Blog > Company > Cracking the Code: The Inside Story of Our Hiring Hackathon
Cracking the Code: The Inside Story of Our Hiring Hackathon

Cracking the Code: The Inside Story of Our Hiring Hackathon

One of the exciting things about working at a startup is having the opportunity to innovate on a regular basis. There’s less structure, so you can conceive an idea, design an execution plan, then put it into action immediately! We recently did this with a Hiring Hackathon at GoLinks

The struggle that started it all 

Unlike last year, our summer intern hiring season required a delayed start and called for an unconventional approach. Inspired by our Founder’s difficulty finding his first software engineering role after a career change, we set out to provide internships to as many applicants as possible – without burdening our small engineering team. 

He proposed a hiring hackathon, a new concept despite my many years in talent acquisition. Though we had initial reservations about candidate experience and timeline, the possibility of reaching more candidates energized me, so we accepted the challenge!

Our Opportunities:

  • Frontend Engineering
  • Backend Engineering
  • Android and iOS Engineering

Our Requirements: 

  • Recent or graduating student 
  • BSCS or related field
  • Comp alignment per our pay transparency

Where we posted roles: 

  • LinkedIn 
  • Wellfound 
  • Y-Combinator 
Hiring Hackathon - Job listing

Resume and technical screening

We received over 7000 applications! With the number of resumes flowing in, we needed to find a way to review and process as many candidates as possible. We automated our hiring process with added application filters and email templates to regularly communicate with candidates. Our engineering team members also jumped on board to help review resumes. 

As our team advanced candidates, recruiting sent HackerRank tests to these candidates. Our leads had created test questions covering algorithms, coding, and problem-solving. Our engineering team members took the tests and provided feedback. This helped us calibrate our questions prior to sending them out to candidates. 

Candidates who passed our technical tests were invited to join us at a Hiring HackDay.

HackDay has arrived

Approximately 30 candidates joined for each of our Frontend and Backend days. The day began with an introduction to GoLinks, our products, and our team. We shared the logistics for the day – hacking time, presentation time, and Uber Eats credit. Our respective lead then shared the assignment, and candidates were given 4 hours to complete their project. Throughout the day, candidates were able to join breakout rooms to collaborate with one of our engineers. 

Hiring Hackathon schedule

Changing it up for mobile candidates

After two Hackdays, we evaluated and decided to change our process for Mobile HackDay. We received feedback that more than the 4 hours of hacking was needed for some candidates, so we increased hacking time to 24 hours. Again, we hosted our applicants for a GoLinks introduction, project announcement, and initial 1:1 sessions. Candidates were then given the option to contact us throughout the day for any questions. 

Project presentations

Upon completion, candidates submitted their GitHub-hosted projects and were then added to a list to present their projects to our engineering team. Our participants were given 5 minutes for their presentation. At the conclusion of each presentation, our interviewers rated candidates on their: 

  • technical skills
  • communication skills
  • problem-solving abilities
  • creative or innovative implementation
  • usability or user experience of project
  • overall project and presentation
Hiring Hackathon: Rating presentation from participants

Once feedback was completed, our team came up with a shortlist of candidates to meet for a final interview. In this final meeting, we explored the candidate’s interest and fit to work in a remote startup environment, and answered any remaining questions. After assessing scorecards in this round, we extended offers to 9 frontend, 6 backend, and 4 mobile candidates. 

How the hiring hackathon went

With the addition of 19 new summer interns, we increased our engineering team by 172% for the summer! It was an exciting and exhausting experience, with lots of learning along the way. Our hiring team recently conducted a retrospective, and we also conducted a survey with our intern hires. We received some great feedback.

What went well

  • We were able to identify a lot of great candidates in a short period
  • We were able to review a large number of candidates at once and much faster
  • Recording the interviews allowed us to watch the presentations later

“I really enjoyed the hack day. As I told [my lead] after the hack day, it was a perfect balance for me. It was doable within the timeframe, but it also was challenging enough for me to show my technical skills.”

I think a hackday is a great way to assess actual job related skills, rather than a DS&A problem/whiteboarding interview.

What we’d do differently next time

  • Provide more clarity on requirements and project specs for candidates & interviewers 
  • Determine a scale to weigh one criteria over another to better differentiate each candidate’s performance 
  • Split up interviewers for presentations, more async evals, and have different leads for each interview

“Overall, loved the experience! The one thing I would have liked more of was direction when it came to break rooms/collaboration, and if possible it would definitely be nice to have had a little more time to do presentations at the end – I felt like I was rushing the presentation because I knew I only had a couple of minutes…”

“HackDay was really fun and a better way to interview in my opinion. When it comes time to present, having more rooms so interviewers don’t have to wait as long would be nice.

Our Hiring HackDays were an enormous endeavor that required everyone on the team to step up and pitch in! Together, we were able to open our doors to a large number of interns, who are now making significant contributions to our product suite and organization. 

And what do our interns think about our Hiring Hackathon? In a recent survey, we asked interns if they prefer this process – more candidates, less personalization – over a traditional interview process. A resounding 90% said yes! 

90% of interns said they prefer HackDays to traditional interviews

About the author

Linh Phan - Head of People Ops at GoLinks

Linh Phan
Head of People Ops at GoLinks

Linh Phan is the Head of People Ops here at GoLinks. With multiple years of experience in recruiting and talent management, Linh is passionate about ensuring we find the best fit for roles within our startup.

GoLinks revolutionizes how employees find and share knowledge by transforming any URL into a short, memorable go link. Try it for free at www.golinks.io

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