Tattoos and piercings are very slowly becoming more acceptable as an art form and a mode of self expression. Thirty years ago, only 1 in 100 people had a tattoo. Now, the number is closer to 1 in 10. They are especially common in metropolitan cities like LA or New York. As such, companies too are becoming more lenient when it comes to hiring people who have them. But there is no general rule of thumb—it really depends on the industry or individual company.
For instance, if a company tells you that tattoos or piercings are not allowed in the office space, then that is their right to do so. The law protects you from discrimination against things like race, religion or gender, but tattoos and piercings are fair game. Therefore, if you have them or are thinking of getting them, it is important to know the general policies of the industry or company you work at or are applying for. Do your research. If you are an artist or graphic designer, it is more likely that your tattoos will be seen as “no big deal” than if you were applying for a job in sales or retail. Take Starbucks, for instance. They do not allow their baristas to show tats or piercings. Like any food/retail company, they are concerned with how their employees will cause the brand to be perceived. In their case, they are striving for a crisp and clean-cut image. They want the coffee—and not their workers’ appearances—to do the talking.
In a recent survey, 60 percent of employers said they are less likely to hire a candidate with tattoos or piercings. In today’s society, there is still an “old school” stigma attached to them. Some people still associate them with criminals, gangsters, or bikers. Whereas you might view them as a colorful form of self-expression, your hiring manager might see it as a sign of rebelliousness. In any situation, it is smart to cover up the tats and remove the jewelry before an interview—even if it is not necessary. You want the hiring manager to focus on your strengths and personal attributes, and not on your “flair,” or the way you look. Your best move is to wear long sleeve shirts, and to remove your piercings the night before the interview.
On the other hand, the times are a-changing. While some employers dislike body art, others are embracing it. If you are pursuing a job in an artistic career, or one where you don’t have to interact with clients, then you are less likely to have problems. In any case, it is each company’s individual right to set their own rules and policies, and you have an obligation to abide by them. If you have tattoos and piercings or are thinking of getting some, then do your research so that you have an understanding of how they will affect your career.
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