More SMEs tap hackathons to hire quality, industry-ready talent

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New Delhi, Dec 7: At a time when companies descend on college campuses across the country to hire talent, a study undertaken by HR tech startup Mettl has found that smaller niche enterprises place higher reliance on hackathons to hire industry-ready talent better suited to support their digital goals.
Companies said hackathons democratize hiring by making it all about the individual skills, remove the institution’s brand out of consideration, and package offered to high performers in these challenges is almost 50% higher than industry average.
In Mettl’s survey of over 200 companies across India (with equal representation of small and large players), 23% small organizations use hackathons to source candidates, as opposed to just 11% large organizations that hire from these challenges. “The larger companies use hackathons more as a platform for engaging with their community and as a branding exercise, while SMEs and startups evaluate and hire talent,” Siddhartha Gupta, chief revenue officer, Mercer-Mettl, said.
For instance, Virtusa, a mid-tier niche digital player, recently concluded the second edition of Neural Hack, a 24-hour hackathon to discover talent with AI, IoT and other skills. Partnering with colleges nation-wide (including those in tier 2 and 3 cities), Virtusa picked 26 candidates to make job offers, out of the total 29,000 students who applied. “Hackathons promote cultural diversity; how the candidates work as a team can be seen, thus evaluating cultural fit to the organization,” Krithivasan Sivaramakrishnan, lead – India Campus Hiring, Virtusa, said.
The 26 students offered jobs at Virtusa hail from colleges in Trichy, Pollachi, Kakinada, Bheemavaram, Coimbatore, and Noida among others. Sivaramakrishnan noted that packages offered to some of the best performers went up to “50% and sometimes even 2x” higher than industry standards. “The candidates are ready to be deployed in niche projects of challenging nature,” he added.
Venkatesan L, placements director, Ramakrishna Group, Coimbatore, said pay packages tend to be almost “35-50%” higher for students hired via hackathons. “Such challenges also promote access to the hidden talent in colleges across the country,” he said. is another startup that conducts annual hack challenges to hire for engineering roles such as full-stack developers and UX engineers. “It’s always good to see folks who can think unconventionally and have ideas that can build future-ready platforms for us,” said Sravan Rajnayan, senior manager – HR, While admitting that hackathons isn’t their only approach to hiring yet, Rajnayan said it has become the path to find “some rockstars [employees]” every year.
Bengaluru-based tech startup HackerEarth, which offers a platform for end-to-end management of hackathons, said in a recent report that globally India is at the second spot in conducting hackathons, only after the US. “