How companies like Philips, Godrej, HCL are replacing interviews with competitions

Last month, CEAT turned a business initiative into an opportunity to engage with young talent. Executives at this RPG Group company invited Bschool students to suggest innovative marketing strategies to help win new and younger customers. This is part of a competition called ‘Blizzard’, where students find solutions to actual challenges the company faces.

“Since we are focusing on young professionals, who better than Bschool students to input on what our marketing strategy should be or how we can connect with our consumers,” says Arvind N Agrawal, president and chief executive (corporate development and HR). The exercise helps CEAT in two ways. First, good ideas can come from anywhere, and Blizzard helps them snag more such out-ofthe-box ideas from young minds.

Second, and perhaps more important, the competition also helps CEAT get ahead in the talent game, creating richer engagement at campuses and helping it screen and select candidates better. Many companies are now realising campuses interviews alone are not enough. “During placement season, we only get an hour or two with each candidate, which is too limited to gauge the student’s abilities,” says Philips vice president (HR) Yashwant Mahadik.

“Competitions give us a better idea of their talent and skills, especially when they lead to months of interaction between students and managers.” Philips has launched Blueprint, a competition for students based on actual case study analyses.

A whole bunch of companies are now walking this path. In August, Godrej Industries had its first LOUD – Live out your Dream event, where B-school students were asked to do a presentation on their ‘dream’ project, and vie for a Rs 1.5-lakh prize to fulfil it.

HCL Technologies’ blogging contest, Ideathon, asks bloggers in Bschools for suggestions on running ‘tomorrow’s enterprise’ or driving change through management innovations, among others. “We thought it was best to post live business challenges to which students can react,” says Naveen Narayanan, global head of talent acquisition at “We always look for disruptive ideas from this generation.”

How companies like Philips, Godrej, HCL are replacing interviews with competitions

WIN-WIN FOR TALENT, EMPLOYERS

Competitions benefit everyone. The winners either get a chance to intern with the company (which may lead to a job), or work closely with the senior leadership to implement the ideas they’ve suggested.

At the very least, they get a chance to interact with the top leadership, perhaps even the CEO. As for the companies, they get access to new, innovative ideas; and a rare (possibly prolonged) chance to engage with students and get a sense of the existing talent pool.

At Godrej, a jury of senior managers, led by Nisaba Godrej, president (human capital and innovation) and Sumit Mitra, executive VP (HR), recently picked seven winners for LOUD from 15 presenters.

While they go straight into the company’s summer internship programme, Gurukul 2013, the runners-up also get a chance to interview for this. “A lot of our campus recruitment is based on giving youngsters case studies to solve, which shows their analytical ability,” says Godrej.

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