Skip to content
HackerRank Launches Two New Products: SkillUp and Engage Read now
Join us at the AI Skills & Tech Talent Summit in London! Register now
The 2024 Developer Skills Report is here! Read now
Stream HackerRank AI Day, featuring new innovations and industry thought leaders. Watch now
Hiring Technical Talent

Campus Recruiting: 3 Things Top Tech Grads Want to Hear

Written By HackerRank | October 10, 2013

Campus Recruiting - Get ExcitedIf you’re a technical recruiter, of course you have a “strategy” for “positioning your company” to students at campus recruiting events. But are top grads buying what you’re selling? Or should your campus recruiting pitch get an overhaul in favor of candidates’ changing priorities? These three tactics can pique a candidate’s interest and differentiate you from the cutthroat competition for the best minds in the room… especially at crowded campus recruiting events that can feel like cattle-calls.

  • Integrate ‘gamification’ into the campus recruiting process wherever possible with contests, giveaways, and challenges of all kinds.

  • Communicate concrete examples of your company’s culture of innovation and individualism. Remember: you’re competing with Google, whether you’re ready or not.

  • Connect the dots on how a candidate’s contribution can have maximum positive impact on society, how the work they accomplish will affect more than the company’s bottom line.

(Programming) Challenge Me

While we’re biased when it comes to programming challenges to qualify candidates, our customers (leaders in the tech industry) use them because they work. Join the 21st century by allowing candidates to code in-browser to solve custom programming challenges. Many technical students are already very familiar with the concept of programming challenges… from their spare time! Communities and online platforms dedicated to solving programming challenges for fun–like our HackerRank site–have transformed programming into a communal recreational pursuit.

Programming_problems_and_Competitions____HackerRankGet hacking on

Leading with a programming challenge can save time during the actual campus event and set candidates’ expectations of available positions and required skill-sets. Those who do very well on the programming challenges can double-down on their interview prep while those who don’t can move quickly on to the next opportunity. “Open coding competitions, followed by an interview, can be mutually beneficial for companies looking for special skills like problem-solving or specific types of programming knowledge. Coding competitions can also find the hidden gems of eligible candidates from lesser-known universities,” says Sumit Kumar, a graduate student earning his Master’s degree in high performance computing.

More Than “Culture”

While standard practicalities like job location, perks, and compensation do figure into candidates’ acceptance decisions, they are losing ground to company culture… very specific aspects of company culture. While big brands with a widely-publicized culture can get by with less emphasis on this, startups and lesser-known companies should make communicating what sets them apart in the marketplace from a cultural perspective their #1 priority during campus recruiting. “We’ve read and heard how companies like Google and Facebook are presenting their company culture to the public. I am obviously attracted to such well-known organizations where there is a big emphasis on self-direction, freedom of expression, employee development… an atmosphere that fundamentally encourages growth,” says Rizwan Hudda, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. “For lesser-known companies to compete, it’s critical that they communicate what value they offer to me other than the obvious.” It can be done, however. Rizwan chose a position at investment firm Tower Research Capital LLC over an offer from Google. What lured him away from the poster-child for luxurious perks and free-wheeling corporate culture? “Tower Research employs some well-known programmers whom I admire. The chance to work with them and grow as part of their team was a unique experience no one else could offer,” says Rizwan.

Make It Mission Impossible

It’s been more than a decade since the aspirations of new grads moved past stable long-term positions into a need for emotional and intellectual fulfillment from their careers. Now–when companies like Apple put their product into every hand in America and Google has mapped the planet–new grads want to know the potential their contribution has to impact society on a large scale.

Campus Recruiting - Dolly SinghDolly Singh, former head of talent acquisition at SpaceX, describes getting better traction (with a box of pizza, an overview of the company mission made by an intern, and the fact that SpaceX offers the chance to shape the bleeding edge of aerospace innovation) than establishment aeronautics competitors could hope for. “New grads are wild for the chance to give their all to a larger-than-life mission,” Singh says. “Which would you prefer: to produce a tiny part of a twenty-year project that will likely be cancelled for lack of funding, or to make a critical contribution at a company disrupting the entire aerospace industry? For the most talented graduates who are ready to put their considerable talents to spectacular use, it’s an easy choice.”

So, what did we learn? Sound off: 

  • Test for skills and save a candidate’s time plus yours with a programming challenge.
  • Flexible work hours and free lunch DON’T make a company culture that wins top grads, the caliber of the team and a commitment to innovation DO.
  • Show candidates how they’ll disrupt an industry or solve the everyman’s problem, rather than how they’ll help you make your widget. If you can’t say you do any of the former… start.

HackerRank and EY blog post on Optimizing Hiring

Optimizing for Excellence: EY’s Modern Approaches to Streamlining Hiring Processes