The Tattoo Debate: Still Raging On?

This post was written by Justin Zuniga, Careerplug’s sales & marketing intern. 

Today’s society has widely accepted tattoos as part of our culture, but the question still remains- where does body art fit within the workplace? There is still a big divide to whether or not body art is accepted in professional fields.



The Facts


In Favor:  

The facts don’t lie and today’s employers are realizing that a candidate’s physical appearance does not equate to all of their skill. Tattoos have become a permanent part of our culture, just as they are a permanent part of someone’s skin. Recently, the army has even shifted ideologies on tattoos and now allows hand and neck tattoos.  They realized that tattoos have no direct impact to the overall operational effectiveness.

Besides the army, many other large companies have embraced body art, including Whole Foods, Google, Target, Barnes & Noble, IKEA, and UPS to name a few. The acceptance of tattoos cultivates a more positive company culture and atmosphere by allowing employees to be themselves and demonstrate a sense of diversity and inclusion.On the hiring of a Sporting Goods Vice President candidate with tattoos, the hiring manager commented, “If I’d passed on her because of her tattoos, I’d be out one phenomenal employee.”


Against the Ink:

“You’re never getting hired with that tattoo!” is something every teenager or young adult has heard.  This saying was true, but holds less weight in the contemporary workplace. Deciding to hire a candidate based off physical appearance varies and is ultimately the decision for hiring manger to make. Even though there has been a shift in embracing tattoos, many companies still choose to hire the more “professional looking” candidate (this line is crossed, of course, when managers take into account gender, race, or any other of your protected rights as part of “looking professional”).

This could be the product of a generational shift, but some companies maintain their hiring practices of employing non-inked candidates, or requiring employees to cover up at all times while at work. Many businesses such a hospitals and medical institutions require employees to “cover up” so that they may remain a symbol of professionalism when interacting with patients.  Aside from these companies believing in strict professionalism, other arguments for being against tattoos in the work force include actual empirical studies linking tattoos with deviant and rebellious behavior. According to the study from Texas Tech University, people with inked skin are more prone to carry weapons, partake in drugs and become incarcerated. The bias is stronger for people with larger tattoos, or when there are multiple, as said by Jerome Koch, a researcher at Tech.


With new social norms of the twenty-first century and an even tougher job market, employers are less likely to turn down a candidate with expertise due to a few inked markings. Before requesting laser tattoo removal, Meredith Haberfeld, an executive career coach suggests, “a good rule is to keep it covered in your interviews and even during your first few weeks in your job until you get a sense for the culture of the workplace and employer.” If you’re an employer interviewing a tattooed candidate, use the resume and experience as an indicator for qualification.

For more hiring articles and tips, follow us on Twitter @CareerPlug

Justin Zuniga is CareerPlug’s sales and marketing intern.  

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