Hackathons have become the go-to solution for recruitment in top IT companies and startups. Over the last few years, hackathons have become a key parameter in the hiring process, with companies testing real-time problem-solving skills through these platforms. Hackathons have now become a baseline — a way to screen resumes and test candidates for the understanding of data science tools and how well they can execute the problem statement.
This month’s theme covers hackathons as a recruitment tool. For the first interaction, we got in touch with Puneet Gupta, SVP, Head of Engineering at HomeLane. An experienced tech expert with over 18 years of experience and 11 patents to his credit, he currently heads the engineering department and spearheads data and AI-driven tech innovations in the company to better the consumer experience. He shared how hackathons have become a crucial part of the hiring process in data science and how it has replaced the traditional way of hiring, and more.
Analytics India Magazine: Do you think hiring through Hackathons streamlines the hiring process? How has Hackathon been mainstreamed in the recruitment process?
Puneet Gupta: Hackathons are an excellent platform to meet passionate developers and product designers and engineers. They bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and enable tapping into a pool of skilled and driven people for hiring. However, it is debatable whether all forms of hiring can be eased through hackathons. Niche roles and specialised competencies are hard to weave into a broad-based Hackathon, where the focus is on mobilising a larger community of hackers with certain core competencies.
AIM: What is your opinion about online Hackathon? Have Hackathons truly replaced the traditional way of hiring, say by campus hiring?
PG: Going online simplifies the logistics and reduces the costs for conducting hackathons, besides easing participation from hackers across the geographical regions. Therefore, it is simpler to tap into talent that is not local to your city or state. Campus hiring also benefits from such a platform, allowing more employers to reach across campuses across the country.
AIM: What is the main purpose of conducting a Hackathon for you?
PG: The primary purpose of the HomeLane hackathon is to connect with a community of exciting developers and explore hiring opportunities. More importantly, we hope that this opportunity helps us convey HomeLane’s commitment to technological innovations in the realm of cloud platforms & web applications.
AIM: Can you cite a recent example where you hosted a Hackathon? Could you state the purpose?
PG: We are conducting a Hackathon for backend developers/engineers on February 8, 2019, where we will be putting the talents of developers and engineers with 2-8 years of experience to test. Our primary purpose of hosting the hackathon is to connect with a community of exciting developers and explore hiring opportunities. We are hoping to find some extraordinarily talented engineers and developers through this event.
AIM: How important are Hackathons (both internal and external) to boost innovation? Has your organisation benefitted by conducting Hackathons?
PG: It always helps to take a break from the day-to-day work and explore avenues where a hitherto unexplored challenge awaits you. Innovation stems from constant learning and pushing the boundaries of comfort – something that hackathons are tailor-made for!
AIM: Besides building people capital, do hack-for-hire also help in positioning the company as innovative and help in branding?
PG: Absolutely. It reflects an open, modern mindset for the company and such branding is very welcome for budding startups as well as established tech giants, especially among the young and passionate tech population.
AIM: Hackathons have become the benchmark for assessing baseline skills? Do you agree, if so what skills? How reliable it is to test skills in the long run?
PG: Most hackathons these days focus on programming skills, problem-solving or backend full-stack web development. These find synergy in the nature of the technology landscape that dominates the industry. It depends on the evaluation and selection process to pick the best of the lot, and then groom the hired individuals into roles they are selected to play. Eventually, the success of an individual at an organisation also depends on the opportunities & training after onboarding.
AIM: What is your preference for candidates who have participated in Hackathon vs direct hiring?
PG: Good candidates can be found through many channels. One channel does not undermine the other. Both hackathons and direct hiring have their place and their own benefits.
AIM: Are hackathons replacing the need to have a short-term certification course in areas such as AI, analytics?
PG: I do not think so. Systematic learning has a lot of value. And, so does the practical application of the concepts learnt. Rather than competing with each other, I believe these two complement each other.
AIM: Can you cite partners with whom you usually prefer conducting Hackathons?
PG: At present, we are working with HackerEarth. In the future, we might explore other partners too, depending on the target segment and the kind of participation we seek through a hackathon.