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How to design a code challenge to recruit programmers?


Oct 23, 2018


Businesses in need of developers are currently facing a difficult reality of candidate-driven job market. Software developers are a demographics difficult to penetrate and find the talents to hire. According to StackOverflow, 22% of them don’t have a LinkedIn account, which in countries like Poland means as many as 55 000 of potential candidates impossible to reach the conventional way. How to combat these obstacles and recruit programmers best fitting your company? Hiring with code challenges appears to be the hack to solve this issue.

An engaging way to gain the attention of the developer community is the first step to hire a programmer, or even whole teams. While software development might not resemble a sport, the competitive spirit is there in each and every one of the programmers. They all try to one-up their colleagues, write a more efficient piece of code, introduce quality-of-life improvements into their work ethics, program faster, better and more efficiently. Some may do it subconsciously, others clearly see those as their goals. So how do you cash in on the competitive nature of software developers?

Organize a code challenge

Some may say that code challenges are a condensed hackathon formula, and that’s because these are aimed at programmers, and focus on competitive programming. The idea is simple, you assign the participants a task of writing a piece of code which, when executed, is expected to provide clearly defined results. This is the base on which you can build and modify your challenge to make it suitable for your company and your goals. To successfully recruit programmers you need to design the code challenge in a way that best suits your needs.

As mentioned before, the core of code challenge is a coding assignment, and its difficulty can vary depending on the group of developers you are targeting. Your requirements may only include the code to print a single character after user input, or to query the users for various kinds of data to perform more elaborate calculations. To diversify, the code challenge can even be constructed of a few assignments, each one having increasing levels of difficulty as the participants progress. Starting from a simple “Hello world!” message to generating random numbers, all depends on what you want to test the contestants for.

And this is only the beginning, why limit your competition purely to coding when theoretical knowledge is just as important? Throw a set of test questions into the mix to complete the whole. Do you want to ensure that a piece of code submitted by a participant isn’t only working by accident? Ask them questions related to the code assignment and test their knowledge in the field! When looking to recruit programmers, you need to ensure they have what it takes. Designing a proper code challenge requires knowledge of the topic, which means, ideally, it should be a contest by developers for developers.

How do code challenges help with programmer recruitment?

There are two ways in which you, as an employer, can approach this topic. Your code challenge can serve as an activity to raise brand awareness and simply promote your company and make it a desired workplace. On the other hand, such contest can be utilized as an active recruitment tool, a very specialized one that’s designed to target only the specific candidates. In both cases your challenge needs to offer attractive prizes, be it monetary or otherwise.

If you wish to directly focus on recruitment, the main prize should be a position in your company. If, however, you hold a code challenge with no such goal as primary focus, you will still have access to the list of best and worst performing participants. This will give you the opportunity to contact those fitting your criteria and potentially hire them, should you decide to do so.

Mercari Euro Hack 2018 is a two-phase hackathon that is using a code challenge as a means for participants to qualify to the next stage of the competition. The challenge is a part of a bigger event and is a perfect example of how versatile their implementation might be. From a standalone competition, an elimination tool in a big hackathon, all the way to a way of recruiting programmers, the possibilities are endless.

Organizing code challenges requires a dedicated platform to hold those, and not every business has such tools in place. For those needing help there exist external challenge platforms that are open to cooperation. Here at we’re open to working with you, be it a hackathon, both onsite and online, or a code challenge. Global brands such as Nvidia, Microsoft, or Oracle trusted us in the past, we’re happy to meet you as well. Visit our website for more information, or just reach out to us, great things will happen!