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Tattoos and Job Interviews

As you can see by simply looking around you in a public place, tattoos have become common. Few people give them a second thought, although this wasn’t always the case.

Tattoos were originally associated with gangs, bikers, drugs, and prison. In fact, the link between tattoos, gangs, and prison is still strong in many people’s eyes, especially for tattoos on the neck and face.

That said, this thinking is now outdated. How tattoos are viewed is changing in many companies as well as society in general.

Studies now show that 40% of people under the age of 30 have one tattoo or more, with 70% having more than one. Clearly, tattoos are now considered an acceptable personal fashion statement.

Of course, the acceptability of tattoos, generally speaking, is inversely proportional to age!

The big question when it comes to looking for a job is whether or not the growing social acceptance of tattoos has spread to the interview room and how are they perceived by Hiring Managers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this and the best I can tell you is that…it depends.

You Have a Tattoo and an Interview – Now What?

I know it’s tempting to adopt the attitude that you don’t want to work for any company that judges you based on your tattoos, rather than accepting you as you are. This is certainly your right and, even though I’m a Hiring Manager myself, I don’t disagree with this.

Just bear in mind that it may make it harder for you to find a job.

A tattoo that looks cool to your friends can look like a reason not to hire you. Especially if the Hiring Manager is older and/or it’s a conservative company or industry.

This is an old-fashioned attitude and is changing in many companies, but the fact remains that even today there is a large percentage of employers who view tattoos as being unprofessional. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that employers will penalize you in the interview if you have a tattoo.

However, a survey done by Business Insider showed that 40% of employers ranked tattoos as the third most likely physical feature to negatively impact an interview.

An even more detailed survey of 325 employers was performed by the website, specifically asking how a tattoo affected to hire someone. Here’s what it showed:

  • 13.9 % reported that tattoos decreased the chances of hiring that person
  • .31 % (less than 1%) stated that tattoos increased the chance they would hire someone
  • 22.0 % said it would not affect the hiring decision
  • 35.1% said the type of position would determine whether or not tattoos affected the hiring decision
  • 28.0% said it depends on the number and location of the tattoos

In the worst-case scenario, these numbers indicate that about 78% of these employers will be less likely to hire someone with a tattoo.

As you might expect, other studies show that managers over the age of 60 were the most likely to consider tattoos inappropriate at work. The good news is that 80% of managers under 30 feel that tattoos are perfectly acceptable.

Sort of leaves you in limbo, doesn’t it? But it’s not as confusing as it looks.

Jobs That Are Less Accepting of Tattoos

Here are the types of jobs for which tattoos are likely to be an issue. By and large, these are all conservative industries.

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Investments
  • Law firms
  • Healthcare
  • Teachers
  • Hospitality (in public-facing positions)
  • Many government organizations

Many of these jobs are office jobs, which in general tend to be more conservative.

Jobs That are More Accepting of Tattoos

In contrast, here are the jobs and industries for which tattoos tend to not be an issue and in some cases can even enhance your chances of getting a job.

  • The trades – e.g. construction, plumbing, electrical, etc
  • Most other blue-collar jobs
  • Trendy jobs such as baristas, bartenders, high fashion clothing stores, cutting edge hair salons
  • Music and media jobs
  • Gyms
  • Many high tech positions, especially in newer or start-up companies. Less so if it’s a public-facing position.

Some experts now even say that tattoos are no longer an issue at all in interviews. My advice to you as a Hiring Manager is it’s best to play it safe and cover up your tattoos when interviewing. This advice may change in a few years, based on current trends, but many companies today still consider tattoos to be unprofessional.

How to Hide Your Tattoos When Interviewing

It’s important to remember that first impressions have a huge impact on job interviews. You want the focus to be on your experience, skills, and accomplishments – not on the way you look. The time to reveal your tattoos is after you’re hired, not before.

Of course, if your tattoos don’t show there’s no reason to worry about them!

If they do show, there are several things you can do to hide them or at least minimize their appearance.

  • If on your arms, simply wear a shirt or top that has long sleeves.
  • If on your legs, wear long pants (both men and women).
  • If on your feet, wear closed shoes. Actually, you should always wear closed shoes.

When tattoos are on your hands, neck, or face, it becomes more of a challenge.

Jewelry can be used to cover hard-to-hide areas. For example, a large bracelet or watch for your wrist. Some neck tattoos can be concealed by longer hair (less of an option for men, of course).

Makeup can also be used quite effectively for those areas impossible to otherwise conceal. It’s best to have this done professionally, as a poor job can draw more attention to that area. The downside is you’ll need to have this done each time you interview and that can get expensive.

For more detailed instructions about how to hide your tattoos, go to If your budget doesn’t have room for a professional makeup job to hide your tattoos, this site has good instructions for how to do it yourself.

The Bottom Line for Tattoos

If you can, hide them. Job interviews are hard enough without adding one more potential issue.

If you can’t hide them, pretend like they aren’t there. Don’t apologize for them and don’t proudly point them out. Like your clothes, you don’t want to draw attention away from your skills and experience.

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