Want to Hire Some Great Developers? Sponsor a Hackathon

Every growing tech company has the same problem: we are all looking for great developers. Almost always, we need them “as soon as possible.” Of course, we want the best (as we have all seen— first-hand and in case studies—how much more productive the very best developers are).

So how do we find the very best? How do we attract them to our companies? There are the obvious choices: advertisements, job boards, networking, referral bonuses, etc. The problem with these methods is that they focus on people who are actively looking for the work. They often don’t find people we would love to hire who are not looking for work. In addition, these methods provide little assurance we are getting the best, forcing us to apply proxies to test capability.

Luckily, we now have an excellent way to find great developers: the hackathon. Why? Here’s what happens when you sponsor a hackathon:

  1. You Tap the Hacker Culture: Today’s development culture is the hacker culture. By sponsoring a hackathon you are reaching out to the most dynamic developers in an appealing way: a competition to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity
  2. You Attract the Go-Getters: Most developers work very long hours. Even so, the best are always looking for new ways to learn skills and test knowledge. Those with the drive to go and compete in a hackathon are exactly the kind of people you want.
  3. You See Teams in Action: At a hackathon you can watch teams in action, under time and competitive pressure. You can see which teams handle this pressure best, and who the leaders are—incredibly valuable insights when seeking the best talent.
  4. You See Real Work Product: As a member of the award panel, you see who has the best designs, who built the most in the time permitted and who had the best performing code (you can even do spot code reviews). You even get all this without any violating confidentiality provisions.
  5. You See How People Work With Your Product: You get to see who likes your APIs* and who doesn’t. (You will also get great insights to improve them.) You see who can build the most with your product and who can help you improve it.

These are incredibly valuable insights. What is more amazing, is that you see these before you even consider making a job offer—instead of sixty days after hiring a new employee.

So, if you are looking for great people, sponsor a hackathon. You’ll quickly find the talent you want, significantly reducing the length (and risk) of the search process. Just remember to make it fun and appealing—don’t turn it into an obvious career fair or recruiting event.

*If you don’t have APIs that readily apply for a hackathon contest, you are not completely out of luck. You can orchestrate a hackathon around the platform you are based on, open source libraries you use, or many other proxies for your product.

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