Tattoos and piercings have become commonplace in recent years. About 40 percent of adults under age 40 have at least one tattoo, and the number of older adults who are getting inked for the first time is increasing as well.
With tattoos and piercings so common, is it necessary to keep hiding them during job interviews? Most candidates seem to believe so: According to a Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of those who have tattoos hide them while at work.
Studies are conflicted on the effects of tattoos and body piercings. While one study from the Western Australia Business School found that tattoos didn't stop people from getting hired, another from Colorado State and California State Universities found that hiring and wage biases do exist, and they negatively affect those with tattoos or body piercings.
Some companies don't mind if you show off your body art. Others frown on the practice. Here's how to plan ahead to make a favorable impression on any employer:
Study the Company's Culture
Learning about the company's internal culture is essential for success in any interview, and it can also help you determine whether you'll be able to show your art once you're on the job. If possible, find someone inside the company you can talk to. Tap your professional network or ask your recruiter for help.
Also, don't underestimate the power of the internet. Photos and video from company events can help you evaluate the overall aesthetic of the team and its employees. If tattoos, piercings or creative hairstyles are common in published photos and videos, chances are good the company will embrace your body art as well.
Finally, ask your contact within the company, your recruiter or the company's human resources department whether the company has a policy on tattoos or piercings. Many companies have put their rules in writing, making it easier for you to follow them during the interview and prepare for life on the job.
Evaluate the Role You're Seeking
Your place within the organization will have an effect on how covered the company will expect you to be. For instance, many companies expect that forward-facing roles like customer service and reception will take a more neutral approach to personal style than those who sit in a back office all day.
Consider asking the hiring manager at your interview how much client interaction you're likely to have and in what contexts. For example, will you be talking to customers in person or via video chat? If so, what sort of image should you maintain in order to best represent the company's reputation and brand?
When in Doubt, Cover Up
During an interview, you want the hiring manager to focus on the skills you bring to the company, not on your tattoos or jewelry (no matter how outstanding they are). As a result, it's often best to remove or tone down large piercings and cover up tattoos for the interview itself.
If you have particularly large piercings or tattoos you can't cover easily, consider raising the subject directly during the interview: "Will my tattoos/piercings affect my candidacy for this job?" If the answer is yes, you've saved yourself and the hiring manager some time; if the answer is no, return the focus to how you can benefit the company.
Work With an Ally
Staffing company recruiters can help you navigate the potentially tricky territory of tattoos and piercings. Your recruiter gets to know you as an individual, understanding what you bring to the workplace. They can share this information with potential employers, focusing on what you can do rather than how you look.
If your body art is representative of a certain approach to work or outlook on life, let your recruiter know. Staffing firms thrive on making successful matches between candidates and companies, and a match that isn't a good cultural fit for you won't be a success. Talk to your recruiter about the kind of values and approach to work you're looking for in an employer, so your staffing firm can make a better match.
One thing you should never do? Make assumptions. A laid-back work atmosphere or a younger-looking hiring manager doesn't automatically translate to a love of body art. Find out how tattoos and piercings are really treated within the company's walls, and follow suit.