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(Credit: kuba)

If you’ve taken the step to get a tattoo that everyone can see, you most likely:

  1. Have more than one (tattoo).
  2. Thought a great deal about the ink you chose.
  3. Don’t care whether anyone else likes your ink.

A study from the Pew Research Center finds about 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have a tattoo, and for most who do, “one is not enough, about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more.”

But that body art, while a creative expression for you, might by hurting your chances at getting a new job.

A wide ranging survey in questioned 27-hundred people about how they deal with tattoos in the workplace, how they affect your chances of getting a job and even examined which part of the US accepts tattoos the most.  The findings may surprise you:


76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview. And more than one-third of those surveyed believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Furthermore, 42% feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work.

There’s a big age disparity, as you might imagine, in the findings.  The older you are, the less tolerant you are of tattoos in the workplace.  And of course the rub, those hiring are in large part older than those looking for work.


If you’re wondering what part of the country has the most people with tattoos; that would be the Mountain region (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico) with 16%. The area of the US least likely to have people with tattoos is the West South Central (Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana) with 8%.

Sharon Smedstad works in employment branding and social branding while raising two daughter at home.  She recently got a tattoo that is visible on her ankle and wrote an article on Brazen Life,  sharing suggestions on how to face the job market with tattoos.

If you are interviewing with an organization and you’re unsure of their policy on visible tattoos or piercings, from one tattooed professional to you, err on the side of being conservative. Wear long sleeves or a jacket to cover up arm tattoos, and pants to cover leg or ankle tattoos. If you have a tattoo on the back of your neck and have long hair, wear your hair down. As far as facial piercings go (lip, nose, cheek, chin, eyebrow), consider removing them before your big interview day.

There are plenty of people who cover up their tattoos, remove their piercings and obtain a job only to be surprised when they display their body art (after getting said job) to their new employer’s dismay.  One employer was so frustrated, he consulted with the Fenton Keller law firm asking whether he could “make a rule against tattoos and body piercings in our workplace? I feel it is unprofessional for my employees to exhibit ‘body art’ but it is so common these days that I am not sure if or how I can regulate it.” They suggested this employer implement a grooming and appearance policy:

These types of policies specify what grooming and appearance standards are required while your employees are at work, and can specifically address issues such as untidy clothing and visible body art. For instance, employers are generally free to prohibit visible tattoos and body piercings at work by requiring that tattoos be covered, and that body or other jewelry be limited, or not worn at all.

If you’re looking for work and have tattoos, make sure you ask about and/or read the dress code and grooming guidelines if you’re at all uncertain.  While every company’s guidelines might not be available online, the Future of Working has a great synopsis for what to wear and not to wear on an interview, and you can’t miss this item if you have a visible tattoo.

As much as possible get rid of tattoos and body piercings for these will just make you look untidy and unprofessional.

Dr Andrew Timming of St Andrew’s University School of Management  interviewed recruiters in 14 organizations “including a hotel, bank, city council, prison, university and bookseller to get a broad view of their opinions on tattoos.” He found “most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma.”

You may be scratching your head and thinking that in the year 2015,  employers should be able to decide on a prospective employee with no regard for their body art.  And according to Dr. Timming, that day may be on the horizon.

He did find that the age of the employer or hiring manager greatly influenced their opinion of people with tattoos leading him to offer this glimmer of hope, “tattooed applicants can take comfort in the fact that the stigma associated with body art appears to be on the wane and that, as a corollary, there will likely be an increase in the number of potentially sympathetic tattooed hiring managers.”

So if you’re living through a difficult job search and haven’t yet found Dr. Timming’s ‘sympathetic tattooed hiring manager,’ maybe you’ll have to go along with this grooming guideline I’ve found just about everywhere, “tattoos should be appropriately covered as much as possible,” and go for it.  Or take Sharon Smedstad’s advice:

If you can’t cover your tattoos and the company has a policy against visible ones, there are two options that I can think of: tattoo removal or trying to find a different employer.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Lois’ Living Through It blogs are posted on Mondays and Thursdays.  Join her Monday mornings around 8:45am on Good Day Colorado.