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Using a hackathon as part of your recruitment strategy

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I’ve written a bit about hackathons recently, as they seem to be growing in popularity as a means of attracting outsiders to tackle particular problems facing an organization.  It’s probably fair to say that the primary aim of hackathon style events is to attract the kind of insights and solutions that you may not have access to within your permanent workforce.

There is a very real sense that such events could, and should, be used as a means of highlighting the talent that is out there however.  After all, whether you’re using crowdsourcing within your organization or outside of it, the aim is to highlight skills and knowledge that you didn’t know existed so that they could be applied to a problem.

In far too many instances, those skills are then left to drift back to the un-used state they were in before the crowdsourcing uncovered them.  What a waste.

The First National Bank of Omaha are taking a slightly different tact.  Whilst their annual hackathon events are designed to provide solutions to problems, it’s arguable that a more pressing requirement is to discover talent for the longer-term.

The event will see 36 programmers participate in the weekend long event, and the aim is very much to put the bank on the radar of talented individuals who might not have thought a job at a rural bank all that exciting previously.

This change of tact was emphasized by the banks first foray into hackathons last year.  None of the solutions ended up working in the bank, but two of the developers attracted to the event certainly did.

This years event, run from the 12th-14th September, will see teams of three work together to solve a problem that will only be revealed at the start of the event.  They then have the duration of the weekend to tackle the challenge, with a case prize awaiting the best effort.

An example of the kind of things awaiting the programmers come via the challenges set in last years event, whereby coders were asked to find better ways of soliciting feedback from customers, amongst other things.

The event provided the bank with a great opportunity to see first hand how a group of talented developers worked when the pressure was on.  As you can imagine, the process was quite a bit more revealing than your standard job interview.

So whilst crowdsourcing and hackathon style events are undoubtedly great at generating solutions, they are arguably even more valuable in the relationships they provide you with talented individuals.  Don’t pass them up.

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