You've studied for a great degree. Don't let commercial awareness let you down. Demonstrating commercial awareness during any graduate recruitment process is essential to succeeding. Commercial awareness can be used in application forms, interviews, networking and during assessment centres, so it’s important you understand how and when to display your knowledge. Here, we show you how to demonstrate your commercial awareness in various stages of the recruitment process. Make sure to use the helpful commercial awareness practice questions to prepare for any opportunities to impress recruiters.
Research the company beyond their website
Before you have any interaction with a company you’re applying for, always do your research beforehand. This way you can include your commercial awareness knowledge on your CV, application and then factor in your commercial awareness when answering or asking questions at an interview.
When conducting your research, go beyond the company’s website. Look at any recent news articles or blogs that are talking about the company or sector. Demonstrating that you’ve gone above and beyond with your research will show the employer you’re up-to-date and keen to learn more about business decisions that have been impacted by the sector.
Make sure you understand the full picture
Commercial awareness questions at an interview give you a chance to show your knowledge and opinion on the latest news or political decisions that impact your sector. Although your opinion is important, some interviewers may expect a debate-style answer - this means you must be prepared for any challenges the interviewer may counter your answer with. You can do this by researching and understanding the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities within the sector that the business operates in. Demonstrating that you don’t just have a one-sided view and a well-rounded knowledge is highly desirable in candidates.
If you feel you need to improve your commercial awareness, listen to 'Thinking Commercially', Bright Network's commercial awareness podcast with Chris Stoakes. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
Always be ready with examples
One of the most common ways interviewers or recruiters gauge your commercial awareness is through questions that involve you offering real industry examples. This may be asked in a form of ‘tell me about a business story you’ve read recently that interests you and why. It’s your job to use thought out and well-researched examples you prepared beforehand. But don’t just stop there, actually include how this particular example could impact the business or the industry you’re hoping to work in. This will show the interviewer that you’re not just reading those articles and going about your day, but you’re displaying your thought processes into how it could have a greater impact or act as an opportunity for that particular company.
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Show you’re commercially aware in conversation
The most important thing to remember is that having commercial awareness is not about how much content you can recite from the news, but how you apply knowledge and form opinions based on what you know about the business environment. If you’re talking to a business expert or professional in your sector, have a flowing two-way conversation, rather than blurting out everything you know about the sector to impress them. Choose a recent topic or story you’re interested in and have a genuine conversation with them, as the chances are, they’ll want to hear your opinion too.
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Demonstrate your interest in what they do
You won’t know everyone you meet at a careers fair or networking event, but that’s the point. Get to know people, make connections and then talk about topics that interest both parties. If you don’t know much about the industry they work in, use questions as a conversation starter. This way you can learn something new and you never know, there may be a hidden link somewhere that you can relate or add to. Learn how to network at events and careers fairs.
Know competitors and key partnerships
You must be familiar with their biggest competitors so you can discuss the companies concerning each other during the assessment centre. This knowledge will also help you to understand the reasons why the business does certain things and the behaviour of its customers, both of which are important to its success.
Delve deep when carrying out your research into the competition because this is something that will stand out to recruiters. Equally, the competition will face many of the same challenges as the business you’re applying to work for and you’ll be able to discuss their approach to them.
Learn more about what employers are looking for at an assessment centre.
Know the headlines and understand how they got there
While it’s a great idea to know the headlines on the day of the assessment centre, you should also know about previous business or sector news that may still impact the company today. Commercial awareness is NOT something that can be learned by only reading a broadsheet newspaper or watching the news ahead of your assessment centre; it is a skill that needs to be developed and should be practised continually. Read: How to demonstrate your commercial awareness at assessment centres to discover more.
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Commercial Awareness Practice Questions
Here’s some example questions you may be asked that provide a perfect opportunity for you to wow the employer with your industry or business knowledge.
There’s a standard question on a number of applications to leading employers, regardless of which sector you're applying to. Here’s what it might look like:
- Tell me about a recent business (or financial) story you’ve been following? How will it impact the firm/industry?
Firm/industry specific questions
Most firms will want you to be able to clearly explain how world events or changes in the market will directly impact them or their industry. Here are some questions to think about:
- What are the biggest issues facing the firm/industry today?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the firm/industry in the next 10 years?
- How do we generate revenue as a business?
- How will Brexit affect the industry?
- Who are our clients and what products/services do we offer them?
- Who are our competitors and what is our USP?
Specific to you
This is more about what you’ve done to upskill yourself and develop commercial awareness. The question may look like this:
- How have you developed your commercial awareness?
- How would you define the term commercial awareness?
These questions test your ability to understand wide reaching issues which may be causing change in the UK or even the world.
- How will a rise in interest rates affect the UK economy?
- Is the FTSE 100 going up or down at the moment? What impact is that having on the economy?
More challenging questions
Some firms will test your commercial awareness with more obscure questions, which might require quick thinking. It's difficult to prepare for something like this, but here are a few questions which have come up in recent years:
- How would you define terrorism?
- How would you improve the iPhone?
- Who’s the most powerful person in the world and why?
Take the Bright Network Academy Commercial Awareness course delivered by a commercial awareness expert and author Chris Stoakes to learn how to develop your awareness and more.