Is it still cute to call yourself a Luddite?

The Oxford dictionary defines the Luddite as:

*1.0 Luddite: A member of any of the bands of English workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton and woollen mills, which they believed was threatening their jobs (1811–16).
*1.1 Luddite: derogatory A person opposed to increased industrialisation or new technology e.g. ‘a small-minded Luddite resisting progress’

In 2011 when we founded The Needle, one of the common speculations about video interviewing was that it would only ever suit younger job seekers because they seemed to know how to work technology better than their senior counterparts. In fact, they just had ‘the knack’ and if you were post 40 years old, well you were already on the heap and unable to adapt.

The recruitment business owners I spoke to about video were themselves, often self-confessed ‘Luddites’. They could see the benefits of having candidates on a recorded video straight away but there was no way they would do one themselves. They were convinced that older candidates (like them) would not want to do a video because they too would be in the ‘Luddite camp’. This assumption was of course founded on the basis that people of a certain age were unlikely to learn about technology or use it for that matter. By today’s standards only six years later, this statement appears absurd but in a true British, self-deprecating manner they joked about it keeping the conversation light… almost cute. For me however, this posed a serious question. Will people learn, or did we have to wait for a whole new generation to enter the job market before video would become mainstream?

As per the definitions above, the term ‘Luddite’ has been around for a while. I started to wonder what percentage of candidates these Luddites represented and whether my video interviewing idea would fly because by the sounds of it, if the recruiters were Luddites, how were they going to sell this concept to their candidates? Six years down the line I’m pleased to say I stuck it out because the situation is very different. I believe Luddites will always exist, because technology will always pose a challenge for some people to adapt, but is it still cute to call yourself a Luddite? The answer is no and certainly not in the working environment for a few reasons.

Companies are modernising their infrastructures at a fast-growing pace. A typical company structure could now involve anything from email, messaging, electronic diaries, cloud based intranet and document storage, Apps for staff feedback, Applicant Tracking Systems for recruitment, eLearning and online training, company websites, YouTube Channels, social media, online HR software, procurement systems and cloud based accounting and expenses software. This is not an exhaustive list. Companies are demanding that their staff engage with technology daily, providing solutions to ensure that their staff can manage their attendance and login to be available from literally anywhere at any time, keeping the workforce accessible and mobile. Everyone is expected to contribute to the company’s success in this area. Companies expect their staff to know the basics and this has a bearing on whether they can function or not within the confines of the IT set up which is there to help their company become more efficient and measure everything.  The days of secretaries and personal assistants are being slowly eliminated as managers are given the tools to manage their own diaries and affairs efficiently. Laptops, home working, VPNs and mobile devices are often made available to help them achieve this.

The expectation in the modern working environment is that you will have at least a­ base level of knowledge about how to work hardware and software. If not, it becomes more difficult to employ you. So actually, it’s almost a personal responsibility to make sure you can handle yourself in the technology world.

If companies choose to use technology to recruit with, they are not particularly forgiving if you don’t make an effort to interact in this manner. If you told the modern day recruiter that you didn’t want to do a video because you couldn’t work the technology… you are not off to a good start.

These days my conversations with clients and prospective clients centre around supporting the candidate through the process. At the end of the day you can’t make someone do a video interview but they do need to understand the benefits to them of why you have decided to incorporate something like video into your standard recruitment practices and why technology is important to your company. The Needle also supports candidates in setting up their environments and to be honest, we have candidates from all ages and countries completing videos now so the ‘Luddite’ excuse is disappearing fast.  If that’s in only six years of progress, imagine what the next couple of decades are likely to bring. The inevitable is coming. Luddites beware!