Developing your Commercial Awareness – Cass Students

Recently the Cass Placement Team and CityCareers have had feedback from several employers that students need to develop their commercial awareness. This blog aims to set out some key ways you can improve your commercial awareness to help you stand out at application and interview.

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness refers to your knowledge of the industry you are hoping to join and it is a key skill employers look for in students and graduates. According to the recent Institute of Student Employers Annual Survey 79% of graduate employers look for commercial awareness but only 15% of new graduates have it!

How is it measured?

You may see interview or application questions such as:

  • What are the recent developments in our industry?
  • Who are our competitors and how do we differ?
  • Tell us a recent news story and how it might affect our business
  • What services do we provide to our clients?

How can I develop it?

What frameworks can help?

When analysing a company or industry you can use these frameworks to help structure your analysis or think of issues from different perspectives.

  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) – some of the library databases such as Marketline Advantage publish SWOT analyses of big companies as well as giving their key competitors, employee information, history and major products and services
  • PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environment, Legal)
  • 4 C’s (Customers, Costs, Competitors, Capabilities)
  • Porter’s 5 forces (Competitive Rivalry, Supplier Power, Buyer Power, Threat of Substitution, Threat of New Entry)

What resources can help me?

Library workshops e.g. Introduction to Bloomberg
Library Company Reports
Cass Library Guides


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? Continue Reading