A tattooed professional with a background in HR and recruiting tells it like it is.
I’m a tattooed professional working in corporate America.
As a freshman in college, I didn’t think much about how it would affect my chances of becoming employed; I just knew that I didn’t want my new tattoo to be on display all the time. My second tattoo, however, is visible – a dragonfly on my left ankle that shows when wearing a skirt or capris. And, I am jonesing for a third.
But when do tattoos become an obstacle to gainful employment?
A recent cover story from my local Sunday paper, The Morning Call, illustrates how tattoos and stable employment don’t always mix. The article features a college student with several tattoos on her back and at the nape of her neck, along with a number of facial piercings. She’s quoted saying that she “felt discriminated against” because she did not get hired by a local amusement park, specifically because of her visible tattoos. What she’s calling discrimination, the park is calling their policy. And, the reality is that employers can have a policy regarding body art – tattoos, as well as piercings; it’s typically found within the dress code policy.
So what should you do if you’re all inked up?
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.
If you receive an offer and are concerned about your tattoos in the workplace, call your recruiter and ask about the company’s policy on body art. Talk about your tattoos and discuss your options. It may be that your tattoos are a welcome display of personal expression. Or maybe the company doesn’t care much about your tats, but they’ll request that you cover them up while you’re on the clock. 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.
Shannon Smedstad spends her days working in employment branding and social media for a major U.S. auto insurer, and has more than 12 years of HR and recruiting experience. She’s a work@home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, yoga, traveling and her morning coffee. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. (Views and opinions are her own, and not those of her company.)