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What is Business Acumen? Interview Questions and Answers


In order to have a successful job interview, the candidate must have the appropriate level of commercial awareness and business acumen about the company that the job seeker has applied to.

The term business acumen comes up in almost all kinds of professional and corporate interviews irrespective of the job position or the opening.

Whether if it is for an opening position or a high profile position having strong business acumen about the company is very beneficial and necessary for the recruiter to choose the right candidate for the job position.

Strong Business Acumen

What is Business Acumen?

Commercial awareness or business acumen, as it commonly define as the proper understanding of the company’s potentials, rules and regulations so as to make the company successful, profitable and also able to treat customers satisfactorily.

Having a sound business acumen about the organization will enable the employee to get to know the company values and core principles better and also strengthen the company by getting to know about the company rivals, stakeholders, and the current trends in the industry that is challenging the company.

It will also enable the business leaders to get an insight into the weaknesses and strengths of the company and also enable them to take smart and necessary decisions that are good for the company‘s growth and development.

One of the most common questions asked to candidate-related to business acumen is,

“Explain a situation where you had to demonstrate your commercial experience, awareness and business acumen skills to solve an emergency within the organization”.

Many rookie candidates make the classic mistake of starting their achievements and success while working in their previous company without providing the necessary information relevant to the question.

What the recruiter wants to hear from you is not your success stories, but instead they want to hear about the situation where you had to use your knowledge about the company and its potentials to stop an unwanted situation in real life.

To get a better understanding of the things related to business acumen, you need to possess few skills and competencies and they are

  • Financial acumen
  • Market orientation
  • Strategic perspective

Strategies To Develop Business Acumen:

Developing better business acumen is very important for organization growth and meeting its goal and vision. Here we have enlisted 3 strategies if used properly can help you develop better business acumen. They are,

  1. Ask The Customer What They Want
  2. Expand Your Horizons With New Assignments
  3. Read The Business Press

Business Acumen and Employees:

There are many ways in which recruiters can easily recognize a candidate having strong business acumen and commercial knowledge. Most employees who have a sound knowledge about the company will show the following traits:

  1. Makes decisions that are primarily based upon the business profits
  2. Concentrating on delivering results that are more result-oriented and also have the best commercial benefit.
  3. Demonstrates and knows how the various parts of an organization function.
  4. They try to make sure that their work is relevant to the aim of the organization.
  5. Provide benefits for their company by getting to know about their rival’s weaknesses and exploiting them to the fullest potential.
  6. Utilize their knowledge about the company and present various cases that are attractive to potential clients and stakeholders of the company.
  7. They keep themselves updated about the latest economic and technological trends that occur in the industry.
  8. Makes decisions based purely on the basis of profit and loss for the company.

Why Do Recruiters Keep Asking for Strong Business Acumen or Commercial Awareness?

Many recruiters keep asking about commercial awareness and they try to test the business acumen within candidates because most interviewers believe that having a strong knowledge about the company along with the idea of how the company functions in the external environment can provide immense profits to the company and the organization.

Having a strong business acumen can also mean that the employee is able to decide on factors that are relevant to the economic and industrial standards from the perspective of both the organization and customer.

Generally having a strong business acumen means that the employee is able to work and decide on decisions that include a need for efficient cost savings, having proper knowledge of the market along with proper knowledge about the needs and interest of the customers and the targeted audience.

Moreover, many recruiters try to ask business acumen interview questions as a measuring stick for assessing the level of commitment the candidate has for the company and also to analyze whether or not they will be a valuable employee for the organization in the future.

Recruiters also use this as an opportunity to discuss more about the company to the candidate. Not only in the corporate world, in other industries too commercial awareness and business acumen play an important role.

Some of the employment fields that include strong business acumen are as follows:

  • In the teaching industry, it is necessary to have a strong business acumen since it is mandatory for teachers to know about the latest educational and teaching trends within the country.
  • Journalists should also have strong business acumen about the latest news and the current affairs of the world. This allows them to produce quality works that can be interesting for the readers.
  • People who are working in the publishing industry should have proper knowledge about the industry for more results and more successful publications.
  • People working in the hospital administration should know about the subject of effective administration of hospitals and their operation.

How to get strong business acumen and awareness of the company?

There are many ways in which potential candidates and job seekers could get proper and necessary knowledge about the industry and the company. These include methods such as:

1. A candidate can learn more about the company through the company website and learn about the various trends and activities that the company caters to. Also, try to check for any background information about the company, starting from the point of its initialization to the current status of the company. All this information might come handy during the interview and can use to impress the recruiter. The recruiter will also get a good impression that the candidate has done some proper research about the company and its core values.

2. Try to understand who are the company rivals and competitors in the industry. Some recruiters might ask you about the rival companies since they know that as a potential candidate, many of them have also applied to the rival companies. Also, try to understand the activities of the rival companies, along with the total workforce and its annual turnover and their shares. This will help you to provide a satisfactory answer during the interview.

3. Read newspapers and papers related to business growth and activities. Always try to read the business page of the newspapers to get proper financial acumen and current affairs that is happening in the commercial and technological industry. Try to read newspapers such as the financial times and the economist for strong business acumen and knowledge about the industry.

4. Try to learn about the various crises and emergencies that had affected the organization that you are going to apply. This is necessary to understand since this gives an insight into how the industry survived the crises and understand what all measures they had taken to curb such a disaster.

5. Try to relate to your own experience and knowledge working in the industry. Try to ensure that your reference and knowledge has some relevance with the business awareness of the company that you are going to apply for. Many recruiters always ask for real-life situations where the candidate had used their knowledge and good business acumen to control an emergency.

Examples of business acumen interview questions:

There are many other questions that recruiters can ask their candidates regarding their commercial awareness and strong business acumen about the company. These include simple commercial awareness interview questions such as:

  • How well equipped you are about the organization and how well and detailed about the business industry in which the organization is operating?
  • In which manner are you contributing to the company both financially and structurally? Do you have the required financial knowledge in providing the perfect financial options?

There are some questions that the recruiters might ask in between the main questions in an interview to get to know more about the commercial awareness and knowledge within the candidate.

These include questions such as:

Explain a time where you had to save the company from wasting a lot of materials and resources? What all measures did you take? How was the after effect and how was it received among various colleagues?

Explain a time where you have given a job consisting of meeting the cost and production quota for the sales? Did you achieve the target? What all measures did you take and how was the result beneficial for the development of the company?

  • Give an instance when you had to reduce the costs of your department and the team? What all measures did you take? How were these measures received by your colleagues? How was the outcome?
  • And how well do you know the status of the company? How good are the results when compared with other rival companies?
  • Was there a time where you had to take responsibility for helping your department tackle the financial crisis? If so, what measures did you take and how well did your peers and colleagues receive the change? How was the result?
  • Was there a time when a potential client had made a demand that was outside your level of expertise, knowledge? If so, how well did you receive the request? What was the result? Was the client satisfied with your works?
  • Have you ever had an instance at work where you had to take a risk? If so, how well did you manage to curb the risk and were the results satisfactory?
  • Have you ever introduced an idea that would lead your company to have an advantage over your competitors? If so, how well was it received and how did the company benefit from the idea?

There are a variety of questions that will enable the recruiters to understand the business acumen within the candidate and the employees during an interview.

These include questions such as:

  • How do you define business acumen with relevance to your professional life?
  • Have you taken any measures to develop strong business acumen? If so, how?
  • Do you read any kind if newspapers? If so, what was the main topic in the financial page today?
  • State the biggest problems that the industry is facing in this day and age
  • Is there any field that you are interested to work in? If so, how well can incorporate that field for the profit and development of the company?
  • If our company gave you a million dollars, what would you do and how well will you invest it?
  • Are there any role models in the technological and commercial industry that you follow and admire? If so, why and how have they inspired you?
  • How the life of a student and employee is different and what all steps have you taken for proper transition and smooth change in the lifestyle?
  • Give an instance where you had played an important role in a team
  • Ever had a chance to showcase your leadership skills to a large number of people or within a team?
  • Was there an instance when a client was extremely satisfied with your work and service?
  • Are there any questions for us? ( this is a trick question, many recruiters use this as a method to know whether or not you are interested in working for the company and If you are curious to know more about the company)

Here are a few questions you can ask to assess your business acumen:

  1. How do you perform an industry structure analysis on the customer’s current market or the present market?
  2. Which financial levers need to pull, to impact Total Shareholder Return?
  3. Do you know how to drive social selling?
  4. Do you know how to survive a VUCA world?
  5. Have you matched your value dashboard with your voice of customer data?

Before attending an interview, it’s a good practice to go through various questions as it will help you to answer satisfactorily and pleasingly. It will also help the recruiter to assess you in a more positive and impressive light.