It's also getting easier for businesses to screen potential employees. Job candidates need more than a resume and references. They need to demonstrate skills that solve real problems. Concern for unemployed graduates from good schools led Keaton Swett, Trent Hazy and Rohan Puranik to form MindSumo. MindSumo is funded by angel investors and seed money from Google Ventures. Google provides design, user experience and engineering support to startup teams.
MindSumo enables students and recent graduates to prove their worth by solving challenges offered by hiring companies. Kayak, Box and the Smithsonian Magazine are using the service. About 80 percent of the challenges are for computer scientists, engineers or scientists.
Recology, a San Francisco garbage collection and recycling company, came to MindSumo seeking ideas for recycling waste glass. Selling it for glassphalt (asphalt that uses crushed glass) and shipping it to artists were just two of the many suggestions resulting from MindSumo's contest. Total prize value was $500. Recology showcases an Artist in Residence program that provides Bay Area talents with studio space and discarded materials for their creations. Facebook offered $200 each to of five winners to come up with a way to display mobile ads. Winners came from Stanford, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and MIT.
MindSumo wants to control the quality of challenges and build relationships with companies. Prize websites have been criticized for exploiting labor by not paying all entrants. They've also been lauded by students for giving them a chance to prove their worth and by employers for introducing them to productive candidates, affordably and quickly. MindSumo usually gives five to 10 prizes for each challenge, at two levels: Winners and Honors. Merely entering a contest can improve a student's chances of getting hired, for the employer can see his contributions, even if they are not prize-winning.
InnoCentive offers prizes, typically in the thousands of dollars. Google is celebrating its 10th year of Google Code Jam (registration starts March 12th), which started with a $10,000 prize that has now been raised to $15,000. Kaggle offers great challenges for data scientists. As MindSumo grows, I suspect its prize money will increase. Being able to perform well in a contest is becoming a pre-requisite for getting hired.
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