Do tattoos have place at interviews?


Would you want this man to operate on you?  I’m guessing that you would be happy if you saw him dressed in the clothes on the left, but not so sure if you saw him in the clothes on the right with all of his tattoos on display!

Recent research by the British Sociological Society found that having tattoos reduce the chance of getting a job.   Of course, it depends where the tattoos are and also the type of job being applied for.  There are many sectors where tattoos are perfectly acceptable, such as music, media, fitness and other creative and artistic careers such as hairdressing and fashion.  Many managers interviewing for the professions would be deterred from recruiting someone with visible tattoos and many companies now have policies on covering tattoos.

Whether we like it or not, first impressions are formed in less than a second and we subconsciously form judgements about each other.  We know at an intellectual level that people should be judged on their qualifications, experience and capability to do a job, but we instinctively form opinions based on our visual impression, hence visible tattoos form part of that initial impression.

The research was carried out by Dr Andrew R Timmins of the School of Management at University of St Andrews.  The findings showed that although the managers themselves were not keen on visible tattoos, they were more worried by what their clients may think.

Interestingly, in some professions it is seen as desirable to have a tattoo.  Prison guards with tattoos have ‘something to talk about’, a way of building rapport with prisoners.

My personal view is that tattoos are a personal expression and very individual.  At interview, it is always good to strike a balance between conforming and standing out and being authentic.  Albeit, if you do opt for a very visible tattoo, just know that it may limit your career choices, particularly if you are being interviewed by someone of an older generation as they will view tattoos less favourably to someone of a younger generation.  I still do not envisage seeing lots of tattoos in the boardroom any time soon!

You can see me being interviewed on BBC Breakfast on Thursday 5th September – you can catch it on the iPlayer.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Membership Director of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

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