Years ago if you had an interview for a sales position you might decide to cover up your "Born to Raise Hell" tattoo. (Those were big when I was young. And yes, I'm old.) While you obviously felt your tattoo said something about you... in an interview setting you may have decided those sentiments should go unspoken.

(Unless you were trying to land a job at a Harley dealership.)

Now at least one recently published study shows no evidence of meaningful difference in employment levels or pay between people with or without tattoos. That was true whether tattoos were visible or not, and whether a person had one tattoo or many. In fact, even the respondents who described their own tattoos as "offensive" felt they suffered no employment or economic disadvantage.

That's how it should be.

Unfortunately, another recently published study found that hiring managers prefer that candidates not have tattoos. Applicants with extreme tattoos were seen as less competent and committed than those without body art.

And it gets worse: If hiring managers do offer people with tattoos or body piercings a job, they tend to start them at a lower salary. 

Interestingly, less experienced hiring managers were less likely to hire applicants with extreme tattoos, while those with more experience were not as likely to "penalize" applicants for having tattoos.

Makes sense: The more experienced you have, the less likely you are to judge an employee book by its cover. (I'm also old enough to have made that transition. Decades ago a candidate with a full sleeve or an extensive neck tattoo might have given me pause; now I don't feel tattoos say anything about you other than that you like tattoos.) 

On the flip side, a hiring manager with a number of tattoos or piercings is less likely to hire a candidate who does not have tattoos or piercings.

So yeah: It kinda goes both ways. Even though tattoos have become, as some prominent tattoo artists say, more fashion statement than social statement, different people respond differently.

Some judge tattoos negatively.

Some don't care either way.

Others see having tattoos as a positive.

And some people are smart enough to know that whether you choose to have tattoos -- just like the clothes you choose to wear -- has nothing to do with your knowledge, expertise, work ethic, and ability to get things done.

What you look like doesn't matter.

What you can do is what matters.

What do you think? If you have tattoos and are going on interviews, do you try to cover them up? And if you're hiring, does the presence or absence of tattoos or piercings affect your decision in any way?

Published on: Aug 31, 2018
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