“Commercial awareness” – What is it and how do you show you have it?

Worried about demonstrating “commercial awareness” at an interview?

Most employers want to know that you have “commercial awareness”. Whether you are looking to work for a multinational or a small business, a charity or in the arts, potential employers will all expect you to demonstrate this.

Students are often anxious that if they don’t read the Financial Times FT_Web_App_on_iPad-_Home_Screen_(5814585356).jpgevery day they won’t be able to demonstrate this. In fact, commercial awareness means many things to different people but usually refers to an interest in business generally and in the wider environment that a specific business operates in .

The good news if that you will almost certainly already have it, at least to some degree.

Your experience of part-time jobs can be a great source of commercial awareness. You may be able to use retail or hospitality experience to show that you understand the importance of effective stock management, reducing wastage, “selling-up” etc. Understanding that this contributes to the profitability of any business demonstrates your commercial awareness.

Every employer wants to know that you understand their business and sector. They are looking for a real understanding of what they do, who their key competitors are, future trends in their industry  etc. Doing your homework on this prior to an interview is another measure of your commercial awareness.

So what should you research prior to an interview?

The following are just a few ideas:images.png

  • press releases from the employer
  • LinkedIn and social media pages
  • industry news in the (reputable) business media
  • websites of key competitors in the sector

What might I be asked on this at interview?

Questions could include the following:

  • What do you know about our products / services?
  • Who are our main competitors and what differentiates them from us?
  • What makes a business successful?
  • Describe a company you think is doing well and explain why you think this is so.
  • Tell me about a recent news item on the economy or about a specific business that interested you. What interested you about this?
  • What is the current Bank of England base rate?
  • What is the FTSE 100? Did the FTSE go up or down yesterday?

These questions are looking for evidence of your curiosity about business generally, your awareness of why businesses succeed (or fail) and your motivation to work for that employer.

Finally back to the F.T.

It IS important to have a good general awareness of what’s going on in the global economy so getting into good habits such as regularly looking at reputable business news websites will certainly help you to develop your commercial awareness without it seeming like a last-minute panic prior to an interview!

For more advice on getting ready for interviews, don’t forget our website is full of hints, tips, example questions and lots more.


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