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Talent Assessment | 10 Min Read

Hackathons & Ideathons – Next Gen Tools to Hire Quality Talent

Hackathons & Ideathons as a Recruitment Tool

The hiring landscape is undergoing a wave of change due to digital transformation and the advent of technology. More and more companies are moving away from traditional hiring processes and trying out new tools and technologies to make hiring a pleasant experience for both the recruiter as well as the candidate. From sourcing to selecting, each stage in the recruitment process is witnessing the use of new-age technology.

According to Mercer | Mettl’s Tech Hiring & Technology Adoption Trends 2019 report, sourcing quality candidates is one of the biggest challenges faced by 42% of organizations, followed by long lead time and unstructured processes.

Hiring processes are getting revamped across the world, and technology is playing a significant role in it. Metrics like cost and time to hire are being paid attention when striving to hire a quality candidate for your organization.

While in-person job interviews are still a battle-tested way to screen tech talent, they come with a major shortcoming. They don’t give companies a robust sneak-peek at how the person will perform in the role. Good news! Hackathons can come to rescue and 11X your recruitment.”

                                      Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager, ResumeLab.

With the focus shifting to using technology to increase efficiency, recruiters are increasingly turning to tech events, social media, and hackathons to source candidates and finding novel ways to increase interest from potential employees.

A great way to make inroads into the tech community, build a brand name, and use it as a hiring tool, especially for campus hiring, hackathons are the new fad in tech recruitment. Hackathons come very close to creating an actual business simulation that lets organizations test candidates on skills that a potential employee requires –  intrapreneurship, problem-solving, and swift prototyping.

With numerous hackathon platforms available in the market, many SMEs are using hackathons for their campus hiring. An excellent way for companies to introduce themselves and for participants to showcase their skillset, hackathons can be one of the most effective ways to source, screen, and select candidates. A form of gamifying hiring, hackathons make recruitment interactive and rewarding for candidates as well as recruiters.

Resumes and awkward personal questions are passe; conducting hackathons is the most effective way to filter out under skilled candidates. Hackathons provide recruiters a one-stop-shop to assess candidates on their skill, time management, problem-solving, and people skills.



Sourcing is the first and most important step in the recruitment process as it is the first filter that defines the kind of candidates you are getting.

Hence, it is essential to have a robust sourcing strategy in place so that there is no gap between the expectation and the results when it comes to new hires. 

With an increasing demand for tech candidates across industries and regions, sourcing of quality candidates is one of the biggest challenges faced by recruiters. Hackathons and ideathons can emerge as holistic recruitment platforms that automate sourcing by inviting participants who are interested in the event and thus ensure quality hires.

Hackathons are also a great way to source passive candidates. Tech professionals are always on the lookout for exciting new challenges to work on and if you market your hackathon well, you might invite the curiosity of passive candidates to look at your brand and problem, and even participate in it. Another great advantage of conducting a hackathon is to create a talent pipeline for future hiring needs.

It is an excellent idea to source candidates through a hackathon to ensure quality and intent.



Hackathons are a great way to gather and review a lot of talent in a short time. Often, long and unstructured screening processes result in a loss of interest of candidates and wastage of time for recruiters.

Hackathons guarantee an excellent assessment process within a very short time frame. Not only do recruiters get an idea of a participant’s core skills, but hackathons are a great platform to analyze the cognitive and behavioral parameters required by the employer.

With the fast-changing landscape of work, learning agility and problem-solving are few of the most desired skills in a potential employee. Hackathons give organizations are a ground to test participants on entrepreneurial innovation, high order and time-bound problem-solving, effective communication, and compatibility with a team and business objectives.

With the right challenge, hackathons can prove to be a single step towards offering someone a position in your organization.

“During the hackathon, we can test candidates’ programming skills on a real project, (while traditional recruitment allows us to test them using short, technical tasks). During the event, we observe the candidate’s behavior, see how he reacts to stress and cooperates with peers (even the best personality tests will not replace it!).”

                                               – Pete Sosnowski, VP & Co-Founder, Zety.


Time-To-Hire _ Cost-Of-Hire

Time-To-Hire & Cost-Of-Hire

Long and unstructured processes often result in losing out on the right tech talent, making it a major challenge in the tech recruitment process.

According to the Tech Hiring & Technology Adoption Trends 2019 report, a tech position on average takes about a month to close.

However, hackathons solve this problem as they are time-bound, and one can close a position in as little as three days.

While onsite hackathons require some planning and execution cost, online hackathons can be just as effective with minimal cost involved to market the event. As compared to the advantages of conducting a hackathon, like brand positioning, making inroads into the tech community, building a talent pipeline, and creating a name for yourself to reckon within the industry, hackathons solve problems for a bigger picture and easily justify the cost involved in both online or offline event.

“Hackathons give us access to a large talent pool in one place and time, while during traditional interviews, we meet one candidate at a time. So it’s a real-time and money saver as we are concentrating our hiring efforts on this one event. One “marathon” can get us a handful of candidates that proved they have the skills to do what we expect them to do at work. Plus, when organizing an online marathon, you’re not limited geographically – you can connect with talents from around the world.”

                                              – Pete Sosnowski, VP & Co-Founder, Zety.


Candidate Experience

Candidate Experience

In a candidate-driven market, more and more organizations are trying their best to keep their candidates as well as employees engaged through interactive ways.

Hackathons fit the bill for a great candidate experience by creating a ‘day-in-the-life’ situation for participants to experience. A great way to showcase company culture and values, hackathons provide a conducive environment for participants.

Hackathons that provide participants with exciting challenges, giving them an actual idea of the product roadmap, are always a great way to break the ice with potential employees. The adrenaline rush, the pumped-up energy, and the go-getter vibe make hackathons the perfect base to deliver a great candidate experience.

Hackathons are slowly replacing traditional hiring processes and consideration factors such as academics and simple interview questions. Tech Hiring & Technology Adoption Trends 2019 states that “20% of organizations chose proficiency in the required tech skills as a top evaluation criterion when looking to hire, followed by 18% of employers who also focus closely on cognitive ability and learning agility”. This change in evaluation criteria has made hackathons an increasingly popular way of recruiting the ideal candidate.

While organizations are still supporting the post-hackathon scenario with traditional processes of selection, it can be predicted that as the demand for tech talent continues to grow, hackathons, especially online, will eventually become a more regular part of the recruitment process due to its ease and accessibility of hundreds of global participants.

Choosing the Right Hackathon Platform

Hackathons might seem like a long, endless list of things to do, but it can be broadly categorized into six easy steps – Ideating the hackathon/ideathon, organizing the event, inviting participants, choosing judges, reviewing submissions, and declaring winners.

Six Steps to Conducting a Successful Hackathon or Ideathon:


  1. Hackathons start and end with ideation. Once you are clear about the objective of your hackathon, you can ideate around the themes, challenges, stages, participants, judges, and everything else required for the hackathon. You might need to set up a committee or assign a dedicated person to the ideation and execution of a hackathon.
  2. Organizing a hackathon requires a flexible and agile platform that lets you conduct a hackathon effortlessly. When you choose a platform, ensure that it can help you create a personalized landing page. The landing page of your event is one of the most critical aspects of the hackathon, as it is the first interacting page with the participants and holds all essential and critical information about the event. This page needs to represent your brand as well as the hackathon. This one page needs to be the single go-to page for all things related to your hackathon.
  3. Participants are the first and foremost reason for your hackathon, so you want to ensure you have the maximum outreach. This is where you will need the help of your friends in marketing. Decide on how many participants you need to make it a successful event, and then think backward. Ensure that the hackathon platform you use easily lets you share your event on social media platforms for more traction. Choose a platform that makes it easier for participants to create teams, strategize, and collaborate in a single platform. The more difficult your hackathon platform is to interact with, the more chances that participants will drop out.
  4. Choosing the right panel of judges can surely help in branding your hackathon better and attracting participants. Make sure the judges are celebrated names in the industry or come with their following for easy marketing. When you choose a hackathon platform, choose partners who can help you reach out to a wider network of not just participants but also judges.
  5. One of the most challenging aspects of conducting a hackathon is to review submissions in a fair and timely manner. Organizations should lay down parameters at the start so that judges can effectively grade all the submissions.
  6. Your hackathon platform should be the reservoir of everything related to the event. A live leadership board can boost the participant’s enthusiasm, ensure transparency, and easily track winners after putting together the performance of every team at every stage.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?

Mettl’s Xathon is an end-to-end hackathon management platform that helps you host world-class hackathons successfully and effortlessly for identifying and hiring the best tech talent and engaging with existing and potential employees and tech communities.


Key Features of Mettl's Xathon Are:

  • Personalized Event Page to engage participants
  • Quick Scheduling of tasks and stages in one single dashboard
  • Seamless Collaboration with multiple stakeholders – organizers, participants, and judges
  • Submissions Management to keep track of all submissions, their score, and status
  • Leadership Board to get live updates and help in the assessment

With stellar features that help your business grow, Mettl’s Xathon is based on the current and future needs of organizations, measured through a lens of innovation. Mettl’s holistic view, specialized expertise, and deep analytical rigor make Xathon a product that has been the choice of leading organizations like Amazon, Accenture, JP Morgan, Microsoft, and many more.

With Mettl’s Xathon, you also get access to subject matter experts who help define the problem statements in keeping with your objective, theme, and business as well as assist you in assessing solutions. Mettl’s 24×7 support team ensures seamless execution to make your event a success story.


About Mercer | Mettl

Mercer | Mettl provides an Online Assessment Platform which delivers efficient, cost-effective, and technology-driven skill assessments that help organizations build winning teams by taking credible people decisions across two key areas: Acquisition and Development.

Mercer | Mettl is currently partnering with over 2,000 global companies, 31 sector skill councils, and 15+ educational institutes across 80+ countries.

Mettl was acquired by Mercer in 2018, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth, and career, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy, and people.

For More Info : Click Here

For more information, visit www.mettl.com.

Originally published September 3 2019, Updated August 5 2021

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

About This Topic

A hackathon or ideathon is an event where people with different skill sets come together to solve predefined challenges within a specified time frame. Ideathons and hackathons are increasingly being used for corporate branding, hiring at speed, innovating and engaging employees.

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