Harsh Potdar, a student at Vivekananda Education Society’s Institute of Management, had never thought that his passion for sports will one day land him an employment opportunity.

So when he was told that MidasCare, a city-based pharmaceutical company was hiring students on the basis of their talent in football, he was amused and readily decided to participate in ‘Relispray Championship 2017 India’ — a football tournament named after the anti-inflammatory spray manufactured by the company — held in August.

While Potdar’s team lost in the semi-final round of the competition, his performance helped him get shortlisted for the final round of the interview before the recruitment.

Companies such as MidasCare are increasingly using competitions and contests in place of conventional on-campus recruitment process of aptitude tests, group discussions, and personal interviews. These competitions are used to find candidates who are the best fit for the skills required for a certain job profile. It also help the companies widen their reach.

This is the first time in the city that a sporting competition was organised by a company during campus recruitment. More than 60 teams comprising 500 students from various institutes participated in the event, which comprised football and kabaddi tournaments.

The human resources (HR) executives of the company judged the students on various parameters such as like leadership, decision-making, team-building skills, discipline, social engagement and ability to perform under stressful situations to gauge their recruitment potential. The winning participants will skip the usual four rounds of qualifying interview and are eligible for the final interview with the director of the company.

Similarly, IT firm Accenture is holding an ‘Innovation Challenge’, where undergraduate and post-graduation students from campuses across India showcase their skills and creativity. The participants have been tasked with coming up with innovative ideas under the themes of ‘disruptive business’ and ‘tech for good’. The submissions will be evaluated on the basis of their innovativeness, technical feasibility and impact. In addition to other prizes, the participants will be given a chance to participate in a fast-track recruitment process with Accenture.

Last year, footwear and apparel manufacturing company PUMA, in collaboration with Internshala, an online internship and training platform, held a graphic designing competition. The participants were tasked with designing posters for a new product being launched by the company. The winners were offered two months of internship. The competition is likely to be held this year as well.

According to the companies, such competitions help them identify the most suitable candidates for the job. Manisha J Agarwal, human-resources head, PUMA Group, said, “Though we get multiple applications, it is difficult to determine whether one candidate would be better suited for a role than the other. In such an instance, a contest helps bring in some objectivity to the whole hiring process.”

She also suggests that the competitions often prove to be a better way than the conventional methods of judging a student. “A round of group discussion and personal interview usually ends with a chat between the recruiter and the student, while going over the portfolio. However, a competition allows the students to showcase their capabilities, and the recruiter gets an opportunity to gauge their skills and assess what kind of solution they bring to real-life situations,” she said.

The new approach is also being seen as an exercise in brand building and influencer engagement - the business practice of engaging with the people who have the highest potential of reaching out to the buyers. “While one reason to hold a competition is recruitment. But a company may hold a competition specifically for a particular group of people, such as graphic designers, when they find that group to be one of their highest consuming demographic profile. They hope that the participants will become influencers in their own eco-system,” said Avinash Bharwani, vice president, Jetking, an information technology (IT) training institute.

Last month, Jetking, which regularly conducts workshops and counselling sessions to help students identify a career for themselves, also held a competition named Careerlympics. During the course of the competition, the students were made to perform various tasks such as teaching someone, identifying a problem in their locality and finding its solution, showcasing their unique skills and initiating a good cause. The institute believe that this exercise will help students realise their potential and select a suitable career. The institute also hopes that some of the participants will eventually decide to join them for training.