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Your Future, Start Now

Commercial awareness 

Commercial awareness is a key employability skill – it is an understanding of how industries and businesses work. It is about knowing what is going on in the world and analysing the way it might impact on your chosen sector and company.  

Graduate employers have more confidence in a candidate who can articulate an understanding of the marketplace in which their business or service operates, and an understanding of what makes a business successful. As such, commercial awareness can come up at any stage of the application process, from interviews and assessment centres to application forms themselves. This might involve proving that you: 

  • understand the organisation’s mission and aims     

  • understand the sector that the company/organisation belongs to     

  • are aware of the political and economic issues affecting the organisation     

  • are aware of the major competitors     

  • understand the commercial priorities of the organisation     

  • understand the importance of a good work ethic.  

Developing commercial awareness 

If you want to build your commercial awareness, you need to do your research! Start to develop your general knowledge of the industries you wish to enter and your awareness of political and economic events well in advance of applying. Candidates who make a concerted effort to gain commercial awareness for the year or so before applying for jobs should be in a strong position. You can: 

  • Follow industry news – set up email alerts on specific search terms and read industry news online.  

  • Use social media to follow news and trends in specific sectors and to network with people working in your preferred industry. 

  • Attend careers fairs and employer presentations and use the opportunity to ask employees about their business.  

  • Be proactive is securing practical workplace whether that is through an internship, volunteering or a part-time job. Experience will help you gain a commercial understanding. 

When applying for a specific role, make sure you conduct thorough research on the employer – try to look beyond the ‘About us’ pages on their website. Look at the content on their social media accounts and at news articles about the company. 

The following 30 minute video was recorded for the University of Derby by Gradconsult – an award-winning consultancy who specialise in early careers and talent management. They have worked with hundreds of businesses, and with over 70% of UK universities which informs their knowledge of graduate recruitment and development. Within this video, George from Gradconsult talks in more detail about how to build commercial awareness and how to demonstrate it to an employer.  

The Careers & Employment Service website contains more information and advice on Commercial Awareness. It also had a wealth of information on other careers and employability topics, and gives you access to our Live Jobs board for details of current job vacancies and other opportunities including placements and volunteering. Please make use of these resources by visiting: