HANNAH ROLESTON | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
Following on from my previous article titled, ‘All About Commercial Awareness’, I thought I would focus on commercial awareness in terms of interviews. It is all well and good understanding what commercial awareness is but how do we show this successfully when answering interview questions? This article lays out ten common commercial awareness interview questions, with tips on how best to answer them.
Commercial awareness is an invaluable skill in a variety of careers, particularly ones such as law or engineering. As such, employers will often screen for commercial awareness traits in the application process, typically at the interview stage.
Prior to an interview, make sure you learn as much as you can about the company in question. Understand the services it provides and the way in which it operates, so that you are able to ask relevant questions. The interview itself is when your commercial awareness is put to the test.
If you are not asked questions that focus on your commercial awareness, bring it up yourself in conversation. For example, if there were recent staffing changes or the company gained a new CEO, you could mention this and discuss what you believe it means for the future of the company.
Below are ten common commercial awareness interview questions, with tips on how best to answer them:
1) What Do You Believe Are the Biggest Issues Our Industry Faces Today?
This question, while relatively straightforward, requires at least a base knowledge of the relevant industry. The more in-depth your research, the better your answer will be. The simplest, and perhaps most obvious, way to gain commercial awareness in your chosen industry is through research. Find resources, both online and in print, that analyse changes in the market and discuss trends in the business world.
2) What Are the Biggest Issues Our Industry Faces in the Future?
Knowledge of current industry issues, as well as the changes made in the past, can help you to predict changes that will occur in the future. For example, if you are seeking employment in the publishing industry you will know that, generally, sales of eBooks and audiobooks have increased, while sales of physical copies have decreased. In your interview, you will be able to discuss this change and how it may develop further in the future. You can apply this example to law. For example, talk about a recent trend in the legal market such as the move to more remote working and the subsequent closure of offices.
3) What Do You like About Our Company?
Potential employers are more likely to hire an interviewee who demonstrates broad industry awareness as well as company-specific knowledge. This question may not be posed so positively: they may ask you to discuss any flaws the company has and how you might resolve them. Prepare for this question by using the firm’s website, social media pages and LinkedIn but also think outside the box, find something completely unique to that particular firm.
4) How Do We Compare to Our Competitors?
To answer, you must know who their biggest opponents are in the market. Make sure you research this prior to the interview, so you can discuss the companies in relation to each other. Do not take this as an opportunity to praise the company you are interviewing for while criticising the competition. Instead, answer honestly and discuss what makes the company you are interviewing for stand out. Law is a very competitive industry and firms are constantly competing against one another. To stand out from the crowd look at what the firm is known for, such as litigation. Then compare them to another firm that is known for litigation, this way you show your understanding that firms compete based on their sectors rather than just as a whole. It shows a deeper understanding and knowledge than just comparing the Magic Circle firms against one another.
5) How Would You Define Commercial Awareness?
Not all of the interview questions will be subtle – some may ask you to directly discuss or analyse commercial awareness. The good news with this kind of question, of course, is that the answer ought to be simple if you’ve prepared thoroughly. If you haven’t already, I would thoroughly recommend reading, ‘All About Commercial Awareness’ to help prepare for this question.
6) Why Is Commercial Awareness Important?
This question is not asking you what commercial awareness is but, rather, what it means for a company. Avoid generic answers and make sure you analyse the benefits that commercial awareness has, for both an individual employee and a company.
7) What Do You Think of (Current News Story/Issue)?
Questions about current affairs are more general but the nature of the issue they raise is likely to test your commercial awareness. Questions could refer to stock market trends, CEO changes or political issues. The only way to prepare for this kind of question is to keep up to date with current news, paying particular attention in the run-up to an interview. If you haven’t already sign-up to Watson Daily to get access to daily, weekly, monthly and yearly reports and quizzes on current business and financial news.
8) If Given the Opportunity, What Would You Invest In?
This question will likely be presented in a more specific way – for example, they may ask what kind of product or project you would wish to invest in or mention a specific amount of money. Think carefully about your choice and suggest the pros and cons of your decision. No project is without its risks, so discussing the potential cons is a great way to demonstrate that you are business-savvy and commercially aware.
9) How Do You Think UK Businesses Will Be Affected by Current Politics?
This question shouldn’t pose problems if you’ve been reading the most recent issues of The Economist, Newsweek or The Financial Times. Be specific with this question as anyone can talk about Brexit or Coronavirus. By picking a particular issue, such as the increased inflation the UK suffered due to Brexit, you can talk in-depth on what that means for business.
10) How Will You Respond to Customer Complaints?
Although it may not seem like it, maintaining a positive relationship with clients is another example of commercial awareness. Keeping customers happy is the only way to ensure a business continues to run and you must be aware of this when interacting with them. Make sure your response appears genuine but focused on meeting the customer’s needs (as opposed to being dismissive). If you ever had a part-time job this would be the question where you could bring in any personal experience.
Commercial awareness is a deep understanding of both the company you work for and the industry it exists in. It is a skill which must not be downplayed or forgotten about. If you are preparing for a job interview and want to demonstrate your commercial awareness, here are some quick tips to help you shine in the process:
Do your research. Try to know the ins and outs of the company. Read the company’s website and LinkedIn profile.
Demonstrate your willingness to learn. If you are moving from one career to another, discuss your transferable skills and stress how you are willing to learn and develop from the experience.
Be confident in your ability and knowledge. Your career should be your passion – if it is something you enjoy doing then commercial awareness will come naturally to you.
Hannah Roleston is a final year law student at the University of Dundee. During her time at university she is an active member of the University of Dundee Mooting Society and spends her free time playing hockey. Hannah is an aspiring solicitor with a passion for Commercial Awareness.
👨💻Want to share feedback? Did we miss something important? Let us know! We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply just comment below!