Get the commercial awareness that you need!

In a survey called “Skills for graduates in the 21st Century” by AGR (The Association of Graduate Recruiters) commercial awareness came out top as the skill most lacking in graduates.  Their survey focused on leading graduate firms and 67% of the recruiters responded that this skill was lacking  in a worrying 67% of UK  graduates.

What is it exactly?

One way commercial awareness could be defined is having an interest in business, together with an understanding of the environment in which it operates. This includes its customers, suppliers and competitors. It also includes an understanding of commercial realities, such as efficiency, cost-effectiveness and customer care. Cass students are well-placed to understand this, but students in other schools also need to understand commercial awareness in relation to careers in health, teaching, the public sector, journalism,  the charity sector, etc.

What questions do  employers ask to test your commercial awareness?

  • What particularly interests you about our organization? or What do you know about our organization?
  • What do you regard as our unique selling point or What makes us stand out, in your view?
  • Name some of our clients
  • Name some of our competitors (and possibly some of the differences between us?)
  • What tasks do you think you will be doing on a daily basis in this role?
  • Tell me about a business news article that interested you recently. Say why, what your learned and its implications for the organization if appropriate
  • What are some of the issues impacting on our sector at the moment?
  • Where do you see yourself in 2 and 5 years time?
  • What was our share price this morning? What market share do we have?

How can I improve my commercial awareness?


  • Read company websites in depth. Often, I find students don’t! Many just pick out the most basic facts. This is not enough! You need to dig deeper. Don’t tell them what they know already, such as how many offices and employees that they have globally or when they were founded. Read about their values and what their clients say/graduate testamonials. Say what resonates with you.
  • Follow companies on their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. You can pick up news early this way.
  • Go to events held on companies’ premises. These can be found on the Events section of the Careers Service website, but not always. Another good reason for following the company on social media!
  • Look at the company’s YouTube channel – often has valuable advice and tips
  • Comment on any awards the company has received and why this matters to you.
  • Google if or why a company has been in the news recently – refer to an article
  • Read professional body websites (Chartered institute of Marketing, ACCA, CIPD, etc) and the professional press.
  • Read annual reports or at least the executive summary. How does the company see itself developing in the future?
  • Watch and listen to programmes about business affairs, follow a business blog or a good website to keep you up to date with business affairs
  • Attend the many employer events the Careers Service promotes at City to network and to pick up more knowledge







Antonia Clark

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