A Primer On Conducting Successful Campus Hackathons

Top tech talent is hard to come by. Talent scarcity has increased manifold as the global pandemic accelerates the unparalleled rapid adoption of technology across industries. Moreover, demand in the IT sector continues to outpace the number of qualified developers rapidly. Companies are now sparing no effort to scour campuses to find and clinch talented tech candidates.  

Microsoft estimates that by 2025, there will be 149 million new technology jobs globally. This spurt in demand will span across data security, privacy, and trust, cybersecurity, data analytics, cloud, and software development. As a result, campus hackathons are emerging as reliable tools. They establish a sustainable pipeline of highly motivated and talented candidates equipped with in-demand skills. This helps reduce the acute tech talent shortage in the industry.

New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotics are still not significant parts of the educational curriculum in colleges and universities. Campus hackathons provide a much-needed outlet for students interested in demonstrating their talent and exploring career opportunities in these new-age technologies. Moreover, recruiters conducting these events find a ready pool of talented candidates who are eager to join their organization.

What is a Campus Hackathon?

A hackathon, datathon, or codefest is an invention marathon held on campus to drive sustained innovation. It is a tool that fast-tracks a practical learning experience for students by providing them with key technical skills to propel their tech and coding careers. It also enables crowdsourcing of solutions to tackle real-life business problems and social issues.  

In this time-bound competitive event, participants collaborate to learn by doing in a high-stakes environment. They gain knowledge, develop and build proofs of concept, and minimum viable products that have the potential to turn into actual marketable products. During the event, students have the opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded peers, professional engineers, mentors, and recruiters. 

How to Organize a Successful Campus Hackathon?

How to Organize a Successful Campus Hackathon?

A successful campus hackathon calls for the efficient organization of many moving parts. The hackathon process entails several steps such as ideating and planning the event, marketing it, driving registrations, helping participants create prototypes, and so on. Typically, the pre-event preparation takes between 30 to 40 days. And the event itself is held over a period of 24 to 72 hours.

Modes of Engagement for Campus Hackathons

  • Offline or Onsite Hackathons
  • An onsite hackathon takes place at a physical venue. Participants are divided into teams of two to six students, and team members sit and work together for the entire duration of the event. Onsite hackathons require laborious planning and logistical support. Everything from booking a spacious venue, catering meals, ensuring an adequate supply of power to providing an uninterrupted Wi-Fi connection must be meticulously arranged. Moreover, onsite hackathons require weeks of planning and flawless execution to create an atmosphere conducive to ideation and collaboration.  

  • Online Hackathons
  • Online hackathons, on the other hand,  do away with logistical barriers. They leverage the world wide web to attract students across the globe to participate in the event. They are less capital intensive, and the costs saved on event logistics are spent on marketing and prizes. Online hackathons usually run for a longer duration and may result in higher-quality solutions. Most organizations join hands with a partner platform to conduct hackathons online. Online platforms ease the burden of organizers by automating several aspects of the event. 

    Online or virtual campus hackathons allow students to compete from anywhere. They eliminate travel expenses and allow students to participate from the comfort of their homes. By facilitating collaboration with their teammates on their own schedules and allowing them to submit and develop their projects online, virtual hackathons also free them from time constraints. In addition, online campus hackathons encourage a greater diversity of participant profiles and provide multidisciplinary teams with a conducive environment to develop complex solutions. 

  • Hybrid hackathons
  • Hybrid hackathons are a blend, with some parts of the hackathon held online and some held offline. Typically, organizations prefer conducting the first few stages online and the final stage onsite, where the final product prototype is presented. Hybrid hackathons are more cost-effective than onsite hackathons because only a few selected teams are hosted at the physical venue. However, hybrid hackathons are usually longer than online and offline ones. 

Benefits of Campus Hackathons

    Benefits to Participants 

    Campus hackathons provide students with an unparalleled networking opportunity. Students can establish industry connections and meet people with similar passions. Campus hackathons inspire participants to take risks and innovate to find cutting-edge solutions to pressing problems. It helps them explore their potential and gain the requisite skills to prepare for a successful technical career. Moreover, students get a chance to impress potential employers. They secure employment opportunities by showcasing their talents and boosting their resumes. 

    Benefits to Talent Acquisition Executives and Hiring Managers

    Campus hackathons have streamlined the recruitment process for tech talent by enabling recruiters to evaluate candidates’ skills as well as determine their cultural fit. Recruiters can reduce the cost-per-hire and enhance the speed of talent acquisition. They are also proving to be more effective than the traditional interview process in filtering out unsuitable candidates. 

    Traditional innovation management processes can be tedious and time-consuming. Campus hackathons, on the other hand, have shorter innovation cycles, which give recruiters a good yardstick to measure skills. Moreover, the winners and participants of campus hackathons form a ready talent pipeline for hiring managers and talent acquisition executives. Since they are holistically evaluated for a combination of skills specific to hiring needs such as technical aptitude, cognitive abilities, business acumen, leadership potential, and people and time management skills, it increases the probability of finding the right match for specific roles in your organization.  

    Virtual campus hackathons allow you to expand your recruitment catchment area further. You can now scale up a campus hackathon from local to global instantly without bearing a significant cost burden. Today, candidates are more open to virtual campus hackathons, which have become an integral part of the campus hiring process. 

Imperatives of Organizing Campus Hackathons

How to Organize a Successful Campus Hackathon?

  • Stage 1: Select Mode of Engagement
  • The first stage of organizing a campus hackathon involves choosing the right mode of engagement. The budget for the event will depend on the mode and, in turn, determines the scale and duration of the event. 

  • Stage 2: Decide Logistical Details 
  • Next, the date, venue, sponsors, rules, code of conduct, judges and speakers, and prizes should be decided. Subsequently, selecting an intriguing purpose, theme, and problem statement will generate interest among potential participants. 

  • Stage 3: Run Promotional Campaigns 
  • Promoting the campus hackathon to create buzz around it is essential to attracting the right mix of participants. Low-cost channels such as blogs, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Groups, mailing lists, websites, and outreach campaigns and PR measures can be deployed to gain visibility and capture the attention of potential attendees. 

  • Stage 4: Organize and Track Moving Parts
  • A few days or weeks before the event, all technical and logistical aspects will have to be tracked and organized. The finalists must be chosen by an expert panel, prior to the event, based on predetermined selection criteria. They should be given sufficient time to prepare for the event. Any queries by participants must be promptly answered, and they should be provided access to mentors or advisors for guidance. 

  • Stage 5: Host the Event and Conduct Follow Up Activities
  • A detailed timeline consisting of team-related and host-related tasks, including well-spaced breaks, should be mapped out to ensure a smooth sequence. After the kick-off and completion of a successful hackathon, post-hackathon activities such as follow-up blogs, video and photo sharing, gathering feedback should be done. This will help build a community around the event and ensure that sustained post-event connection and engagement are maintained. 

Choosing the Right Platform to Conduct Campus Hackathons

Coding assessment platforms help in effortlessly hosting campus hackathons and managing the end-to-end event workflow with ease. They enable you to create and market the campus hackathon, build registrations, manage teams, evaluate submissions, and publish results. They also provide targeted brand visibility and promote an organization’s work and culture. Quick scheduling and seamless collaboration ensure the success of the campus hackathon. 

Conducting hassle-free automated hackathons need not be a challenge anymore. HirePro, an ISO 27001-certified, and GDPR-compliant platform speeds up high-quality talent-hiring for you. Our platform enables you to design customized tests for hackathons based on your specific needs. The features of HirePro’s coding assessment platform encompass an intuitive interface with a feature-rich coding editor for superior candidate experience, a repository of 2000+ coding questions that supports 28 programming languages, AI-powered advanced automated proctoring technology to control cheating, and deep real-time insights on code status and code quality. See HirePro’s coding assessments in action now. 


Organizations are increasingly leveraging campus hackathons to bolster their talent acquisition efforts. They use these events to strengthen employer branding, secure fresh talent, increase employer brand affinity, and improve employee retention in the long run. Today, campus hackathons are mutually rewarding events, transforming the traditional recruitment process. 

Campus hackathons do not lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all strategy. Tapping a stream of eligible tech talent demands a customized approach to conducting campus hackathons. Comprehensive planning and agile implementation, supported by an intuitive hackathon platform, is a reliable way to make the event a success every single time.