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Can tattoos affect your job prospects?

Posted on 13th January 2016

Millions of people in the UK have a tattoo - including some of the most respectable and/or famous Britons. Everyone from Samantha Cameron and David Dimbleby to Harry Styles and David Beckham has been inked up - and there are countless more examples we could list if we had the time!

But with tattoos being so common these days, it's interesting to note that there's still something of a stigma around them in the workplace. Employers often seem to get nervous when they interview a job applicant with a tattoo, but why is this? After all, surely they will have interacted with people with tattoos before!

A recent study by the University of St Andrews has helped to answer the question, as it suggested they don't personally have an issue with tattoos, but worry their customers might. 

"Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos - what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos," said Dr Andrew Timming of the university's school of management.

"Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be 'abhorrent', 'repugnant', 'unsavoury' and 'untidy'. It was surmised that customers might project a negative service experience based on stereotypes that tattooed people are thugs and druggies."

However, the study revealed that managers were not concerned about those tattoos that can be easily hidden underneath clothing. In fact, some of those surveyed by researchers had concealed tattoos themselves - which reinforces the view that they are not automatically prejudiced against body art.

But nevertheless, it is clear that visible tattoos could be a problem if you want to get your foot in the door in certain industries, particularly those that involve dealing with customers. So if you're inked up and worry that your tattoo might be an obstacle to furthering your career, what can you do?

Ask yourself if it's industry-appropriate

Like it or not, companies such as banks and accountancy firms demand a fairly conservative dress code - so customers in particular won't expect to see body art on employees. Yet it probably wouldn't be frowned upon in a creative sector and many employees will probably be sporting tattoos in this environment. Job candidates must therefore consider the industry they are trying to secure a job in and decide if body art is appropriate and needs to be covered up.

Make it known that you have a tattoo before your interview

An employer might be annoyed if your tattoo is covered up in your interview and you arrive on your first day in short sleeves showing off your body art. It can therefore be worthwhile making it known beforehand and asking what the policy on tattoos in the workplace is before you try getting a job at a certain business.

Being open and transparent has the added benefit of showing you're an honest person who doesn't go around trying to deceive bosses - and knowledge of it stops the tattoo becoming a distraction during your interview.

Interestingly, the University of St Andrews study found that while there is still a taboo around visible tattoos, managers are confident they will gain more acceptance in wider society in the near future. So things might change, but in the meantime, it's certainly worth being mindful of how any body art you have might be perceived and what impact it might have on your career.

For further insights into how to boost your job prospects, speak to our experts here at The Maine Group!