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How Hackathons Are Changing The Way Data Scientists Are Hired

How Hackathons Are Changing The Way Data Scientists Are Hired

  • The gamifying experience makes the hiring process more interactive and less stressful for both candidates and recruiters.

Today, hackathons are one of the primary recruitment tools for tech companies. Organisations invest in new-age tools to hire employees by assessing their problem-solving approach and skills to manage time & people. In machine learning hackathons, the participants are given a problem statement and need to work with a dataset to create an accurate model to top the leaderboard. The gamifying experience makes the hiring process more interactive and less stressful for both candidates and recruiters.

A recent report showed universities that leveraged technologies like hackathons in their hiring process achieved a 70 percent on-boarding rate. 


“For a better perspective, think of a way of solving a problem as quickly as possible. To crack the code, you will certainly need multiple minds to work and innovate together. That’s the simplest definition of a hackathon,” Nikhil Barshika, founder of Imarticus Learning. 

ML hackathons allow employers to take a closer look at how potential hires deal with real-world situations. Let’s take a deep dive into why hackathons are changing the way data scientists are hired. 

  • Team player: ML hackathon activities allow the recruiters to measure if the individuals are team players and can collaborate with cross-functional teams to finish the given task effectively. The recruiters can create a realistic working environment and observe the candidates  as they complete the workflow and build a product. Hackathons are a window into the candidate’s work ethic.
  • Versatility: The recruiters get to judge the participant’s range of skills a participant has; for instance, if the software engineer can easily transition to a data science role and support end-to-end solutions. 
  • Business sense: The way participants go about the given task speaks about their business acumen. The candidate’s approach to the problem reflects their analysis of the solution’s value proposition and ROI. The recruiter understands if the candidate is thinking in terms of business value while building the model.
  • Ability to deliver under pressure: Hackathons are conducted in a constricted amount of time, testing the candidate’s ability to handle deadlines.
  • Problem-solving skills: Activities outside the candidate’s comfort zone prove if they can hustle and collaborate with people from other fields to extract insights. 
  • Quick turnarounds: Traditionally, the data scientist hiring process can last for weeks. Hackathons offer a ring side seat to the recruiters to watch the candidates up close and at work, thereby eliminating a few hiring rounds. 
  • Market pulse: Hackathons allow organisations to sample the global talent pool.


In a bid to spotlight virtual hackathon as a non-traditional channel of recruitment, MachineHack hosted The Great Indian Hiring Hackathon (2020) in collaboration with 12 prominent companies including Aditya Birla Group, Bridgei2i, Concentrix and Fractal. 

“Since its inception, MachineHack has aimed to empower data scientists to innovate. Data scientists, despite having tremendous talent and innovation to offer, are facing unprecedented challenges during this pandemic, and we at MachineHack want to tap into that pool of talent,” said Bhasker Gupta, CEO & Founder, AIM.

MachineHack has an ongoing fortnight-long hiring hackathon, Mathco. Thon for data scientists and machine learning practitioners. TheMathCompany will interview the candidates who make it to the top leaderboard positions. The participants also stand to win a cash prize.

Organisations can also leverage hackathons for training and upskilling employees, thus preparing them for senior and more relevant roles within the company. The hackathon approach helps companies achieve two goals: to promote the work culture among existing employees and build a substantial brand recall value. For example, Karan Juneja, a regular participant in MachineHack hackathons and its grandmaster, has said hackathons have helped him pick up new data science skills.

While employers get the opportunity to shortlist the best talents for their organisation, candidates get a hang of the organisation’s work culture. The hackathons offer the ideal setting for both candidates and recruiter to understand if they are the right fit for each other. 

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