Programming Championships: Fun For Students Or A Way To Get A Dream Job?

5 min


Various organizations and large companies regularly hold programming championships, competitions and olympiads. From the outside, they look like entertainment for students or those who have a lot of free time. And it seems that serious people involved in commercial development have nothing to do at such events.

Indeed, there are purely sports championships where people come to show themselves. And there are others – commercial, where really large sums of money are at stake, offers to well-known IT companies and the possibility of relocation to another country.

We will tell you how to distinguish such commercial championships from sports, who holds such championships and why, and why it is worth participating in them. Even if you don’t plan to change your job yet.


Who holds programming championships and why

“Sports” championships are usually held by various non-profit and government organizations: universities, conferences, communities, etc. For example, Baylor University organizes the world’s largest International Student Programming Olympiad. Large companies in such Olympiads act only as sponsors. Participants in such competitions are usually schoolchildren and students. And they just look at the winners – no one promises to hire them.

Commercial championships are usually organized by IT companies. And not for the sake of entertainment, promoting science or developing the programming community, but with a clear goal – to find new employees. Championships increase the company’s awareness among the community, and, in fact, allow you to conduct a one-time technical interview with dozens of developers at once. Even taking into account the costs of organizing and impressive prizes, it is cheaper than looking for specialists one by one.


Gennady Korotkevich. A source

It turns out that this method of searching for candidates is very convenient for companies. They even came up with a name for it – Hiring event. This phenomenon is not uncommon, quite popular among large companies and startups:

  • In 2019, the Unicorn startup Bolt hosted the championship, which offered cash prizes and relocation to Estonia.
  • IN Google Code Jam the winner receives $ 15,000 and the contestants are looked after for hiring.
  • Facebook regularly holds an international programming competition – there you can win $ 500,000.
  • Huawei also hold a championship with several nominations and cash prizes.

Nikolay Budin, winner of the Bolt Unicorn startup championship:

“Since school, I have participated in programming championships a lot, and after graduation I continued to do it. When I learned about the championship from Bolt, I decided to participate in order to practice and maybe win a prize. The tasks were standard – to write a program that, given the input data, will give a certain result. For me, it turned out to be simple – apparently, experience has affected. As a result, I took second place and received an invitation for an interview in Moscow. I didn’t go because I wasn’t interested in the job, but the offer did come. ”

In Russia, too, they are not lagging behind:

  • Yandex in 2020 conducted Yandex Cup – there were cash prizes and a simplified interview for the top 20.
  • Vkontakte has VK Cup, with cash prizes. The prizes did not say anything about hiring, but the winners said that they received a letter from HR.
  • An event similar to the Olympiad was held by FunCorp – there was a test in the format of an Olympiad problem and an interview in one day, after which they were invited to work.
  • Mail.Ru constantly hold different championships with impressive prizes and promises of offers.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, the championships were worse – some were moved online, some were canceled altogether. We hope that in 2021 everything will gradually improve.


Facebook hacker cup winners

What is the benefit for companies is clear. And what benefit can a professional developer derive for himself, who thinks not about competitions and recognition, but about a career?

Why participate in programming championships

Change jobs and even move to another country. Championships are organized precisely in order to hire new specialists. Therefore, almost always the winners are offered to go through an interview or even get an offer right away. And with relocation – to St. Petersburg, Moscow or another country.

For an experienced programmer, this is an opportunity for 1-2 days jump into Yandex, Mail.Ru or even Google. Faster than trying to go through all the stages of the interview yourself and finally get to hiring.

If you have little experience yet, but you love puzzles and are skilled at solving problems, you will certainly pass at least the selection and show yourself cool in the competition. The offer may not be sent to you, but large companies will take note of you – and maybe in a year or two they will come with an offer

By the way, sometimes they don’t talk about an offer and an interview in the conditions of the championship – they only promise a cash prize. But the winners still receive a cherished letter from HR. Therefore, if the championship is held by a large company, but there is not a word about the offer in the prizes, it is still worth trying to participate – the winners will certainly be invited for an interview.

Test skills and assess yourself. Even if you are not planning to change jobs yet, you can see if you can handle the difficult tasks from large companies. By the way, similar tasks await you in real interviews: we talked about this in articles about the device on Facebook, Reddit, Spotify or Google. So it’s worth taking part in championships at least for the sake of practice.

Get a line in your resume. Even participation in the championship is a good sign for the employer. And the victory in general can become your main trump card. In addition, recruiters are looking at the winners – and when a vacancy opens, they are the first to go.

Win a prize. Some championships have a prize fund: you can win several thousand dollars or expensive equipment.

What to expect from the championship and how to prepare for it

The specific conditions and formats of the championships are always different. But usually the scheme is as follows: Register → go through a simple selection → solve complex problems → get a prize or offer. Sometimes you can solve problems as you like, sometimes they require specific languages ​​or technologies, for example, JavaScript.

Problems are usually those that can be solved quickly, in a few hours. There is a set of input data, they need to be processed somehow in order to get a specific result at the output. Participants are asked to choose an algorithm themselves and write a working code. The quality of the code is also checked – they see who did the “cleaner” than everyone else.

There are entire websites for training in solving Olympiad problems (and those that are waiting for you at interviews in large companies).

On Leetcode, a lot is not clear, but there is tutorial in order of passing tasks and plate by complexity.

Also, such problems from interviews and Olympiads are often analyzed on video. Here are some interesting ones:

Are you interested in championships and want to try your hand or change jobs? If you are writing in JavaScript, you can right now take part in the championship from Yandex via g-mate. And instead of a long complex job placement lasting several months, get an offer from Yandex in one day.


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