Could Tattoos Make Tough Job Search Even Tougher?


While certain areas of the economy are showing signs of recovery, the pace of job creation remains brutally slow. The job market remains extremely competitive with more than 14.5 million out-of-work Americans vying for employment. As job seekers try to find new ways to stand out from the crowd, some are undoubtedly asking themselves if their tattoos and body piercings are helping them stand out but in a negative way.

Workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., says while some employers might frown upon conspicuous body art, the practice is becoming so commonplace that companies would be severely limiting the pool of candidates if they rejected everyone with a tattoo or nose ring.

“Employers’ anti-tattoo stance probably softened considerably during the labor shortages of the late 1990s. Today, even in this tight job market, most companies are not going to view tattoos too harshly. One reason is that with everyone from soccer moms to MIT computer science graduates sporting tattoos, preconceptions about tattooed individuals are no longer valid. Secondly, and more importantly, companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate,” said Challenger.

Indeed, employers might have a difficult time finding candidates without some type of body embellishment. Overall, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that as many as 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. A 2010 Pew Research Center report on Millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) revealed that 38 percent have tattoos. Tattooed Gen Xers aged 30 to 45 were not far behind at 32 percent.

Despite concerns of how potential employers and others might perceive tattoos and piercings, a surprisingly large percentage do not make any efforts to conceal them. While the majority of people keep their tattoos covered, the Pew Research study found that 30 percent of tattooed Millennials have their body art on full display for the public. Additionally, nearly one in four (23 percent) Millennials have a piercing somewhere other than the ear lobe.

“Two decades ago, showing off tattoos and body piercings would be a surefire way to get your resume placed in the ‘No Way!’ pile. Times have changed. Those making the hiring decisions are younger and not as adherent to traditions about workplace appearance,” said Challenger.

“There are definitely certain industries where more conservative standards of appearance persist. We may never see visible tattoos on bankers, lawyers, accountants or the clergy. However, areas such as advertising, marketing, sales and technology are more inclined to be progressive and more accepting of new fashion and lifestyle trends,” said Challenger.

“As a job seeker, you have to judge whether the employer you are interviewing with is going to be accepting of your body art. If that is not the case, and that is where you really want to work, then you will have to make an effort to conceal your tattoos and take out your piercings,” said Challenger.

“The best way to determine if body art is acceptable is by asking someone, preferably not the person you are to meet. However, if you know someone else at the company or if you have established rapport with a secretary or receptionist, you can ask that person,” Challenger advised.

Challenger offered some additional advice on issues that could come up for young job seekers steeped in the latest fashion and youth-oriented trends:

Tattoos: Show them off, unless they are offensive, in which case you should plan on concealing it in the interview and even after getting the job. The other time you would want to conceal your tattoos is if you know that a certain employer would frown upon such decorations.

Piercings: Beware! With increased security at many corporate offices, too much bling could set off metal detectors. You do not want to be late to the interview because you were forced to remove 12 body piercings at the security desk. In addition to the security issue, too many piercings might be a distraction for the interviewer and could hurt your chances. Also, it would be prudent to remove tongue and lip piercings, as these often make it difficult for others to understand what you are saying.

Cell phones: Cell phones have no place in the job interview. They should be turned off and stashed away in a bag or briefcase. Imagine being in the middle of answering an interview question and your personalized ring tone featuring the latest hip-hop anthem interrupts. Even on vibrate, a cell phone going off can be a major distraction in the interview.

Portable Music Players: Although it seems that everyone has them attached to their pocket, purse or hip, keep the iPods at home. If co-workers see you with ear buds in your ears all day long, they will assume you are not listening, and possibly not working very hard.

Dress for the Job You Want: The old adage is still true today. Upper management will be likelier to recognize you if you begin to dress and groom yourself professionally. They may see it as taking initiative or acting as a role model for the office.


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