In past decades, tattoos were something to be concealed primarily by blue collars in the workplace. The sight of some ink on the skin in an office setting might inspire double takes and hushed chatter around the water cooler

And as for interviews, dressing for success meant making sure all your tats were covered up. Sorry Mr. Forehead Tattoo, we're just not sure you're a good fit for the position.

But new research suggests that employers, managers and hiring supervisors are a lot less judge-y than they once were when it comes to body art. In fact, in a rather stunning reversal, tattoos may actually now give job candidates an edge.

"The long-held stigmas associated with having tattoos, and particularly visible ones, may be eroding, especially among younger individuals who view body art as a natural and common form of personal expression," said the Miami Business School's Michael French, co-author of a study published in the journal Human Relations.

"Given the increasing prevalence of tattoos in society - around 40 percent for young adults - hiring managers and supervisors who discriminate against tattooed workers will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the most qualified employees."

The study involved a survey of 2,000 participants from all 50 U.S. states. It found that even visible tattoos are not linked to individual employment, wages or earnings discrimination. Tattooed job hunters also had just as great a chance, and sometimes a better chance, of getting hired than the inkless (but probably not as a flight attendant: sorry).

The paper provides a long overdue update to previous research that found hiring managers perceived tattooed people to be less employable.

This seems in line with a trend I first noticed 20 years ago, during the first dot-com boom. At the time I was still in college and had managed to get through my adolescence without ever learning to tie a tie. 

When I took a job in Silicon Valley a year later, it seemed I might be able to continue my willful ignorance and defiance of the traditional office uniform, because there was no longer such a uniform there. 

Remarkably, two decades later I still can't tie my own tie and my career hasn't suffered for it. Or maybe it's just because my tattoo was making up the difference. 

Published on: Aug 16, 2018
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