How hackathons emerged as a choice for hiring top talent at India Inc in 2019

The unabated prevalence of hackathons in the contemporary corporate setting as we draw the curtains on 2019 indicates that hackathons will reign supreme in 2020 as well and beyond.

How hackathons emerged as a choice for hiring top talent at India Inc in 2019

Wednesday January 08, 2020,

5 min Read

India, as we know it, is transforming. It has come a long way from two decades ago when the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was still nascent. Today, India is the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world. This is just one reflection of the prismatic vibrancy India has achieved in the past decade alone, having evolved holistically both as a society and economy. At the centre of this development is the Indian youth – the world’s largest and equally diverse pool of highly charged, capable, and skilled millennial as well as genzennial talent that can be harnessed to yield unmatchable dividends.

However, when looked at from the perspective of the employer, the same situation also forms the core of a major challenge for Indian enterprises. In a highly competitive ecosystem that is rapidly transforming not just technologically but also in terms of increasingly progressive cultural as well as ethical values, the matter of acquiring the top talent in the market becomes critical.


In keeping with the spirit of the time, the demand for professionals with excellent digital skills, industry-relevant aptitude, business-critical soft-skills, and core behavioural competencies such as collaboration, communication, openness to diversity, ethical propensity, and problem solving is at its peak. How, then, to identify, onboard, and retain the perfect talent?

As one popular meme may have already alerted you to the fact, modern problems require modern solutions. And hackathon has emerged as one such elegant solution to the challenges faced by new-age organisations in India today.

Hacking the secret to conducting effective hiring

Hackathons are equal parts competitive as well as collaborative settings where professionals from diverse backgrounds come together to solve a common set of problems. Conventionally, hackathons have been used by big corporations as a marketing tactic to reinforce their domain leadership in the face of their rivals. Later, even as hackathons became central to the functioning of leading tech players, the concept evolved and was appropriated and adopted by smaller firms the world over. Its value as a remarkable skills diagnostic solution made the hackathon the preferred recruitment setting for cutting-edge enterprises.

To recruit the best talent, all organisations need to do is to search for, engage, and hire individuals who think digitally and love to solve complex business problems while simplifying tasks and processes. Here, hackathon steps into the picture as the most suitable means for staging mock complex problem-solving drills as part of both the campus hiring as well as open-sourcing strategies. 

Hackathon hits multiple marks at once. On the one hand, this innovative setting delivers greater insights to recruiters regarding the behavioral performance, cultural fitness, and practical skills of candidates in real-time, something that would not be possible in a traditional interview setting. On the other hand, it also allows candidates to get a glimpse into the work culture of their prospective employer. Furthermore, the hackathon setup enables organisations to set certain expectations for the talent being examined while ascertaining whether their personality aligns with the core values of the company.

The list of advantages offered by hackathons does not end here. The cooperative environment at hackathons serves to instill team spirit among the candidates and allows recruiters to identify team players readily. In addition, companies often also leverage hackathons to analyse the effectiveness of new business models and crowdsource ideas to get the latest technology updates.

Naturally, hackathons are a great hit among both Indian organisations and job-seekers. A 2018 Mercer | Mettl report observed the growing prevalence of hackathons among SMEs as a tool to acquire talent. In a more recent Campus Hiring 2019-20: Challenges, Trends & Best Practices report, the firm sheds light on some of the best practices followed by leading organisations across sectors in the current fiscal. The study found that organisations that revamped their campus hiring methodologies by integrating innovative technologies into the process and employed innovative campus engagement tools such as hackathons, ideathons, quizzes, etc., achieved a 70 percent onboarding rate.

Some case studies of hackathons:

  • To engage the final year students of tech campuses, a reputed provider of investment banking and financial services conducted hackathons on machine learning and derivative modeling in finance for new product development. 
  • Exemplifying other such hackathons, CXOs challenges were conducted to engage the best B-school students by one of the tech companies for building intelligent cloud platform and creating personal computing solutions by solving real-time business cases. 
  • Hackathons have also been conducted by tech companies to expand their diversity portfolio and to bring more diverse people into the hiring fold.    

Future scape

Apart from testing candidates on their multidisciplinary aptitude, the technical skills for which hackathons are typically conducted involve niche and emerging technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, AR/VR, and blockchain, among others. Given the fact that the impact of these technologies is only going to grow stronger and more widespread in the coming years, it is likely that an increasing number of organisations will continue to adopt hackathons as their setup-of-choice for driving recruitment.

Some of the industries in India where hackathons have already begun to gain significant traction include technology, internet, electronics, consulting, manufacturing, healthcare & pharmaceuticals, retail & consumer goods, etc.

The unabated prevalence of hackathons in the contemporary corporate setting as we draw the curtains on 2019 indicates that hackathons will reign supreme in 2020 as well and beyond. Astride this trend, more organisations will invest more money into conducting hackathons to crowdsources ideas on product innovation, create a strong employer brand, and hire the best talent – all at the same time!

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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