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ResumeBear: Should Tattoos Stop You From Getting Hired?

ResumeBear: Should Tattoos Stop You From Getting Hired?

A tattoo of a giant iguana curling up her chest had seemed like a good idea when she was younger.

“We were 18, and we really liked lizards,” says Kaylie, now 26. “It wasn’t a mistake, but at a certain point it didn’t fit with who I was anymore.”

Kaylie (who asked that her last name not be used) got her tattoo while on a celebratory beach trip with friends following high school graduation. Although three of her friends still sport the matching iguanas they chose to symbolize their friendship, Kaylie recently made the decision to have hers removed for an upcoming wedding and to improve her job prospects.

“I was tired of wearing turtle necks to job interviews, and I didn’t like the way the more closed-minded people judged me just because I had a tattoo,” she says.

After spending more than $2,000 on laser treatments to have her ink removed, Kaylie is now tattoo-free on her chest and lower neck. Although she still has more than 10 tattoos elsewhere on her body, she says having one removed is not something she would do again.

“It was painful, and it was way more expensive than the actual tattoo. I’m definitely keeping the others that I have. I like them, and they’re not in such obvious places,” she says.

It’s a story that repeats itself a thousand times a day, says Dr. Glenn Messina, tattoo removal specialist and owner of Messina Esthetic Medicine in Commack, New York.

“They’re getting held back,” Messina says of individuals with tattoos. “I have worked with some extremely intelligent people—lawyers, doctors, accountants, nurses, and I see them as nice people, but society doesn’t embrace them.”

In the last two years, Messina says his tattoo removal business has increased by 15% due to increased interest in going ink-free.

“I have heard from most all of my clients that they’re being discriminated against in the workplace and they can’t find work. Even when it’s a beautiful tattoo, a lot of employers don’t like it,” he says.

In a study conducted by The Patient’s Guide, the number of tattoo removal procedures grew by 32% from 2011 to 2012. At 40%, the majority of people having tattoos removed cited “employment reasons” as their motivation for having the procedure. Other reasons included the removal of the name of a former spouse or partner, a change of beliefs, and being unhappy with the appearance of the tattoo.

“Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, only bikers and social outcasts were the ones who had tattoos,” says Craig Libis, CEO and Managing Partner at Executive Recruiting Consultants, a national search firm based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. ”Today, more people have tattoos so it is becoming more mainstream, but unfortunately they still carry that stigma from years past.”

Libis’ recruiting firm deals extensively with companies in the banking and finance sectors, and he says that across the board, those companies do not hire people with visible tattoos.

“If we send out anyone with a visible tattoo on their face, neck or hands, I guarantee they won’t get hired,” Libis says. “The client isn’t going to say, ‘We didn’t hire them because of their tattoo,’ but I’m almost positive that’s the reason. No one really wants to see a dragon coming out of your ear.”

The sad truth is that a tattoo doesn’t have to be offensive to be distracting, says Andy McCall, practice leader at the staffing and executive search firm McCall & Lee in Dallas.

“If you walk into a job interview with a tattoo, the first thing people will think is, ‘Oh, you have a tattoo,’” says McCall. “What they should be thinking is, ‘Oh, you’re nice,’ or ‘Oh, you’re qualified.’ Basically, your tattoo is distracting them from all of your wonderful qualities. Even if you don’t have a skull and crossbones on your face, any ink gives them something else to focus on besides your skills and personality, and that’s never good.”

Individuals without tattoos are approximately twice as likely to get hired as individuals with body art that can be seen in professional dress, McCall says. If two candidates are equally qualified for the same job and one has a tattoo, nine times out of ten, the candidate without the body art will be hired for the position, he adds. Of course, it depends on the job.

“If you’re applying for a job at a bike shop, a tattoo might set you apart,” McCall says. “But if you want to work in a medical clinic you’d probably better think twice. There is a fine line between having someone think it’s ‘cool’ and having someone wonder, ‘Is this person someone I can count on to mentor me, or is this someone who had a bad streak in life?’”

Individuals thinking of tattoo removal should keep in mind a couple of important things, says Dr. Messina: cost and pain.

“It’s a medical procedure to have it removed; it’s not like hair removal. It’s done with a laser, and it’s not a day at the beach,” he says. “You can figure a removal is going to cost approximately ten times what the tattoo cost to get in the first place.”

On average, tattoo removal sessions cost between $200 and $600 per treatment, Messina says. The average tattoo requires 8 to 9 treatments before it’s completely removed. For a larger tattoo, it’s not out of the question for someone to spend $7,000 on the removal process.

“A black tattoo on the neck could be done in as little as 5 treatments,” says Messina. “But take that same tattoo and put it on the foot, now you’re talking 12 treatments. If it’s something with yellow ink, that’s really hard to get out, and white ink simply won’t come out no matter what you do. Sky blue is another hard one to remove. It seems strange, but the lighter the color, the harder it is to take off.”

Messina says his clients come from all different career fields, and that he sees a lot of patients who have changed jobs or been promoted at work. For example, if a home builder decides to start his own construction company, he’s gone from a behind-the-scenes job to one where he is meeting clients every day.

“People often haven’t thought about the future, and then all of a sudden they’re getting pressure at work,” he says. “It’s a good thing because they’re moving up the ladder, but if they don’t take care of their tattoos, they could be passed over for someone else.”

Today, there’s no doubt that tattoos are taboo in the workplace, says Libis. But whether or not it will always be that way remains to be seen.

“Once the millennial generation is running corporations, perhaps tats could be more accepted. At that point, maybe tank tops at the office will be considered professional and you’ll lead by example with all your artistic ink,” Libis says. “But for now, people don’t want the guy with all the tats on his fingers giving them their injections at the doctor or touching their lettuce and tomatoes.”


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  1. An iguana tattoo seems fine, i dont think it should be judged. But people have to realize that content matters… If you decided to get a big pot leaf on your neck, theyre not being prejudice, you have made part of your lifestyle public.

    Theres a lesson on both ends here: Employeers need not fear ink, and employees need to realize that these are a public statement which people can see. A nice non-offensive tattoo in a concealable place never hurt anyone.

  2. If employers refuse to hire me solely based on my tattoos (I have many), then they are not worth working for.
    People *without* tattoos are just as nice, perverted, criminal, charitable, crooked, honest, murderous, loving, etc, as people *with* tattoos. Obviously many people prefer to keep their brains in their butt when it comes to judging others based on their appearance.
    *I* would hire based on *qualifications*. I would even hire people *without* tattoos, LOL!
    I will not change just because someone doesn’t like the way I look. Their loss, someone else’s gain.

  3. If a person is being hired for a creative position such as a commercial artist or a behind-the-scenes position, tattoos would not be a problem. They are only a problem for prominent positions with the public. Something needs to be done to convince children to consider the repercussions of being tattooed. This can be done on career days or other similar events.

  4. Its stupid prejudices that will stop you, not tattoos

  5. Tina, I can not improve on your sound and logical comments. Play Full Out Angelina Jolie!!

  6. Trevor Cherewka

    Its a tough call. People shouldn’t discriminate at all when interviewing potential employees however in the back of their mind employees represent the brand/company and are usually the first image that clients see.

  7. The way I look at it is,
    You make the choice to be different
    (what ever that may be)
    and the key words here are

    If your not accepted, Please don’t cry discrimination, it’s my right and so on.

    You made the decison to be different by changing. You did not want to be “Normal” whatever that may encompass. Go find a job where your being different is celebrated.

    The employer has the right to run and conduct his/her business in the manner where they will be the most successful.

    They got in business to create money and make a living to support their families not to supply YOU with a job.

    If you don’t like it start your own business and do what “YOU” want.

  8. No. Tattoos have absolutely no bearing on whether or not you can perform the required tasks.

  9. On one hand, I wouldn’t want what I was doing at 18 to be on my skin for all to see, lest I be judged for appearing to be someone I no longer am. But I suspect many of the people defending their right to have a wild tattoo have not lived long enough to see how that ink looks on loose, sagging skin 25 or 30 years later.

  10. Why are employers so easily distracted? Why don’t employers feel they should look for talent, whatever shape or form?

    How supremely pathetic. Sir James Reed says employers agree: they can’t find or curate talent. Unless managers are trained to look, they will continue to make basic error after basic error.

    Employers who can’t focus on the positive, only on a “perceived” negative, are well worth avoiding!!

  11. NO

    But if you have them f.e. in your face or “LOVE” and “HATE” on the fingers, it could be a problem….


  12. Probably if you are a banker….

  13. Ideally no, practically I guess it does.
    What used to be a physical sign is rapidly shifting to the e-world .
    Yesterday’s physical tattoos are now the social media footprint we inadvertently leave behind

    Follow me on @entre2nuages

  14. They shouldn’t stop one from being hired, but I easily understand from an employer view where visible tattoos may not be warranted is certain atmospheres.

  15. It depends upon your job. If you are supposed to interact with the public on very delicate issues, then depending upon what your artwork entails could help or exacerbate the situation. When in doubt, cover them up.

  16. It really does depend on your job, If you are representing the company to the public you must conform to the image that the company is trying to portray. If your tattoos are covered then no problem. If they are visible then depending on what and where they are you may be out of luck.

  17. There are some companies where tattoos and piercings are a plus. Others don’t care. But if the clients are going to feel uncomfortable with a company representative’s appearance, the tattooed person should seek another position. I’ve had a pierced ear since the 70s. People have remarked on that. I thought about getting a tattoo of the Drupal symbol Druplicon, but then I would be ineligible for burial in a Jewish cemetery (something you should consider when thinking about getting inked).

  18. I’ve done recruiting and the bias for or against hiring someone with a visible tattoo depends on the organizational culture.

  19. I wouldn’t personally judge someone who has tattoos for a job, but it is the businesses decision to do so.

  20. I agree with the general feeling above that no.. they shouldn’t… but yes… they probably do if your job has top do with face to face contact with the general public.
    The siting of the tattoo is obviously important too… you can have what you want on your butt if you aren’t a model, I guess… and anything on your face if you are a hired thug… depends.

  21. I have tats. I actually even have a blacklight tat. And yet, sometimes I think that it should have an impact on whether or not you get the job. It’s a matter of keeping your personal life separate from your business life. A tat might be an indication to an employer that you don’t know the boundaries between personal and business.

  22. I don’t think anyone would argue that a tattoo is a disqualification for employment. And each of us has find a way to to make our own mark of uniqueness if we are to be happy as an individual. That said, I do think that young people should think carefully about their appearance as they prepare to enter the workforce. Facial piercings, over-the-top clothing and exotic hairdo’s, etc. can be a distraction that can cause some work colleagues, employers and potential clients from paying more attention to your physical appearance than to you actual abilities.

  23. No tattoos should not be the deciding factor for you getting a job.

  24. For a front-line, customer facing position, I would be reluctant to hire someone with visible tattoos simply because of the stigma. There are jobs where visible ink or piercings are acceptable and there are jobs where they are not.
    I don’t wear an earring when doing trade-shows or sales calls precisely because of the distraction factor. When I used to do general aviation industry events I would sometimes wear an aviation themed earring (propeller or airplane) but never when doing a military or fire service show.
    The simple truth is that different audiences have different standards. I wouldn’t wear a coat and tie at most fire service trade shows and I wouldn’t wear anything less than coat and tie doing most military shows.
    For the record, I don’t have any ink. I have considered it a few times but always in a location that wouldn’t be visible while wearing long pants and a short sleeved dress shirt.

  25. Um, Bob, just as I clicked the comment button…

    It looks like your comment form included the last post on my website. Smart form. I didn’t realize that’s what that little check box was doing underneath my comment. Heh. Sorry about that. Certainly wasn’t intentional.

    *unchecks last blog post* ;)

  26. Isn’t this a form of discrimination? Same thing with piercings, unique hair stylings, etc…

  27. I have a tattoo, but it is on the top of my right foot so I can hide it easily.

    I can understand why some companies would think it could hamper that “first impression,” but it can also be a gateway for better client/employee relationship…IF the person is actually highly qualified and is “nice.”

  28. I look at tattoos not only as a form of art, but a way of self-expression using your body as the canvas. Unfortunately, perception is key when it comes to an organization and/or any of the clients that they serve. I think that if you can cover it up, it shouldn’t be an issue. If the piece is located in an area that can’t be concealed (face, hands, etc.), then the person in-question may not only be judged based on their personal choices, but as an extension of the company as a whole. It’s a reactionary way of looking at things unfortunately.

  29. I think it depends on the job, but thinking a tattoo won’t affect how others (like the hiring manager) see you is a big mistake. If you’ve covered yourself in tattoos, best apply for a job where it’s considered an asset, because it cannot and will not be ignored.

  30. You could pose this query with any of dozens of other “personal lifestyle choices” – piercings, hair-styles, apparel, recreational drug use – and the answer would remain the same – yes. These “personal choices” are not the same and should not be treated the same as gender, race, skin-colour, ethnicity, religion, creed which are protected from discrimination in employment.

  31. I have never had a tattoo but have many friends who have. Some now regret what they did back in the day, but in general i feel if they are done tastefully there is not a problem.As for effecting job prospects well i don’t think it makes a lot of difference.

  32. the majority of companies are conservative – Tattos do not meet conservative standards.

    It would been interesting to see a marketing rep at Verizon with love hate tattoo on his fingers.

  33. I ve listened my father ,who was very upset about his tatoo – and I decided to not make the same mistake and I ve no tatoo at all

  34. Depends from what kind of job it is. An actor can have a tattoo but a cooking Chef in a morning t.v. program for house wifes with little kids is criticized.

    Personal I wouldn’t.

  35. It depends on the employer and employment. Some businesses are conservative and or have an image that they are promoting and or branded and a person with skin art, may not be the image that the business wants to project.

    I get comments about my hair which is long, but, neat and it’s 2012 and long hair on men can still be a problem, dude.

  36. visible tattoos at interviews say something about you, whether it’s what you want to say or not is up to you, at the end of the day it’s your skin and your choice but without doubt it will effect your chances of getting a job with some people, I always look at it like this, if they don’t take me because I’m fat, old bearded, tattooed, whatever then I’ve had a lucky escape :)

  37. In today’s society, unlike years ago, I think tatoos have become more accepted. I believe in the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” However, occasionally the cover can reflect ignorance! Such as; the lack of knowledge as to the purpose of tatoos, location and extent of tatoo, and the statement the tatoo is making.

    In many jobs, employers hire intelligence and if the body screams ignorance…this can be hard to overlook. Professionals are expected to dress for the job, tactfulness in body art should also be tactful.

  38. Inevitably, first impressions are important at an interview. If you were once stupid enough to have an oversized ugly tatoo … bad luck!

  39. Not in my opinion

  40. I personaly do not have any tatoos and to be honest, I do not really like them.

    But I would not measure people on tatoos, as long as they are not really anoying…

  41. It’s rather unfortunate that companies discriminate in this way. Just because someone has a tattoo doesn’t mean they can’t do the job better than an ink-free person.

  42. I think that the most important thing is to have knowledge and qualifications for work. Does someone have a tattoo or not thats irelevant for me.

  43. tattoos are deemed inappropriate in some professions, whilst the wearing of collar and tie/ skirt n blouse in some professions is also a must. It is just attitudes, and in a perfect world should make no difference, but it does.

  44. Tattoos don’t make a good impression in business and if it’s between someone with a tattoo and someone without then it may cost that person a job.

  45. I don’t like tattoo, that is my opinion, but when I am a Boss, I don’t seek people for the job, based on she/he has tattoo or not, but seek his/her capacity to do the job.

  46. Depends on the job. The mindset of “I can do what I want” or “Don’t judge me” is hypocritical – they judge others and do not want others to be able to do what they want when these others decide not to hire the person with the tattoo

  47. Not necessarily……It depends on traits and qualifications….

  48. The post says it all – depending on the nature of the business, yes, it might be an obstacle on the way to a great job even though nobody might not mention anything..

  49. At 18 years old, right out of Army basic training, I got a tattoo of a hawk on my upper arm. Now in my late 40′s, I still don’t regret the ink but it can be covered even by a short sleeve shirt. Every now and then the tattoo seems to ‘lift’ off the skin and I’ve been told that’s due to the use of mercury in the ink back in those days. That’s a little concerning, giving what we know about mercury in our bodies now.

    I feel I’m very open-minded yet I find myself wondering what others were thinking when I see their appearance. It’s not just that people are being discriminated against in the workplace; we’re being judged by society when in public. Right or wrong, we judge a stranger by appearance and what little action we’re exposed to. That’s human nature. Few will deny that we get a small glimpse of someone’s personality by tattoos and piercings. A couple of tasteful tattoos doesn’t phases me and many times I think they look pretty cool. When someone goes to the extreme and covers themselves in large or borderline offensive tattoos, I find myself wondering what kind of emotional troubles they have to do that to themselves.

    I’m not a psychologist but I would be surprised if there wasn’t a lot of data supporting the idea that many people that have gone to the extreme when it comes to tattoos are struggling with emotional issues. Wow, that statement might get me into trouble, you think? lol

    It may seem judgmental to make these assumptions but if I’m the one doing the hiring and the first thing I notice is a sign of identity crises or even possible emotional instability, the applicant now has a hurdle to get over before convincing me I’m wrong. It’s really no different than showing up for an interview dressed improperly or unprepared.

  50. Do I think a visible tattoo SHOULD stop you from getting a job? No. Do I understand WHY they do? Yes.

    I agree with the person in the article that says a neck or face or hand tattoo is distracting. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with the person, it is just what you see first. It is the same thing if someone is wearing crazy makeup or something ill-fitting or revealing to an interview. First impressions are key and we can decide what we want people to see first.

  51. Good question!.

    I think part of the rise in tattoo removal for employment opportunities is a direct result of increased competition in the job market due to the economic downturn. When 20 people are going after 1 job, a visible tattoo, unfortunately, gives the employers an easy way to check one more perfectly capable job seeker off the list.

    As a management consultant, myself, I’ve had some resistance with clients regarding my appearance. I have longish hair and sport a distinctive van dyke beard. I’ve overcompensated by wearing “power suits.” I feel the combo has actually aided me in that I can truly distinguish myself and provide an instant brand to my persona. While, quite frankly, a poorly done tattoo in a highly visible spot might indeed close doors for someone, I do believe that resisting a “cookie-cutter” corporate sellout look can actually be beneficial.

  52. I personally can’t stand tattoos. But I’ve always tended to have long hair, which used to be about the same suicide note in the jobmarket.

    Whether people shouldn’t be hired over tattoos is something I can’t answer, in general. If it were me hiring people, it would depend on the position being filled: someone meeting with the public should probably look fairly normal; someone frying eggs or coding software in the back could look as weird as he likes.

    But I can’t speak for other companies. Requiring places to hire underqualified people through quotas based on discrimination laws has always been a bad idea.

  53. I think that those with tattoos should understand that PERCEPTION is REALITY. They should assume that tattoos may limit their success in an interview – and take steps to cover them.

    Employers should understand that tattoos are a means of expression – and have nothing to do with the skill level or potential productivity of the potential employee.

    Once an employee can prove themselves in a position – the tattoo issue is a non-issue.

    Everyone should be smart…and open minded!

  54. Depends on the job level

    Apart from some natural traditions tattoos were only known in the Western world on skins of convicted criminals, idlers and day laborers.

  55. Tattoos should not affect getting hired ad they have nothing to do with job performance.
    Regards, Lenore #goodnreadytogo

  56. I recently just got a tattoo, but I waited for years and years to figure out what I wanted. Honestly, it shouldn’t impede someone’s ability to get hired, but just like every other opinion in the world, everyone has one, but doesn’t mean it’s right! Could not getting hired because of a tattoo be considered discimination??

  57. The stigma is definitely out there. Generally there is no problems with easily hidden ones. The overt statement generally causes problems and employers do not want to risk customer relationships.

  58. Michelle Gilstrap

    I have recently met someone who used to be in the music industry when he was young. He has tats on his neck and arms, and he is now having the removed. He has encountered people who don’t want to hire him, because of them.
    It is hard to hide as many as he has, and he now realizes he needs to remove them.

  59. Like it or not, our society values appearances. Some of the same things can be said for men with long hair, facial hair, weight, and clothing choices. Unfortunately, the visible tattoo is something that is not easily removed. Certain jobs will probably never allow those visible tatoos.

  60. I worked in the office about two years before I saw my co-worker’s tattoo peaking out from her short sleave. It is a tasteful tattoo, and she is a great co-worker, but she is also very aware that not everyone appreciates this type of expression of individuality.

  61. When I was younger I used to feel very strongly that people should accept me for who I am. That’s a good sentiment in some respects.

    It was put to me, though, that this was an attitude that was more about me than about others, and that our appearance to others says something about our respect for others.

    Now, that’s a bit simplistic, and it depends on the situation, and anyway things change over time.

    Most of us don’t want to go out to a restaurant to be served by someone who looks like he just arrived on a Harley. That reveals that we do have some expectations about how we think people should appear.

    This is especially important in business. Remember, your boss is trying to earn money. You could complain all you want about your freedom of expression, or about your appearance having nothing to do with your skills – and maybe your boss doesn’t care all that much either – except that the reality for him or her is that he needs staff that will project an image that will make his business more profitable.

    So, sometimes we need to get the focus off of ourselves and be prepared to respect the wishes of others.

    • This pretty much covers what I was going to add. Many of the comments pick up similar themes as well. It’d be pretty self-centered and naive to expect people to not have reactions to your fashion choices and accept them all without biases. When someone decides to get inked, he or she is making a statement that, depending on what it is, will be received differently by different people in different settings. I think the lesson is to choose carefully what (mostly) permanent statements you make because it speaks to your capacity to use judgment.

    • “Most of us don’t want to go out to a restaurant to be served by someone who looks like he just arrived on a Harley.”
      Wow double prejudice. Tattoos=biker, bikers=unworthy to serve you.

  62. Ideally, no. They shouldn’t. But we live in the world we live in. To have your character judged based on a tattoo or red hair isn’t fun. But it happens. So, seems to me, the best question is “Should you risk a tattoo given the prejudice they evoke?” If you’re able to live your life in such a way that the presence of tattoos on your skin poses no risk, then go for it. If you’d rather work where the management is not narrow-minded and/or not dependent on a narrow-minded client base then, get that tatt. Otherwise, should it hinder your ability to get a job? Not in a perfect world but we don’t live in one. Part of growing up is deciding what price you’re willing to pay for what you want, facing your power in that choice and owning the inevitable consequences regardless of the imperfection of the world you reside.

  63. As an employer, I never hired anyone with visible tats for all the reasons in the article above.
    Now when I see a young person with their arms covered with ink, I always ask them what their mother said when they got home. Most tell me they were screamed at and their mothers cried.

    A few years ago Resume Bear had a blog that was titled, “Mommy why can’t I get a job” and it showed pictures of people with tats all over their faces. I’ve often wondered how those young people are today.

  64. In our world, employees’ appearance reflects on the employer, and tattoos reflect on the employee. Do the math. Companies in conservative industries or with conservative management will likely find a visible tattoo to be a deal breaker with a prospective hire. Unless the individual is being considered for a behind the scenes role, or has a very specialized skill set that is hard to find, a tatto can be a serious impediment to one’s career prospects, much like a purple mohawk would be. People need to think through the ramifications of getting visible body art or piercings, recognizing that, like today’s digital footprints in social media, these things can last forever and have a negative impact on one’s future.

  65. Tattoos stop You from getting a Job?
    Give up such work! ;-)

  66. No Tattoos should not impede your ability to get a job, there’s no link that tattoo’d people have less project managment skills that a non-tattoo’d person ;). Especially if a tattoo is a very hideable one, there’s no harm. I think it comes back to context. Young people do things, but if they are motivated to get your job and you liked them enough to interview them….that says something.

    That being said, education that tattoos are not 100% professional,is important to remind young people about, So that they don’t get themselves in a sticky situation

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