Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness is a term that refers to a candidate's general knowledge of business, their business experiences (or work experience) and, specifically, their understanding of the industry which they are applying to join. It is a key competency for all City job application forms, as well as for roles in engineering, consultancy and many other sectors.

Interview Preparation

Candidates should read publications like the Financial Times and websites such as BBC News and BizEd to prepare in the days leading up to interviews and assessment days. Most industries also have specialist trade press - for example, Accountancy Age or The Lawyer that you should consult regularly. Set up email alerts for the most relevant terms to the role you are applying for, and follow social media accounts of the most relevant companies and industry magazines.


The best way to prepare is by reading as many interview questions and answers as possible. If you're practising for aptitude tests too, JobTestPrep has a comprehensive range of tests to practice.


Commercial Awareness Questions

You will need to know some basic commercial principles to be able to answer general commercial awareness questions, such as being able to describe private equity or explain the difference between a private company|private limited company and a public limited company. You will also need to know about any current major global economic issues, and their impact, or potential impact, on your employer's business sector. Employers are looking for you to demonstrate your knowledge of their company, their marketplace/competitors, and an understanding of trends in their industry.

Typical commercial awareness questions include:

  • Describe a company you think is doing well/badly and explain why you think this is so.
  • What do you think are key qualities for a company to have to be successful?
  • What significant factors have affected this industry in recent years? The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is a key factor for accounting and especially audit & assurance.
  • What do you understand of the role this firm plays in this industry?

Competency Based Commercial Awareness Questions

Like all other competency based questions you will need to use situational examples from your life experiences to form answers to competency-based commercial awareness questions. Try to highlight any past relevant work experience you have had, and make sure you discuss your awareness of things like customer's needs and business targets, i.e. commercial issues.

Typical competency based commercial awareness questions include:

  • Tell me of a time when you were given the task of improving a service or product?
  • Tell me about a time you provided excellent customer service.
  • Tell me of a time when you have been responsible for a budget.

Further Information

Candidates should also see:

For further information and to find out more about what commercial awareness is, visit the WikiJob forums.