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4 New Types of Hackathon Recruiting

It’s no secret that over the past few years hackathons have exploded in popularity across the country, bringing with them the opportunity for thousands of students and experienced professionals to grow their coding skills, and for brands and their recruiters to access this talent potential. However, the channel continues to evolve, so what are some of the newly-emerging strategies for leveraging hackathons for recruiting?

As marketing manager for Interviewstreet and its sister company HackerRank, I help our customers unleash innovation at hackathons and access the intrinsic recruiting benefits. There are unique opportunities at distinct types of hackathons that enable recruiters and interviewers to find and retain their best technical talent. These hackathons are bending the definition of the word and widening its scope, so stop using recycled ideas to drive your recruiting participation in hackathons and try these on for size.

Virtual Hackathons

Hackathons come in all shapes and size, and virtual hackathons can be one of the most effective ways of scouting international talent, in particular. Built around the concept of competing on programming challenges, virtual hackathons provide recruiters with a peek at what programmers in China, India, Europe and other countries are capable of as they battle for the top spot on the competition leaderboard.

This is an exceptionally useful recruiting “hack” for small teams that don’t have the budget or other resources to market their brand overseas or set up recruiting departments in foreign countries. Everyone can use more candidates in the funnel,  and hackathons have become a lean tactic for leveling the playing field slightly for smaller companies looking to adopt guerrilla recruiting tactics.  At HackerRank, our hackathons provide us with insight into international talent that we would ordinarily never have been able to access. One of the developers currently on our own team is a leading competitive programmer from Mongolia!

Interactive Hackathons

In the traditional interviewing process, sometimes very qualified candidates are dismissed because of the intimidation factor of 1:1 interviews, and their resulting nervousness. Hackathons provide a chance to dig in, get comfortable, and show creativity over the course of a day or more. From the interviewer’s perspective, hackathons help to measure a candidate’s skills plus provide that elusive answer to the cultural fit question: how do they perform in a working environment?

Interactive hackathons can help by putting potential candidates and interviewers into teams where they work together in a constructive and creative environment. Very real potential lies in the interactive hackathon’s ability to connect industry professionals with students or other participants of all kinds and technical skill-sets!

Industry Hackathons

Industry-specific hackathons are slowly emerging as a way of consolidating resources and bringing focus and purpose to the established paradigm of hackathons as Red Bull-fueled frenzies on behalf of leading tech companies. Industry hackathons connect recruiters with technical candidates that have perspective on their industry and the potential to inject a much-need jolt of innovation into their established processes, products and technology. Alth

ough pioneered by tech companies, industry hackathon traction is rising amidst such niches as fashion, construction and education.


Internal Recruiting Hackathons

The last benefit of hackathons in your recruiting strategy is the chance to “recruit” your own employees. If you’re hosting a hackathon, encourage your developers and other members of your technical team to attend if they have an interest. By their very nature, hackathons allow companies to reach untapped resources within their organization… the employees put into boxes or silos. Encouraging your developers to participate in hackathons can give employees the opportunity to define and build things that aren’t on a roadmap while widening their experience with co-workers that they might not normally collaborate with. It absolutely encourages healthy free-thinking that contributes to engaged employees.

If some of these sound familiar, then kudos on branching out… and reaching out to candidates (and your own employees!) in many different kinds of ways.

If not, take some time to:

  1. Explore virtual hackathons and their unique advantages.

  2. Engage in interactive hackathons to gauge a candidate’s fit more fully.

  3. Find or organize industry hackathons in your specific field.

  4. Expand the potential of your existing employees at hackathons.


rachel ballRachel Ball is the marketing manager at Interviewstreet and HackerRank, where she helps customers make better technical recruiting hires.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, engage candidates, and make the right hires.

Rachel Ball