companies say that “business acumen” is the most lacking skill when sourcing new talent.
So if you are a mid-level employee, gearing up for an executive or managerial role, be sure to give your business acumen skills a top placement on your resume. Doing so can give you an edge over other applicants!
5 Business Acumen Skills Examples for Your Resume
Business acumen is also referred to as “business savviness” aka your wits to make the right business calls and successfully deliver on ambitious plans.
And because this “savviness” is a cumulative result of your practical experiences, theoretical education, and personal attributes, it can be hard to convey when writing a resume. But it’s not an impossible mission altogether.
The best way to demonstrate your business acumen on a resume is to sprinkle in examples from different skill areas and then pepper these with several achievements, indicating the “products” of your savviness.
To help you with both tasks, we’ve made a handy business acumen skills list you can get back to when you are working on your job application.
1. Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking stands for your ability to rationally and meticulously analyze different factors to determine the most likely outcomes of your actions.
In other words, you can discern how your actions (and those of others) can contribute to the stated goals and what issues can derail the success.
For example, if you are working on a strategic plan, you’ll have to complete the following tasks:
- Determine business opportunities and risks
- Develop a risk management strategy
- Assess the cost of execution and prepare budgets
- Estimate the likely return on investment
- Brainstorm solutions to possible bottlenecks
- Prioritize objectives and communicate them to the team
As the above example indicates, strategic thinking is part of the wider group of analytical skills. But this ability also requires certain technical skills, especially around data analysis, project management, and business process modeling.
To communicate your strategic thinking abilities on your resume, try using the following keywords:
- Data analysis
- Risk analysis
- Risk management
- Business planning
- Data and metrics interpreting
- Systemic analysis
- Cost-to-benefits analysis
- Action-oriented business solutions
- Vision development and execution
2. Market Orientation
Market orientation stands for your ability to understand the general industry and specific market conditions a company is dealing with. This is mostly a practical skill, people in an array of marketing, sales, and executive roles need to possess.
Why? Because businesses are mostly competing on customer experience (CX) these days. Moreover, 75% of consumers expect brands to know why they purchased their product, and 52% — whether they were satisfied with it. Gaining the above knowledge is impossible without deep market knowledge.
To demonstrate your general market acumen and ability to turn it into follow-up actions, add the following skills to your resume:
- Target audience research
- Customer segmentation
- Competitor research
- Customer listening
- Customer experience management
- Sales funnel optimization
- Go-to-market planning
- New product launches
Depending on the type of resume template you’re using, you can highlight these either in the featured Skills section or organically mention them in bullet points for your Work Experience section.
Being innovative is another skill that’s hard to relay in simple words. After all, innovation comes in many shapes — from novel academic research and technological inventions to slight, but powerful changes in standard operating procedures.
Laura Furstenthal, a McKinsey consultant, further elaborates on what it means to be innovative in the corporate settings::
“Innovation incorporates delivering net new growth that is sustainable, repeatable, and substantial. You can focus on new products, markets, customers, or business models, but however you measure it, innovation has to increase value and drive growth.
Showing that you can achieve the above, especially in the current times of major societal and economic shifts, can make you a highly-attractive new hire.
Here are several extra “power words” for describing your innovative capabilities on a resume:
- Creative problem-solving
- Business model transformations
- Processes redesign
- Operational realignment
- Organizational structure changes
- Validated learning
- Iterative design
- Ideation and creativity
4. Business Strategy Development
Business strategy development is one of the central business acumen skills. To get to an executive position, you need to demonstrate knowledge of different planning frameworks and analytical tools you use for modeling and reaching the desired outcomes.
Your mental “strategy development kit” will differ a lot depending on your background. For example, technical managers would be more familiar with Sprint planning and Scrum, while retail executives rely on The 3 C’s or MECE frameworks.
Apart from bringing up your theoretical knowledge, it’s also important to demonstrate that your strategy brings tangible business results. The best way to do so is by listing your accomplishments in the work experience section of your resume.
For example, as a Senior Marketing Manager, you could write this:
Developed a new digital marketing strategy for product x. Q3 2021 results: 2X lift in aided, brand awareness, +120% increase in website traffic, +$350K bump in sales, compared to Q3 2020.
Check more resume examples from our website to get even more ideas!
5. Financial Knowledge
It’s impossible to talk about business administration without mentioning the finances. You may be an innovative and creative thinker, capable of generating bold, but unrealistic, ideas.
Being business savvy also means that you can determine which opportunities are feasible to pursue budget-wise, plus estimate the potential return on investment.
Or in the words of Steve Jobs:
“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”
Show a prospective employer that you have sufficient financial acumen to understand the cost implications of different strategic decisions and the ability to find new revenue streams.
Here are several keywords you can use for that:
- P&L management
- Cash flow projections
- Financial analysis
- Financial forecasts
- Opportunity cost analysis
- Operational cost optimization
- Pricing strategy development
- Corporate assets management
FAQs about Business Acumen Skills
Below are answers to several common questions about business acumen.
How do you demonstrate strong business acumen?
In the context of a job search, you have two opportunities to demonstrate your business acumen. First, through your resume by listing relevant skills — analytical, organizational, and financial among others — enforced by specific accomplishments. The types of results you’ve achieved in the previous positions are the best demonstration of strong business acumen.
Next, you also have your cover letter — a document, where you can further elaborate on your achievements. For example, share a quick case study of a project you did or a “before-after” story, illustrating the professional impacts you’ve made.
How do you describe business acumen on a resume?
Business acumen is a multi-pronged skill set. So the best way to describe this quality on your resume is by highlighting several skills, which comprise it. These include your analytical and problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, business strategy development, financial planning, and reporting among others. This post provided you with plenty of business acumen skills examples.
How can you improve your business acumen skills?
Through training and continuous practice. Business acumen skills are deeply rooted in your industry knowledge, so you do need to know your market(s). But at the same time, it’s a hard skill, requiring knowledge of business management and administration. So depending on your budget, you might start by picking up several books and attending free meetups/mentoring groups. Or take paid professional training programs or even a postgraduate degree (MBA) if your budget permits.