Tattoos & Piercings in the Workplace

Will a tattoo or piercing keep you from getting a job?

It wasn’t terribly long ago that the perception of the tattooed were that they’re all  sailors or bikers. Today, however, that stereotype has fallen and it seems, so has the workplace tattoo taboo.The average age of the workforce in 2008 was 40.7, according to The New Workforce: Age and Ethic Changes. This means the majority of new workers being hired today are approximately 26-29 years old. With the skilled labor force declining as baby boomers retire, most employers have learned they’ll need to welcome the growing number of tattooed and pierced candidates.

Inked individuals represent a significant part of that population. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 36 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds have at least one tattoo. While 40 percent of adults aged 26 to 40 have at least one.

What does this mean to you? If you’re in the decorated 40 percentile there’s a good chance your next employer has already accepted your body art.

“A decade ago, showing off tattoos and body piercings would be a surefire way to get your resume placed in the ‘No Way!’ pile. But times have changed. Those making today’s hiring decisions are younger and not as adherent to traditional workplace appearance,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas.

Still there are industries that are just not tolerable of tattoos or piercings. It might be some time before you’ll see a tattooed banker, lawyer, accountant or clergy member. Creative fields however, are often open to such expression – and some even welcome it.  Fields like marketing, sales and technology are inclined to be accepting of tattoos, piercings, unnatural hair colors, facial hair and other such “alternative” markers.

Some jobs encourage individuality so much they’ve listed with The Modified Mind: Employment Line, a website that list companies who welcome the inked, the holed or other such  modified potential employees.

Others say that no matter how lax we’ve become there are still prejudices people carry with them.

“While visible tattoos and body piercings have become more acceptable in mainstream society, they can still carry a stigma in the white-collar workplace” said Sue Thompson, a workplace consultant and speaker based in Wilmington, Del. “When you present yourself in the workplace, you need to recognize that people will naturally make a judgment about how you look. You need to look like you mean business.”

If you’re concerned about how you will be perceived during a job interview because of tattoos or piercings follow a few of these tips to get through the process unscathed.

    • Check out the corporate culture of a job before applying or interviewing. If you’re armed with this knowledge you can present yourself in the best light.
    • Target companies that you know hire people like you. Sometimes having a friend or referral within the company can help. If you’ve come highly recommended HR may be willing to overlook tattoos or piercings.
    • Cover it up. Many people feel having a body art is part of who they are but if your field forbids visible tattoos keep it discreet. Without a job who’ll pay for your next big piece of art?