Sunday, September 10, 2017

Recruiting programmers through Hackathon/Techathons from Colleges

Last 2 years in Geometric Ltd. we recruited few freshers through Hackathon/Techathon from I2IT college.. And it worked very well. I believe the student we did not select also got benefited tremendously. I am documenting the idea and logistics and various tips/tricks in the hope that it will help other colleges and companies to implement similar programs.
The whole idea of recruitment Hackathon got a push by a chance meeting with Ms. Aruna Katara. Later I met Aruna and her team with few other members from Geometric Ltd. in I2IT campus. We got such a tremendous response from everyone at I2IT college, that within 3 months of initial discussion we had our first hackathon in I2IT.

Problems in typical Campus/Fresher Recruitment process

Typical campus recruitment happens through (a) short listing through General Intelligence test, (b) a technical interview (c) HR interview. Depending on the company there are additional steps as well. If you pass through all these steps, you get offer letter. However, this process has many flaws/problems in practice.
  • Someone who performs well in General intelligence test may or may not perform well in actual programming/design tasks
  • Technical interviews are many times superficial. Esp. if the student is not from computer science background, then it is difficult to judge his aptitude for programming in interview.
  • Also if the person is introvert, is not fluent/comfortable speaking in English, then he/she may have difficulty in cracking interview (technical or HR). So a really good programmer may flunk in interview and may not get selected.
  • Many times good programmers are not class toppers. So short listing using some cut off percentage based on college exam marks does not work well.
  • It is very difficult to judge if the student will work well in team or not from the interview. Software development is a team activity. Hence it is important to judge student from team work perspective as well. (Group discussions does not really give any idea about how the person will perform in team)

Typical Techathon/Hackthon Recruitment Process that we followed :

  • This process is for one college. All the students studying in final year are eligible to participate in Techathon/Hackathon. Typically its 3 to 6 student per team. If number of teams are high (e.g. more than 20 teams), then some short listing happens through review of hackthon project proposals.
  • Hackthon winners may or may NOT get job offers. Mentors observe participants and record their observations about initiative, knowledge, programming quality, working in team, etc. Job offers are maded based on these observations. There are NO technical interviews or general intelligence or any other tests. Selected candidates go directly for HR interviews. And if selected from HR interviews, get offer letters.
  • Before Hackthon we conduct various sessions for Students so that they can develop their ideas for hackathon. These sessions are conducted by Geometric Ltd. mentors and not outside trainers. For example,
    • Mindmapping - We encouraged students to use mindmap for brainstormng and developing their ideas
    • Basics of User Experience Design
    • Basics of Version Control using Subversion (so that teams can easily coordindate their work)

Logistics of Hackathon :

  • Along with College we identify a 'big enough' Hackathon Area in the college campus. On the day of Hackathon, this area is equipped with tables, power outlets, LAN/WiFi connections, some rest/sleeping arangements. College takes care of these items
  • Geometric Ltd. took care of (a) food arragements (i.e. lunch, dinner, snacks, 24 hour availability of tea/coffee)  (b) T-Shirts for all participants with Geometric Logo (c) Awards for winners and participation certificate for all participants and other misc items. (d) other branding related activities
  • Geometric mentors are present (typically 8 to 10 mentors) through out the event to help participants if they get stuck.
  • College Faculty members are present to help students.
  • Actual Hackthon is a 24 hours Event. We typically start on Friday 6.00pm and we end the Hackathon with Award ceremony etc on Saturday 7.00pm.
    • On Friday 6.00 pm, Hackathon starts with a very short (Max 30 min) inaguration ceremony.
    • We typically have 3 team status updates during hackathon.  (a) Just before dinner on Friday (b) Saturday morning before breakfast (c) Saturday morning before or after Lunch. Status updates are very brieft. Teams have to give a quick update on where they are , if they need help on anything, if any team needs help then a mentor is assigned to that team.
    • Around 3.30/4.00pm on Saturday judging starts. Judges go to every team and see the demo. Team gets 5 to 7 minutes to demo what they have done and there is a brief Q &A.  Powerpoint presentations are NOT allowed.
    • Teams are judged based on innovativeness of of idea, completeness of demo, quality of demo, etc.
    • Around 6.00pm Saturday, award ceremony starts.

Identifying potential candidates for recruitment

  • We create a 'whatsapp' group of Geometric Mentors. During 24 hours Techathon, Mentors continously post their observations about students and teams on this group. Observations are typically related to quality of ideas, team work, programming knowledge ,programming quality and aptitude of specific students etc. 
  • At end of Hackathon, We email the archive of this discussion to all mentors and then delete the whatsapp group.
  • After Hackathon, we ask college to send us the Photographs of each team with names of Team members clearly marked.
  • Using the observations posted on Whatsapp group, we identify pontential candidates. Each mentors shares his opinion,observation and experiences of identified candidates.
  • The names of these candidates and team photographs are cross checked to ensure that there is no mistake. 
  • A final list is prepared and shared with Recruitment Team. The recruitment team then coordindates with Training and Placement office of College for final HR interview and offer process.

Few unique ideas from Geometric Ltd. recruitment Techathon 

  1. Many companies invite 1 or 2 teams from many colleges and then select students from these teams. We decided not to go in that route. Our observation were (a) same 2-3 teams from a college ends up participating in multiple Hackathons.  (b) hence larger student population do not benefit from these events (c) same team participates in multiple hackathons and show the same project in those hackathons, essentially defeating the purpose of hackathon.
  2. With our model, different companies can go to different colleges and do the Hackathon as outlined above, many more students will benefit from it.
  3. Typically Hackathon happens in July/Aug timeframe. The teams can further develop these hackathon projects as their final year projects.
  4. We keep in touch with selected candidates during the next one year. Last 3 years we conduct quarterly Techathons in Geometric Ltd. We invited these selected candidates to participate in our Techathons. Candidates then work with Geometric Teams in our internal Techathon. This one simple idea helped in various ways.
    • we kept in touch with college and students.
    • it created a bond with those candidates.
    • Because Geometric employees closely worked with these candidates in Hackathons, they developed personal connnections with these students.
    • When the studentsjoined Geometric after completing their degrees, It was much easier to place these students in various teams compared to other fresh joinees. Mainly because many Geometric project/product teams already knew about them and were ready to welcome them immediately.

Aknowledgement - 

These Hackathons were enormously successful because of support and cooperation from many people. In case I missed anyone, I am sorry. Feel free to remind me and I will add.
  • Senior Management of Geometric Ltd.
  • Geometric Ltd. Recruitment Team (esp. Sandip Panat, Kamal Dunani) ,
  •  HR team (esp. Rakhi Sinha, Anwesa Sen) 
  • and Very Enthusiastic Techathon Volunteers (Pratik Jain, Sagar Oak, Rajeshwari Purohit, Bhaskar Sinha, Hemant Shah, Ajit Vaze and Many others. It is really difficult to list everyone name here) 
  • I2IT College Faculty and Students (esp. Ms. Aruna Katara, Dr. Vaishali Patil -I2IT Principal, Prof. Ravindra Joshi, Prof. Adesh Patwardhan and his team).