Using Programming Competitions to Hire Superstar Coders


Looking to hire an amazing developer for your startup? Isn’t everyone looking to hire superstar coders? Facebook, Google, and all the technology giants are looking for super-smart people.

Most of the top technology companies run some type of programming competition to attract talented people. Facebook has their Hacker Cup, Google runs the Google Code Jam and Microsoft, the Imagine Cup.

Google Code Jam in London, 2008

Google Code Jam in London

These guys have massive resources to attract talented people to their coding competition. As a small startup it’s going to be difficult or impossible to get great people attracted to your competition. Are there other ways that small startups can get access to talented people from programming competitions?

Yes there is! Here are some ways to do it:

Coding competition websites

There are a few websites that run their own programming competitions with a regular community of coders on the site:

  • Hacker Rank –They have regular coding competitions and companies such as Quora sponsor competitions and use this as a way to gain access to highly talented people. Some pretty big companies such as Facebook also use Hacker Rank to look for talent.
  • Top Coder – Hold regular coding competitions and charge $3500 for companies to be able to access talented people on the platform.
  • Code Chef – A non-profit site that holds regular coding competitions.

With Hacker Rank you can sponsor a competition and put up a prize for whoever wins. You would get access to whoever competes in the competition. You will notice that most of the participants are not in the US. It’s a global world and coders from many countries are interested in competing. You see a lot of competitors from China, India and Russia in particular.

So you’re going to find it difficult if you are looking only for people that live in the US. Also any competition winners in the US likely already have great job opportunities and have probably already been approached by the likes of Facebook and Google.

How to compete with Facebook and Google for amazing developers

It’s hard for a startup that is short on cash to compete with Facebook or Google. Just think about a developer who is offered a job at Google, it’s likely over $100k per year starting salary plus amazing benefits (a chef, masseur at the office and all kinds of other perks). So how can a startup possibly compete for highly talented people?

One way you can attract people is with the vision of your company, if it’s attractive and they feel like they want to be a part of it. You can also attract team members with equity, perhaps offering them to be a co-founder or just offering an equity percentage over a three year vesting period.

Another highly effective strategy is to look where the others are not looking. This means going to countries where Facebook and Google are not hiring. To get access to these people you really also need to be being willing to hire developers that are working from home.

Run your own programming competition (on a super-tight budget)

There is an option to run something of a “competition” without needing a huge budget. This is by using a real-life coding exam and giving it to your job applicants. You draw in talent from a variety of sources (for example LinkedIn, job postings and of course!), then you give each applicant a coding test. It’s not really a programming competition, but it is replicating some of the benefits that you get from running a coding competition.

Designing an appropriate test is difficult. You can get a senior developer to design the test. Or you get the person to work on a problem that is similar to the type of work they will be encountering on the job.

Another option is to use a site such as Interview Street which has an in-built code compiler so that applicants can write the code and you automatically get sent the answers.

These are just a few ideas on how you could creatively run your own programming competitions.

Do you have any other ideas on how to hire superstar coders? Share it in the comments below.

About the Author:

Rob Rawson is a co-founder of, a global recruitment platform where you can access very talented staff at affordable rates. They also have a technology called Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.

Rob resides in Sydney, Australia but can also be found in major cities around the globe, like Paris, Kiev or San Francisco.

Find Rob on Google Plus



  1. John says:

    Try out
    They have quite good skills test and affordable pricing.

  2. Rachana M says:

    I agree to Joe. Small companies prefer testing solution that charges per candidate because of affordability. Try

  3. Joe says:

    coding challenges are great but small companies cannot afford the sponsorship. there is a testing solution that charges per candidate so I think it’s a more affordable, but still efficient, way to test the programming skills of candidates
    ps. the test website is

  4. ahmad says:

    How can i apply for it?

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