Hackathons: An Innovative Trend That Can “Shortcut” IT Recruitment
Laura Tarrant is a Senior Account Executive for Roevin Technology— Adecco’s specialized IT division. Laura’s focus on IT recruitment and career coaching has led her to become a true expert in the field. Her monthly blogs dedicated to the IT field receive 2,400 followers from within the technology industry. She understands that talent is more than just a skill set; her innovative and engaging recruitment strategies minimize inefficiencies of the recruiting life cycle while delivering stellar IT talent to her clients.
Below, Laura provides Adecco Lēad Blog readers with cutting edge IT recruitment trends.
Many innovative companies—particularly those in tech—rely on hiring big-picture thinkers to propel their organizations forward and keep them on the cutting edge. Many, unfortunately, are experiencing a technical talent shortage. In order to capture talent that thinks outside the box, employers need to implement creative recruitment tactics to match. One such method that has proven incredibly successful and popular in recent years is the hackathon!
What are hackathons? They sound sinister…
Despite their name, there is nothing dubious about them. Started in Silicon Valley, hackathons are usually two-day (or sometimes week-long) networking events where like-minded people gather to solve development or organizational problems, grow their knowledge and produce impressive technology. Many are hosted by think-tanks, tech companies, incubators, NGOs or major corporations. Brilliant young developers, designers and systems architects take part while industry veterans judge their work. Savvy recruiters and employers can take advantage of these events by connecting with both sets of attendees.
Why are they useful for recruitment?
They are an inexpensive recruitment strategy which can give you access to on-a-dime interviews with a variety of brilliant technical talent, let you see their soft skills and problem-solving abilities “in the wild” and get a sense of how they will perform on the job. In fact, many participants take part precisely to impress recruiters or employers who may be monitoring the event. Often, a job position or internship is marketed as the “prize” for taking part!
In addition to the recruitment and networking opportunities these events offer, hackathons can be held internally to introduce fun, creativity and competition into otherwise non-stimulating workplace processes.
Below is a peek into the types of hackathons that have become popular, tips for tech candidates on taking part and advice for employers and recruiters on sponsoring existing hackathons or organizing their own.
Virtual hackathons take place online and often for the purpose of sourcing international talent. During these hackathons, participants are given programming concepts to contemplate or a programming challenge to solve—allthewhile competing for the overall title of “champion” and a spot on the leaderboard.
Recruitment Perspective: Organizations are given an inside look at how developers, scientists, students, entrepreneurs and educators from around the world approach problem-solving and compete against each other. If you are a small team with a limited budget—but have the ability to advertise and create brand awareness overseas—this recruitment ‘hack’ is highly recommended for your recruitment efforts.
Tip: For step-by-step instructions on attending and setting up a virtual hackathon, visit: http://www.the-hackfest.com/tips-virtual/
Interactive hackathons are conducted at pre-defined locations and begin with a presentation about the rules and theme of the event. Attendees are giving an opportunity to brief participants on a project they are working on with an obstacle they need help overcoming. Talent in this battle-of-the-brains ranges from “junior” to “subject-matter experts” who join together to unlock problems and suggest ideas while working in teams based on their individual interests and skills. At the conclusion of an interactive hackathon, a collaborative wrap-up session gives each team a chance to present and explain their findings, execution and achievements.
Recruitment Perspective: Let’s face it—traditional interviews with developers don’t always reveal how a candidate will fit into a company’s culture or if they will succeed in a real-time work environment. Interactive hackathons not only offer the ability to discover these unknowns, they are a less intimidating approach to recruitment and give employers the opportunity to perform on-a-dime interviews while networking with upcoming talent.
Tip: For a step-by-step guide on successfully running an interactive hackathon visit: https://hackathon.guide/
As mentioned, hackathons are not exclusive to external recruitment efforts. They can be a great way for your staff to tackle an organizational problem together, solve development challenges or address your clients’ issues. Your employees can also use them to prove their skills, management abilities and try out new roles. It’s no wonder that internal hackathons are increasingly being used by major corporations such as Manulife, Deloitte and many others.
If you’d like to administer your own internal hackathon, start by coming up with a project collectively and then setting up small teams of 2-5 employees. Deliver the challenge and watch as the creative juices begin to flow. Fight the temptation to direct your team on how to do things during this event. While it may be hard to resist, you will boost participation by allowing your team to have a hand in every detail along the way to the solution. By utilizing internal hackathons, you will foster a work environment that breeds innovation and challenges employees to build things creatively without a specific roadmap.
HR Perspective: Never underestimate your ability to unleash the hidden talents of your internal teams. Hackathons work as a tool for getting one’s feet wet into new ways of thinking. They spark innovation, foster trust, engage employees, strengthen communication, encourage interaction and build strong collaborative teams who work towards a common goal. When a solution is constructed together, it is much more likely to stick.
Tip: For a step-by-step on running your first in-house hackathon visit: https://stormpath.com/blog/running-your-first-internal-hackathon
In today’s “Talent War”—in which people change jobs frequently, competition is global, salaries are competitive and opportunities are everywhere—smart, tech-savvy, agile workers are highly in demand, yet hard to recruit. Companies want to hire the best and brightest but rarely devise an innovative hiring process to make them stand out from other potential employers. Hackathons can be a great tool in your arsenal to get you the forward-thinking IT talent you’re seeking.