Can only IT workers be recruited during hackathons?

Jan 12, 2017

Hackathons are a great way to recruit new employees. Technological companies are well aware of this fact and they more and more often use them as means of finding new people for their development, testing or analytical teams. But is it true that such a recruitment process makes sense only in IT?

There is no doubt that hackfests’ organizers are commonly motivated by the perspective of choosing and employing the most promising people who have shown talent during several fruitful hours of work on the proposed projects. However, hackathons are not only about employment but also about cooperation and learning – values which apply to branches other than IT too. Furthermore, hackathons are also attended by less technology-oriented people such as UX specialists, designers, animators or managers.

Hence, nothing stands in the way of organizing, e.g. a markathon which would involve work on the issues connected with marketing, sales or customer service. As such, companies from various fields, and not only technological companies, more and more often organize hackathons for recruiting purposes. It is possible that currently most popular methods of acquiring new workers (placing job ads, collecting applications and conducting job interviews) will be substituted by more up-to-date and more effective methods; there appear more and more platforms through which hackathons, and not only those steered at recruiting workers, may be organized. It is worth mentioning that even if hackathons are organized by technological companies, such events are also attended and observed by people not connected with IT industry i.e. recruitment specialists or headhunters.

Non-technological companies and hackathons

Among the companies creating new IT technologies and organizing successful codefests there are Kraft Foods and The Home Depot. For example, during The Big Brand Hackathon in San Francisco the participants have been working for two days on applications which can increase brand awareness among customers using mobile services, social networks and locations. Organizers’ aim was not to recruit new workers but to collect new ideas and solutions on how to bring more satisfaction to their customers. In result, more than 40 applications were created and the winner of the event was a seventeen-year old who, only a day after his presentation at Social Loco conference, received an internship proposal from Facebook as well as won 10 000 dollars …

What is more, one of the brands taking part in hackathon concluded that during the event it has gained more in 48 hours than a digital agency employed by them within a month.

Three main aims for which (non)technological companies organize hackathons are as follows:

  • recruitment,
  • products and services,
  • development networking.

One does not need to be Google, Facebook or Pay Pal representative to know the benefits of hackathons for recruiting new workers. HR departments from all areas are able to organize a hackathon which will draw many specialists that are of interest to particular companies and incite them to work on specific tasks.

The example of such an innovative approach to employment strategy may be a recruitment of specialists for non-governmental organizations or public institutions (i.e. HUD – American Department of Housing and Urban Development – organized a hackathon steered at creating applications friendly to local communities; it was attended not only by programmers but also developers’ representatives and sustainable housing experts).   

A perfect example of (non)technological companies that more and more often decide to organize hackathons are financial organizations (i.e. banks) which, apart from gaining a wide range of ideas on facilitating their customer services (such as signing contracts on-line and not in person) are actually able to propose jobs to people who developed these ideas.

On 4th July 2016 there finished the first Polish hackathon organized by some of the most significant cultural institutions (Syrena Theatre Warsaw, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Museum of Warsaw, Sinfonia Varsovia). At the moment the output is being assessed by the jury as the aim of the event was to create an application that would encourage its users to take a more active part in cultural life. On top of acclaim and valuable prizes, the organizers will consider cooperation with the authors of the most interesting solutions.

The results of the competition may be found at website, which is, and always has been, deeply engaged in promoting hackathons in such areas as culture and art. As one may thus notice, hackathons may well be used to recruit new valuable workers outside such fields as new technologies or IT.