Commercial awareness interview questions

Here are the commercial awareness questions you're most likely to be asked in an interview for a graduate role or an internship
Commercial awareness
Improving your commercial awareness

We've gathered together the commercial awareness questions you're most likely to be asked in an interview for a graduate role or an internship - and we've even given you ideas for answers to some of them too!

Understanding commercial awareness

1. How would you define commercial awareness?

Knowing what's being written about in the business press is a big part of commercial awareness, but it's important that you demonstrate you know there's more to it than that.

Commercial awareness is also about understanding the fundamentals of how businesses work and having the skills to function effectively in the business world.

2. What have you done to develop your commercial awareness?

3. What newspapers do you read? What was today's headline in them?

Awareness of key commercial concepts

4. What's the difference between debt and equity finance?

Debt and equity finance are the two main ways by which a business can raise money.

Equity finance means raising money by selling shares - that is, stakes in the company - either privately to investors or on the stock markets. Debt finance means raising money through taking out loans or by issuing bonds - pieces of tradeable debt - on the markets.

5. What's the difference between cashflow and profit?

Awareness of key current issues

6. What is the FTSE, is it up or down, and what does that mean for the economy?

Employers like this question as it tests whether you understand some key business concepts like stock exchanges, the workings of corporations, and economic fluctuations, and whether you can look at the big picture for businesses as well as zoom in on particular stories.

7. Are oil/gold prices rising or falling at the moment and what does that mean for businesses?

8. How do economic events such as a rise in interest rates or a shortage of housing affect businesses?

9. What are the biggest issues facing the business world today?

10. What's your opinion on...(a current business news story)?

Aspects of the commercial world you're interested in or knowledgeable about

11. What issues or events in the commercial world are you particularly interested in at the moment and why?

You should always prepare carefully for this question as it's your chance to really impress. Pick one or two topics and research them in detail so you're prepared to give a clear summary of the key points and answer follow-up questions or participate in a discussion.

Choose topics that are likely to be of interest to your interviewers and related in some way to the job you're applying for, but don't choose anything that you don't really understand or can't get to grips with. Don't be afraid to go with a topic you're really interested in, even if it's not an obvious choice - a genuine passion will come across very well in the interview and will make your homework easier!

12. If we gave you £1 million to invest, what would you do with the money?

13. Are there any individuals in the business world that you particularly admire and why?

Industry-specific commercial awareness

14. What are the biggest issues facing our industry?

Industry publications are a great source of information to answer this question.

But don't forget to take a look at what mainstream business publications are saying about the sector and also think carefully about how issues that are affecting all businesses - such as globalisation, economic uncertainty or new technology - are having an impact on the employer you're applying to.

15. How do we make money as a business?

Your approach to working life

16. How is being an employee different to being a student and what have you done to make yourself ready for the transition?

17. Can you give an example of when you've worked in a team?

18. Can you give an example of when you've used leadership skills?

19. Can you give an example when you've had to give good customer or client service?

This question is a great opportunity to show employers the value of your part-time or holiday job. Employers love students who've made the most of one of these as it means you've been inside a real business and understand how important it is in the commercial world to make sure the product or service you're providing is top-notch.

And if you haven't had a job, think about other experiences you've had that could be relevant - for example, perhaps you've had to keep members of a society happy as one of the members of the committee, or maybe you've taken on responsibility for looking after a younger or older relative.

20. Do you have any questions for us?

This question is another great opportunity to really impress. Your interviewers won't expect you to know everything about the business world, their industry and their business, so have a couple of intelligent questions prepared to ask them, or use this opportunity to follow up on anything that was mentioned in the interview that you'd like to find out more about.

Choose good questions and you'll come across as shrewd and eager to pick up new knowledge - both important parts of being commercially aware - and you'll have learnt something new even if you don't get a job offer!

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