Home > Employment > Take Care – Get Aware: What is Commercial Awareness?

Take Care – Get Aware: What is Commercial Awareness?

It’s one of those terms that’s often thrown around when we talk about job search and going for interviews but is rarely explained. It doesn’t help that it’s also referred to as Business Awareness, Business Acumen, and Client Focus, amongst other things. So what actually is Commercial Awareness and how do you go about getting it?

Lady looking at newspapers image

Firstly, creative students and grads, let me try to catch you before you leave. I know the terms look very business-y and corporate-like but I assure you, you will need commercial awareness as well – although you might never call it that.

Commercial awareness is:

Knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want, and what problems there are in particular areas of business

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

So basically an employer needs to understand that you know enough about their business to be able to be effective working for them. This is why it’s applicable across all sectors; unless you are working in total isolation it’s still knowledge you need. Employers will try to measure your understanding by asking questions in interview like; What do you know about us, What makes us different to our competitors, and What are the challenges facing the sector.

Find out more in this video:


So what can you do to gain commercial awareness? Well, first off, you probably learn quite a bit on your course even if it’s not obvious at first but you can build on this by:

  • Reading newspapers; look for stories on your sector and identify risks and opportunities in current affairs
  • Research their (or, if you’re starting a business, your) competitors; look on their website, read blogs, and search for news items involving them – Do the same for the company you’re interested in
  • Connect on LinkedIn; Many companies and professions have groups on LinkedIn where they share their insights. Start by joining a few and see what you can pick up
  • Use trade press, like industry magazines; these give an insider’s insight into the industry including new technology and advancements (try using resources on StudyNet for this)
  • Consider becoming a member of your professional body for more information

Remember there is a wealth of information out there but not all of it will be useful; you will need to validate your research. Start out looking at trusted sources before delving deeper. Keep a record of where you’re searching so you can come back to them later and also so you can explain to an Employer where you go to for your information.

For further information, have a look at our ‘Researching an Employer’ info sheet on CareerHub.

Photo Credit: Cropped imaged by Thomas Leuthard via cc


Jerome Price Photograph

Jerome Price is the Online and Digital Content Manager in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

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