Think Before You Ink: Do Tattoos Hurt Job Prospects?

By Jamie Weissman

When University Career Center Director Kelley Bishop is helping students prepare for job interviews, he usually begins by having students define their career goals. From there, he says, he is able to help students better determine how they should present themselves in regards to clothing, tattoos and piercings.

“You have to know what the norms are in your field,” Bishop said. “We see a lot of variability in the way not just students dress but the employers.”

Understanding a company’s culture and norms were part of the reason sophomore letters and sciences major Darrin Brown was okay with covering his septum piercing and fourteen tattoos when he worked at Starbucks, whose policy on tattoos has since changed.

Photo courtesy of thetattooery.com

Photo courtesy of thetattooery.com

“ I am a firm believer in self-expression, and I believe that people should always be 100% themselves. But as an adult who is expected to responsibly contribute to society, I think we should realize that there is a time and place for everything…” Brown, who also has pierced ears, said.

Whether or not students choose to display tattoos and piercings at a job interview is a decision Bishop says is entirely up to students.

“You meet the student that says I’ve got tattoos and I was going to wear a shirt where it covers it. I always say it’s your call,” Bishop said. “You need to think about how that will feel if you’re changing your appearance drastically just for an interview.”

According to the Pew Research Center, about 73 percent of people get their first tattoo between 18 and 22 years of age and an estimated 40 percent of millennials, born between the early 1980s and the 2000s have tattoos. In addition, according to USA Today, a survey by Careerbuilder.com said, “31 percent of human resource managers said visible tattoos could have a negative impact on whether to hire someone, but bad breath weighed even heavier in the survey.”

“I have not met too many students who have not thought about this. It’s unusual for a student that expresses a greater creativity to be attracted to a highly conservative environment,” Bishop said. “I think if you’re going to be in a public, visible role where you’re promoting the service or the product, there’s probably an expectation of a more conservative dress.

Although Brown now works for a company that he says “expects their employees to express themselves through personal style”, he says he does not feel his body art has affected his previous job opportunities and is okay with having a more conservative appearance for an interview.

“I don’t think it’s so much ‘changing for the job’ as it is just picking your battles,” he said. “Yes, tattoos and piercings are becoming less taboo in the work place, but would you rather be a martyr for the cause or have a good job and be able to continue to pay for those amazing tattoos that you love so much?”

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