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Recruitment | 6 Min Read

New-age Campus Engagement: Hackathons, Ideathons, & Case Study Contests

What is Campus Engagement?

Campus engagement is a process in which organizations undertake specific activities to interact with students to familiarize them with their background, vision and culture. Campus engagement activities aim to build an employer brand for which students aspire to work. It is the preliminary yet important interface between the hiring organizations and students in the campus hiring process. Campus engagement programs are often the deciding factor for students in choosing their prospective employers. Organizations create this first impression when they get an opportunity to introduce themselves and build a shared understanding. Campus engagement activities ensure that an organization is a student’s foremost consideration when applying for jobs.

54% of organizations still use pre-placement talks and presentations before the placement season to connect with the students. Also, a whopping 30% do not undertake any engagement activity, reveals our report Campus Hiring 2019-20: Challenges, Trends & Best Practices.

Traditionally, campus ambassador programs and pre-placement talks were some of the activities associated with the campus engagement strategy. Conventional campus engagement initiatives meant an influx of information for the students through discussions and presentations, much of which could be readily gained online. However, contemporary campus engagement programs depend on interactions to connect with students’ ambitions and vision of the organization with which they envision an association. With the realization that campus engagement means student engagement, organizations have revisited their campus engagement strategy to introduce synergetic initiatives, such as contests and competitions.

Many industry giants, such as Google, Amazon, Deloitte, AB InBev, Citibank, American Express, Capgemini, Cognizant Technologies, etc. have already included hackathons, ideathons, and case study competitions in their campus engagement strategy for a more interactive approach. Participation in these activities has become integral to students’ campus life, especially in premium engineering colleges and B-schools. Students participate in them to earn lucrative rewards, an opportunity to work on existing business challenges, highlight their achievement on CVs and secure a pre-placement interview with the best firms.

What are Hackathons, Ideathons and Case study Competitions?

Hackathons_Ideathons_and_Case_study_Competitions

Why is Campus Engagement Important?

Campus engagement is the cornerstone of an impactful campus hiring strategy. It determines your brand awareness and quantum of engagement among students, eventually determining how many of them would apply for the available positions. 

Companies often ignore the important role of student engagement activities in the overall success of a campus recruitment drive.

Here are 5 reasons you should include hackathons, ideathons and case study competitions in your campus engagement strategy:

1. The primary intent of campus engagement is to build an employer brand with strong recall value, which directly translates into attracting the right students with the right skill sets to take an interest in your company. Over the years, students begin connecting your organization with the competitions held by you and the excitement, thrill and innovation that accompanies them. 

2. Branding aside, events such as hackathons, ideathons and case study competitions lend your organization a sizable presence on social media. With the digital landscape assuming greater significance, social media is vital to your brand presence. These events help organizations with campus hiring, also creating the requisite traction among alumni networks and other professional communities for lateral hiring requirements.

3. What makes them an attractive proposition is that such campus engagement activities can be entirely conducted in a virtual mode for all the targeted universities simultaneously. Organizations are not required to send campus recruitment teams to the universities and colleges. Since these activities are often tied to a cash prize or a pre-placement interview, students are willing to go the extra mile. It merely needs creating the right buzz by advertising them on important social media channels. 

4. These campus engagement contests are based on the ideas of problem-solving, innovation, collaboration and teamwork, to closely simulate the real work environment. Thus, they assess students’ core skills, along with cognitive and behavioral aspects. These competitions are a great way to gain insights into their broader competencies, otherwise difficult to gauge through only interviews. 

5. Hackathons and case study competitions help attract the right students, and can also lessen the time needed to hire, allowing you to skip the screening process. As you have witnessed them in action during these activities, you can directly undertake the interview process. With the right problem statement, hackathons, ideathons or case study competitions can be the single step toward a great hire.

How You Can Revamp Your Campus Engagement Strategy

While you may feel that events such as hackathons and case study competitions are extremely resource and time-intensive, choosing the right platform is half the battle won. In the age of digital technology, hosting an online competition can contribute to completely moving away from a traditional campus hiring drive where hiring teams visit numerous campuses to onboard the right students. A virtual campus recruitment drive seems to be the natural choice for most organizations that don’t want to obstruct business continuity during the ongoing pandemic. Hosting online campus engagement activities plays a critical role in maintaining business continuity.

5 steps to consider while conducting a successful and engaging campus event:

steps_to_consider_while_conducting_a_successful_and_engaging_campus_event

Ideation

Hackathons and case study competitions begin with an idea on the objective, theme, mode, flow, stage and judges, etc. You can commence the actual execution after gaining clarity on the concept.

Organization

An agile platform is a first and foremost requirement for a successful campus engagement activity. You need a personalized landing page to schedule challenges quickly, enumerate the various stages and define the process on a single dashboard.

Participation

The platform should be user-friendly, not just for the organizers but also for the participants. Students should be able to collaborate and create teams easily. Additionally, you also want marketing and networking support for your event to attract students and appoint a panel of influential judges. You need to ensure that your platform supports social media sharing for maximum outreach and participation.

Submission

The platform you choose should support multiple formats of submissions. But it needs to be equally easy for judges to track and grade the submissions efficiently and timely.

Results

The platform you choose is going to be the reservoir of the entire event. A live leadership board is an additional feature to enhance the event’s excitement level and easily track each team’s performance at every stage while maintaining transparency.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help ?

Mercer | Mettl has the right platform and experience to design the best event for your targeted campuses. Mercer | Mettl’s hackathon management platform, Xathon, helps you conduct world-class events for a stellar campus engagement strategy. Seasoned experts at Mercer | Mettl can refine your ideas into a tangible strategy and enable the content’s end-to-end management. The Xathon platform is a state-of-the-art tool that has been the choice of leading organizations, such as Amazon, Accenture, JP Morgan, Microsoft, and many more.

How an Ecommerce Major Built a New-age Campus Recruitment Strategy?

Amazon Customer Excellence (ACE) Challenge commenced in 2011 and continues to date, growing in reach and impact with each passing year. 

ACE is an inter-collegiate case study competition conducted by Amazon every year, across top Asian B-schools. It invites the sharpest minds to compete on innovation, strategy and simplicity. Students across the Asia-Pacific region get an opportunity to solve real business problems for greater impact.

The ACE Challenge 2019 was conducted on Mercer | Mettl’s platform. The participants were required to form teams of 4, and inter-college team formations were allowed. The competition consisted of three rounds. The first round needed each team member to take a ten-question test. A combination of individual and team scores were used to decide on the teams qualifying for the next round. For the next round, i.e., the case breaker, students had to download a case study and provide a solution within 48 hours. The top ten teams of the case breaker round progressed to the finale round. The contest took place at the Amazon Bangalore office, where students were asked to present their solution to a panel of business leaders and work with a mentor for a detailed white paper and presentation to support their case.

Due to its popularity in B-schools, the ACE challenge witnesses a surge of registered teams every year, with the number going as high as 3000+ teams.

Conclusion

Hackathons and other campus engagement competitions are a great way to bridge the gap between theory and practice. They are also a reflection of an organization’s tendency to embrace contemporary methods with ease. Virtual campus engagement activities empower you to create a digital footprint and brand presence across multiple campuses concurrently. It also allows you a far greater scale as the competitions can be scaled to include any number of teams.

Hackathons/Ideathons/Case study Competitions = Employer Branding + Campus Recruitment

Virtual campus recruitment is fast becoming a feasible reality, especially in the present-day context. With remote proctored online assessments and video interviews, virtual campus hiring drives can be implemented easily. Brand recognition is often the bottleneck. With campus engagement activities, students are more likely to recall the brand experience through their interactions with online events. This would ensure that organizations have access to a larger pool of campus students, without the limitations of an on-ground campus hiring drive.

Originally published July 29 2020, Updated July 29 2020

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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