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How much commercial awareness is needed for finance internships?

One of the main reasons to apply for a finance internship is obviously so that you can gain more in-depth experience of a particular area of the finance industry. Yes, you’re applying so that you can learn more, but that doesn’t mean to say you won’t have to work on your commercial awareness at this stage.

Employers are looking for prospective interns to demonstrate commercial awareness well before they even reach the graduate application hurdle. Interns are viewed as individuals who display skills and attributes that could potentially take them into a graduate role further down the line, so it’s understandable that they want to test your mettle at an early stage.

Commercial awareness and the intern interview

In many cases, you’ll have to go through an interview stage (as well as an assessment day with some firms). The interview could either be face-to-face, or a telephone interview.

Here’s your head’s up: elements of an interview will be designed to specifically test out your commercial awareness. One of the most common forms this will take is that you’ll be asked to talk about a recent news story and how that story and the events surrounding it might affect the company. Recruiters want to see that you know about the business world and how businesses work, though of course they will recognise that at this stage you’re likely to only have a limited amount of experience. However, there’s no reason why you can’t be taking an interest in what goes on in business through news publications, programmes and radio shows right now—and this practice is an integral part of a business and finance professional, whatever stage of their career they’re at.

As you watch, read, and listen to news, be sure to pick out the stories that interest you most amongst the ones which are relevant to the industry in which you’d like to build your career. That way, when you’re asked to talk about a news story in your interview, your enthusiasm will shine through too and you’ll make a much better impression. 

By Jos Weale