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Developing commercial awareness

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Published: 25 November 2021

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For the most part, businesses are created to do one main thing – make money.  

Whether you’re hoping for a promotion or joining on the bottom rung of a huge multinational, you need to understand the processes which go into being financially viable.  

Employers look for people that understand the reason a company exists, what it's trying to achieve and the guiding principles behind its actions.  

They also, by the way, want to hire and promote employees who have their own ideas about growing the profits.  


All of this makes up ‘commercial awareness’. It’s essentially everything that goes into making money, understanding what customers want and the problem areas of the business.  

It means knowing the company’s core values, competitors, stakeholders, strengths and weaknesses.  

Being able to demonstrate that all these things shows you’ve thought very carefully about the company and is likely to put you ahead in any interview.  

Becoming commercially aware  

This isn’t something you can achieve in a quick Google of the business you’re applying to.   

Rather, you should start thinking about it pretty much as soon as you get the interview.  

Understand the organisation  

The first step in this process is to learn everything you can about the company – how it works, how it makes money and its ethics.   

Most businesses publish this information on their website these days. Look for ‘white papers’ or ‘strategic plans’.   

Go through them carefully and make notes of the things you find the most interesting.   

Then look at the job you’re applying for and ask yourself ‘how does this role add to the company’s goals?’   

Think about the products  

The next step is to look through the things your company is selling or the services they’re providing.  

Think about the costs, quality and likely customers. It’s a good idea to look at some of the business's competitors and think about what they’re doing differently and why.  

Stay up to date  

Finally, you will need a wider understanding of the industry at large. Some of that you’ll have learned on your courses at the University of Sunderland in London.  

For the most current trends, though, it’s a good idea to read news from the sector, trade journals, blogs and Twitter accounts of the big names.  

All of this sounds like a lot for an interview, but it’s always worth remembering that the more preparation you do, the better your chance of success.  

Developing commercial awareness is an important way of showing the interviewers that you’re serious about working for the company.  

Whatever you decide to do with your future, the University of Sunderland in London Careers and Employability Service is here to help.  

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass or email out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.