Job Candidates With Body Art: Hire Or Not?

The US Army is getting more recruits with tattoos. And so are you.

One third of the population 18 to 29 has a tattoo. Your Business Blogger is outside this age range and our five-kid penta-posse has not yet demanded needles with ink. But this is an exploding trend that will affect small business hiring.

Here I will review only the deliberate body modifications. Not the accidental. (Scars are tattoos with better stories.)

We just hired a half-dozen employees. Not one of the attractive young women had any body art. That I noticed. Not that I was looking.

My concern is less with my outdated preferences than that potential candidates knew my preferences. If I control cutting the check, I’ll control the body cutting. I’d like some input in what peeps I be hangin’ wit’.

I prefer non-smokers with no (visible) body art and conjugated verbs.

Job seekers must remember that symmetry and chemistry between interview-er and interview-ee is what gets hired. It is not fair. But remember, I’m writing the check.

So tattoos and other self-mutilations are not for me. And it’s not likely that I would hire such decorations. But one of my managers with hiring authority might. One of my clients might. But not me.

And I’m not the only fuddy-duddie. The Vault reports,

Companies with dress and grooming codes are on the strongest legal grounds when they defend their policies based on legitimate business reasons.

At Starbucks, “baristas” who serve the $5 lattes can’t display any tattoos or wear any piercing jewelry besides small, matched pair earrings. Each ear can’t have more than two piercings. Serving upscale coffee demands upscale workers, according to Starbucks, and tattoos don’t fit that scheme.

So what’s right? What’s wrong with tattoos?

Sometime ago I questioned my rabbi, Daniel Lapin, on the issue of tattoos. Yes, I’m Presbyterian who sits at the feet of the JollyBogger. But everyone also needs a rabbi; a teacher. The coach doesn’t have to be faith-based. But the ‘donations’ can be tax deductible…

My Rabbi said that ancient Jewish tradition held that a person’s body does not belong to him — it belongs to the Creator and we borrow this earthly vessel for a while. Which is why the tattooing of identification numbers during the Holocaust was so humiliating to the Jews.

So if I interview you, or some other old coot interviews you, don’t tell us about your tattoos. It is not part of the job description.

You will be hired for your wisdom and your judgment.


Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

58 Reactions
  1. Yes, it is true that the person who cuts the check can make the rules, but I would be careful about setting criteria that may cause you to avoid a candidate who can really do the job well.

    I, too, fall out of that age range and I do not have any tattoos. But I have hired people with both tattoos and body piercings and they are exceptional people. One in particular has both the talent to create great graphic designs AND write the application source code to make a Web site run. If I had used a “no tattoo” policy, I would not have found him nor hired him.

    I also know many people use a college degree as a filtering technique. This, too, can lead to some qualified candidates not being considered. The key is to figure out what you are looking for in a person, then add in the “nice to haves” so that you don’t miss out.

    Again, I did not say that you wouldn’t find the “best” candidates, because “best” will include your own (important) criteria. The labor market is tight today and I am all for finding great people who have talent, integrity and want to work as part of the team. I cannot afford to exclude some of these folks due to their preferences for expressing themselves through body art, the same way that I don’t care what car they drive, what house they live in, who they hang out with or within acceptable business boundaries, what clothing they wear.

    • Paul,

      I feel that the viewpoint of excluding candidates with body art will rob you of an exceptional employee. The times have changed by quite a bit and the unfortunate truth is that some hiring authorities are slow to change with them. I work with doctors, nurses and administrators that have body art and luckily the folks in HR recognized their value and brought them in regardless of the art. While they were still hired with the tattoos it should be noted that they are required to wear a skin colored sleeve to cover their ink.

      The best candidates are not always the ones we imagine in our minds but if we challenge ourselves to hire the best fit it will likely be that this person does not look how we imagined. It’s important to note that many moons ago the idea of hiring a female manager was unheard of and now it is common practice.

  2. Paul, you are right. It would require ability beyond my meager talent to evaluate the entire book beyond the cover.

    To overcome my shortcoming, I have been lucky to work with people who could make human resource evaluations looking beyond such external statements. I trust my managers’ judgment.

    For example, a few years ago, one of my staff made a hire and the twenty something young man had to work near my area. He came to work around me with band-aids on his ears.

    Now, young Alert Readers know instantly what’s going on. But not me. I had to ask his boss, if everything was alright.

    “He’s fine,” said the manager. “He’s just covering up the holes.”

    I was dumbfounded. Which is quite normal. (But of course, I didn’t show it. Your Business Blogger finds that stern, direct eye contact covers any lack of comprehension and competence.)

    But I was humbled to learn that anyone would care what I thought. Doesn’t happen much. Even when I write the checks.

    Paul, the young man went on to do outstanding work, as you might have guessed from the wisdom you use on making your hires.

    But they better not smoke around me.


    • Naga Sankar Devineni

      Wisdom is always the best policy.
      The best candidates are not always the ones we imagine in our minds but if we challenge ourselves to hire the best fit it will likely be that this person does not look how we imagined. It’s important to note that many moons ago the idea of hiring a female manager was unheard of and now it is common practice.

      But keep this in mind. . .these twenty somethings that are expressing themselves in this way are very open minded, creative, outside-the-box thinkers. Granting them an employment environment that encourages their expression and creativity – may lead to some great new things, new ideas, creative technology. And everyone knows the old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I know some pretty intimidating and fearsome looking fellas – covered in ink from head to toe in skulls and flames – and they are some of the sweatest people I’ve ever met.
      Keep positive attitude always.

  3. I have tattoos, Jack. I have two (actually had 3 but one is a cover-up tattoo over another). I can see how having tattoos running down both arms, around your wrists or on your neck could affect your employment situation (or lack thereof). It is a lifestyle – and it is a form of self expression. I do not regret my tattoos, but they are in places that are either covered up or cannot easily be noticed. But even though I have them, I must say that I would not walk into a tattoo parlor looking to have one placed on my neck or arms. I do realize that if I choose to do that – It could, most definitely, affect my employment. So I can respect your opinions on that matter and do agree to a certain extent.

    But keep this in mind. . .these twenty somethings that are expressing themselves in this way are very open minded, creative, outside-the-box thinkers. Granting them an employment environment that encourages their expression and creativity – may lead to some great new things, new ideas, creative technology. And everyone knows the old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I know some pretty intimidating and fearsome looking fellas – covered in ink from head to toe in skulls and flames – and they are some of the sweatest people I’ve ever met.

    The days of associating body art with Hell’s Angels and convicts are gone. Body art has moved out of back alleys and biker rallys and into the suburbs. And I would guess that at least 60% of today’s college students – tommorrow’s leaders – have at least one example of body art. And it is quite possible that your recent hires, the attractive young women you referred too in the post, may have you fooled. They may be sporting a butterfly on their lower back, or a flower on their shoulder – that isn’t meant for everyone’s eyes to see. Ask around – you may be surprised!

  4. Chris, you’re right, I don’t know if the young women have body art or not — and I don’t want to know. Statistically, they will.

    I think my sister has a tattoo. My dad was in the Navy. I was in the Army. I’ve hired wild coders and graphics humans of unknown gender. Eye shadow used to be a clue. I’ve been surrounded by blue ink.

    (Which is, as you imply, much better than red ink.)

    Zig Ziglar would often say, “You can feed your ego, or you can feed your family.” And landing a deal might be difficult with distractions, however artful.

    But Your Business Blogger does hold for hiring people who are very different — violating my symmetry and chemistry rule:

    Consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds…

    Thanks again,

  5. Scot, from Virtual CFO, thank you for the track back and analysis on hiring the receptionist who would be the (first) face for your company.

    A face really does make a difference — even which side you show.



  7. I’m nearly 39 years old and my tattoos are nearly 17 years old. But from what some are saying I shouldn’t be hired, or if I am, should only be hired as a waitress, construction worker, or sanitation worker.

    But I have a college degree and graduated cum laude. I am serious about my profession and about those I serve. I’m a high school teacher. I would be devastated if I were one day told I shouldn’t teach because I have tattoos.

    In fact, I may sue over that one. As far as I have heard firing someone because of appearance is discrimination. Just as firing someone over weight, color or religion is discrimination.

  8. The most vital thing i think when having ink done is to go to a good tattooist. It’s well worth spending some time finding out who has talent and which parlour has a good reputation – it’s worth spending a few euro more to have peace of mind that your ink is going to be good

  9. First, I don’t have any tattoos. I work in the field of information systems, with years of experience and several degrees.

    Second, whenever I have several job offers on the table, the first deciding factor of which ones I take is the companies’ policies on such things as tattoos, homosexuality,paternity leave, etc.

    None of these things effect me directly, but I feel like they all are good signs about whether or not they care about supporting their individual employees.

    I will not work with people who disregard hiring someone (or will fire them in the future) based on lifestyle choices that are alternative to their own values. This is the kind of attitude that will eventually stagnate the entire company. Tattoos, piercings, homosexuality, and “alternative” gender roles (such as men being homemakers) are all becoming more widely acceptable, and by not allowing any visible tattoos or piercings of any kind the amount of people you are ignoring is growing exponentially.

    Good luck on your quest to stay in the past, ladies and gentlemen.

    • Chloe, You are right in that more and more employers (those are the folks that do the hiring and write the checks) are overlooking body art.

      But not all.

      The answer is, as it always is: It depends.
      Having a angel tattoo on your neck might become acceptable on a banker doing loan applications.
      Having a swastika embossed on your forehead might not be.

      Remember, value is determined by the customer — and in this case the customer is the guy writing the check to make the hire. He decides if the body work is acceptable — not me or you.

      Thank you for your comment,

  10. Interesting article, I was smiling all the way till the end, I must say! Yes, tattoos and excessive body piercings do have a strong impact because obviously they grab attention. However, tattoos and body piercings can be hidden to an extent during normal office hours. It can be one of the company policies, which will then have the ball in the court of the employees. It just becomes part of the regime where employees are required to follow company ethics. Thank you for sharing.

    • Marc, you are on to something here — the purpose of business, as Peter Drucker reminds us, is to create and satisfy a customer.

      There are many small business owners in industries who can create customers and make a profit with staff who sport body art. For example, I would expect anyone who works in a tattoo parlor or is a member of the neighborhood gang to proudly display their tats.

      I’m not sure how much I would pay attention to a politician or Jewish Rabbi with tattoos…


  11. While there are certain positions that I believe tattoos should not be visible during the day, times are definitely changing as well. More and more “professional” jobs are allowing tattoos but at the same time, consideration should be taken in those getting them. As someone with multiple tattoos, I am so thankful I can hide all by wearing longer sleeves or a dress to work.

    I believe being hired for the “wisdom and judgment” is the best course of action. Tattoos and piercings are not indicative of a person’s abilities, but can prevent them from even being considered for a role at the same time.

    While some of these preferences may be “outdated” certain tattoos could prove bad for business as well i.e. profanity, a tattoo containing something racist or prejudice or something lewd. These will be harder to explain and have the potential to offend as well.

    As a progressive and an open-minded person, I can understand religion, symbols, and signs for adversity. Other body art may be harder to understand and explain.

    With some professions, these are easier to overlook (i.e. sports, music-wise and a lot of non-office positions). With office ones, these would be harder to justify and explain ultimately.

  12. In these days, it is common that people put some tattoos in their bodies. Tattoos are a subject people just can not help but have an opinion about. I think there is a matter of taste. It could be seen as a desperate cry for attention. Many people who appose tattoos often think but, it is more likely that people just doing what make them more happy.

    In my opinion, before I decide to put tattoo, I will ask myself why I want that. Am I going to regret it when I get old. Also, I get used to the subtext: that was not smart idea, tattoos are pointless. Anti-tattoo people often preach that they are a bad choice because they are permanent. People make choices with consequences you can not take back every day of their lives. We should not approach our prejudices towards those who have tattoos or body piercing, because they could be the best in their fields.

  13. Natalie M Barbieri

    What is inherently wrong with tattoos? Do tattoos mean something malicious?: Violence? Death? Bad work ethic, even? No. Tattoos do not have a symbol in the United States.

    During my time in Japan, tattoos were more frowned upon than in the United States. But, there was a reason. Japan’s largest gang used tattoos as a way to symbolize stature–certain tattoos had certain underlying connotations. Therefore, in general as a society, tattoos meant gang affiliation. This warrants the stigma.

    However, in the US, tattoos are not actually connected to anything. If I had a butterfly tattoos on my arm, does that mean I am apart of the butterfly gang? No, it doesn’t actually mean anything. Therefore, why are tattoos stigmatized if they do not represent anything Tattoos are just another form of expression. They represent the same thing a shirt would represent: ‘I like this, so I am going to put it on my body.”

    I do not think that tattoos should have ANY affect on the perception of job readiness or job ability, or in the decision of hire, rehire, firings, or promotions.

  14. Mansoor Eyvazi

    Assuming that this article is about an organization in the United States, as it may differ in other countries, we should view it from two different aspects:

    From the employee’s standpoint and from the employer’s standpoint.

    1) From the employee’s standpoint, tattoos are forms of expression and therefore they must be treated as any other form of expression. In other words, one can wear a shirt with a sign on it, or tattoo the sign on his or her body. As a result, tattoos should be treated as a piece of cloth, which people may wear based on their personal preference.

    In the United States, freedom of expression is protected by the 1st Amendment. Therefore, tattoos, as a pure form of expression, are protected by the constitution. In this regard, a federal appeals court in a challenge to the ban on tattoo parlors in the city of Hermosa Beach has ruled that tattoos are “forms of pure expression fully protected by the 1st Amendment”. As a result, in the United States people are free to have tattoos as they have freedom of expression right.

    2) From the employer’s standpoint, also, it should be treated as a piece of cloth. However, tattoos at work place, when they are visible and not covered, may be controlled under any reasonable dress code any organization may have. In other words, if we accept that any organization should be free to have its reasonable dress code for its employees, in the same manner, it should be free to have some special policies regarding the visible and not covered tattoos. It is not to say that tattoos are anything bad or good, but like any other form of expression, they may be regulated to be in line with the organizations’ reasonable codes when they are not covered.

    As a result, as much as the employees’ freedom of expression right must be protected, employers’ should enjoy the same right.

  15. I believe the most important issue during an interview and hiring process is the capability and the talent of the candidates. But, sometimes and occasionally tattoos won’t be acceptable for some certain positions only because of the nature of that specific jobs the candidate won’t be selected. For example, if the tattoos are on the face, would be more considerable than the tattoos on the hands, neck or other parts of the body.

    In case of hiring a candidate, we shouldn’t forget that appearances always matter specially when going for a job interviews, sometimes people will be judged by clothing because of the job requirements but I think it is more depend on the job’s atmosphere. There are many job and work environment that tattoos make them more interesting like sport players, movie stars, musicians and rappers.

    I think accepting or rejecting someone with tattoos and other body-arts, also can be more depend on the culture of that society and the organization culture, but in general hiring or rejecting candidates with tattoos and other body-arts cannot be the main cause of rejection in a position.

  16. In today’s society a company may not have much choice as to whether to hire job candidates who possess body art. When the article was written in December 2015 one third of the population from ages 18 to 29 had tattoos. Now, three and one half years later, there may be even more people in that age group with tattoos. It seems as though half that population now has tattoos, although I do not know the exact figure.
    The extent to which a job candidate’s body art is visible may be important to small businesses. For most small businesses excessive visible body art may not be desirable. Their clientele may associate a certain stigma with such bodily displays, depending on the business type. More conservative businesses may experience this issue. There may be some businesses, though, for which body art is more acceptable. For businesses such as vaping shops, where patrons go to inhale flavored vapors, body art may be part of the culture of the customers. For businesses that prefer not to have their employees display body art, dress and grooming codes are probably the best course of action for the business to portray the image they wish to convey to their customers.

  17. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on an interesting topic. I do not have tattoos, and surely not a big fan of it. However, it is my personal preference and should not affect my professional decision. People should be hired based on their ability to do a job, not based on the tattoos on their body. It is not a good practice to compromise on your professional ethics based on your personal preferences. Also, employers should not miss the good candidates who can really do the job well just because of their external appearance.
    Tattoos and piercings are not indicative of a person’s abilities. Tattoos should be seen as a part of your clothing. However, it obviously grabs attention. So, unless those visible tattoos are offensive in any ways or violates companies’ policies and values, employers should focus on employee ability to do the job well.
    Lastly, it also depends upon the kind of job that an applicant with tattoos is seeking in the company. For instance, tattoos are irrelevant for customer service jobs in which applicants have to deal with customers over phone. Overall, I agree with you that “wisdom and judgment” is the best course of action in these situations.

  18. Interesting article, Prof. Yoest. I used to work for a local police department and this same dilemma found its way into our little pond. On the one hand, given the hostile nature towards police these days and the shortage of applicants, police departments across the nation have considered relaxing their application standards in one way or another. There was a time on the department when an applicant could not have any tattoos that could not be covered by a short-sleeved uniform or else his application was immediately tossed out. Nowadays many departments allow for a certain number of visible tattoos. Some others have even lifted that restriction entirely. While relaxing application standards certainly does open the door for many new applicants who would not have originally been considered, on the other hand, appearances do matter. Our class sergeant used to say, “Appearance and conduct are 80% of the battle.” If an officer arrives on scene with a sharp uniform, boots neatly polished, and is physically fit, he is far more likely to be taken seriously and thus avoid a physical confrontation with a suspect. However, if an officer arrives on scene wearing a uniform with noticeable stains, has scuffed and muddy boots, and is clearly out of shape or has a sleeve full of tattoos, his command presence is lost and he has a higher probability of having to fight a suspect who thinks he can overtake him. Some officers on the department argue that appearances have nothing to do with the job as a victim in need of help doesn’t care how the officer looks. I, however, have that same “old school” mentality as you. Appearances often times convey a person’s mentality — if he is dressed lazily then he will more likely be seen by others as being lazy, and in police work this could mean the difference between going home after the watch or going to the hospital.

  19. In my humble opinion, Tatoos and other and other so called “body art” should not be allowed in the Army. I may sound old school. However, during my time in the military, they were forbidden. And that was 2011! Nowadays, and my is wild is that, the military in general, and the Army in particular in order to attain quotas take in about anyone. In time of full employment such as today, very few youngsters out of high school, or out of college such as myself when I joined, want to join the service. I believe it is the same phenomenon with the private and the government sectors. Workers are in demand , body art or not. To cry out loud, I missed the old days, and I believe they will come back. Any companies, structures, or the military have put in place rules and regulations that should be upheld. Bending those regulations is a deserve those-the majority- that obey them. it is thing to be ” liberal” or politically correct. However, rules are rules, and laws are laws no matter how harsh they might seem or be. Dura Lex sed lex as the Latin term puts it! A firm culture should be preserved, so as the military one. Fads and other things should not be tolerated. That is my opinion, but remember folks, I am old school and probably old.

  20. Calvin Chinanzvavana

    Wow. This article certainly holds true to the statement’ “first impressions last forever”. You only have one chance to make a first impression. A good first impression sets the tone and expectation for the rest of that relationship. Most companies do not condone having a visible tattoo at work and it has long been frowned upon in certain professions but I am not averse to the idea of having them as it adds to the diversity and culture of the workplace. Unfortunately, people buy from people they know and companies hire like-minded people, so my key take away is do a little research on the company and the recruitment manager to get a better understanding of what’s expected at the workplace. This will allow you to get to know them as well before immersing yourself into a culture that might not be a good fit.

  21. This is an interesting topic. A few years ago, I would have agreed with not having tattoos; however, my perspective on it changed.
    As a Christian, I had different opinions on the matter. Based on the Old Testament, it would be preferable for someone to restrain themselves from submitting to the art of cutting as their body is seen as God’s Temple. But then again, today, I do not believe that by having tattoos on one’s body, God’s love and grace for them would be diminished.
    Moreover, when it comes to the professional aspect, it is still seen by many people as a detriment to the organization because it does not well represent the organization’s culture. However, a company may not have access to the best candidates for a position just because of their idea on this matter. It is all about what the company values more – image or best-talented candidates-and what they want from their employees. Both of them are very important; but, there is only one that can help attract loyal customers due to the great service and improve the organization’s performance.

  22. I do not have any tattoos, nor do I have a problem with people who have them. I think that it would be very irresponsible to ignore or deny a potential employee who has the credentials, solely because I don’t agree with the way they decide to express themselves. One of my best and most influential teachers, in high school, had two full sleeves, a chest and leg tattoos. Had they decided to not hire him because of his tattoos, it would’ve drastically altered my and a lot of other students’ high school experience. As time has progressed and newer generations have come along, old societal norms are being changed, and things that once were an issue are becoming more accepted in the workplace. I think that, dependent upon the type of job, if you can look presentable with tattoos, then it shouldn’t be an issue. If you have a standard that you’d like to maintain, then inform them of that and allow them the chance to conform to that standard. If they can’t do it or aren’t willing to, then move on. I can put my personal feelings aside if I believe that they are or can be a valuable asset to the company.

  23. Komba James Lebbie

    This is a controversial read! Majority of the millennials will have dissenting opinions to this piece because it speaks directly to their era. I agree Tattoos should not be use as a consideration to deny someone a job. But its fair to say, some institutions believe to protect the bastion that defines them.

    Some institutions value the service delivery of the staff despite the “body cutting”. They care about the deliverables not the staff. Hence you contributing to bring big checks, they will be glad to cut your checks.

    I will also argue that, candidates should be hired base on the quintessential of the institution. Some organizations are precious because the uphold certain principles. “They prefer non-smokers with no visible body art and conjugated verbs.” The otiose of these establishment should not be compromise. They value your talent and pride your appearance. Your intellect and appearance will consummate your hiring.

    In summary, candidates should investigate the milieu of the institution they intend to work for. If you have a penchant for Tattoos, some establishment might not be your ideal workplace.

  24. Body art preferences belongs to the individual. It is a form of expression. One may or may not like them. Although I can completely understand your preference for no body art, and believe you are entitled to have it, I do believe that it should not have ANY impact on your hiring process. In fact, not hiring someone due to their body art to me is a form of prejudice. It is no different to me than not hiring someone because of their hairstyle or wardrobe choices. A candidate should be evaluated only in matters of their abilities to perform the job and fit into the company’s culture. In fact, diversity in the workplace is key to business, because consumers are global and diverse. By having diverse employees, the company boosts innovation in every department, as new ideas and visions of the world are now speaking up from within. It can also help increasing sales, as the diverse team may better understand the customer’s minds and needs. Not only you are on the risk of loosing a great candidate, but you are also limiting your company’s potential to selling to tattooed customers, as they are not likely to buy from you, considering that they don’t see them represented in your culture.

  25. Very interesting article, because the topic of expression relates directly to this new generation of young professionals entering the workforce. An era and generation which thrives off of expressing yourself, posting on social media, tattoos, makeup, hairstyles, and countless other appearances which are now accepted in today’s society. The proper, cleaned up, and professional world, is just starting to come around to how acceptable certain expressive traits can be implemented and put on display in the workplace. Personally I feel that how someone expresses themself during the initial interview or encounter is a good baseline and indication of the kind of person and worker they may be. But on the flipside to write an individual off just because of their appearance or background is going to restrict and limit the potential of filling your job posting with the best possible individual. It goes back to the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” You should treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.

  26. Santiago Alurralde

    This was a fun read Prof. Yoest,
    Although we share the same views on certain aspects of this article, I would like to add that: depending on the job, If the candidate is qualified, I would not mind any tattoos as long as is not distracting. But the problem lies there, art is subjective, and what some tattoos or paintings might be beautiful for some, it might be distracting or unappealing for others; and when it comes to business, the client is always right.
    I have always agreed with Bill Murray’s quote on tattoos: “Would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?”. On the other hand, the company might miss a great employee if they’re hiring based on whether a person has tattoos or piercings. In addition, I would like potential employees to be honest about their body art and piercings if the company has a policy about it, since it might be against the organization’s culture.

    In conclusion, although I am not fond of tattoos or piercings, if the job doesn’t demand it, I would not base my hiring decision in someone’s appearance if they are high achievers.

  27. Hi professor Yoest,
    This article teaches us about some tricks in the work field. You can pretend to be whoever you want unless someone knows who you really are. In other words, the image that you will give at the interview is the one that the interviewer will see, and if he hires you, so this is the one he needs. The society has inherent physical standards, that are difficult to avoid at some scale. In my opinion this is old school and as long as the appearance of a person has no effect on his/her work/or the company in any manners, this is not relevant. In first year of medical science, one of my friends had really long dreadlocks (about 24 inches for his ponytails). People thought that he was not too smart to enter in med school (just because of his hair and his hippie style), now he is finishing his anesthesiology residency, and they asked him the cut his hair. Which he did. He had no choice to remove the dreads for acquiring people’s consideration, since he started he has always been judged for his hairstyle. That is not really fair.
    However, the gap between the appearance and the reality now becomes smaller in some organizations because the world is changing, and so the society. Some employers tend to look for people with true personality whoever they are because of the importance of cultural mix and diversity in the work place. Every community needs to be represented.
    But changes are still minors, the article is still current.
    Thank you the sharing,
    Kind regards,

  28. It doesn’t cross my mind to think about tattoos when hiring an individual or the idea of judging a person for them after spending 8 years in the military. Tattoos are something members of the military wear on their skin to remember the friends they have lost, the pain they have endured and the sacrifices they have made. Sometimes it’s a reminder on our bodies to look down on when it gets really bad out there, to remind us why we fight and why giving anything other than our very best, is not good enough. Judging those with tattoos is fine and not hiring them because of their ink is a business owner’s prerogative but every time I hear that another brother has committed suicide after getting out of the service and how they couldn’t adjust to the cold, lonely world outside of the uniform, I think about what we as a community can do to support them and how be more inclusive during these difficult transitions.

  29. This was interesting and touches on a few issues. First, times change; what may have been extraordinary 50 years ago (say, tattoos for example), is now increasingly ordinary. Meanwhile 50 years ago smoking in the office was the norm, and is now unthinkable. Second, while an individual is and should be free to make their own choices on personal matters (such as smoking or getting a tattoo), is it right to take these things into account when hiring them? Well, will it affect their job performance? Will it affect the business negatively? If so, then it may be reasonable to consider these attributes. A test of reasonableness is often useful. If they do not affect job performance, then I think it is none of the employer’s business what their employee chooses to do out of office hours (obviously unless their choices are illegal). These are questions of freedom – what happens when the candidate’s freedom and the employer’s freedom collide? They are also questions of bias – is the interviewer consciously or subconsciously making these decisions? Can anything be done about cognitive bias? This is a complex topic which raises more questions than it answers – and the reply for most of the question is really that “it depends” – there is no one size fits all answer here.

  30. Roger Scott Blackburn

    When I joined the Army in 2006, the policy was that no soldier or new recruit could have tattoos on their forearms, as it was disrespectful to any officers who were being saluted. This was the Army, so I am not aware of any other service branches rules and regulations on tattoos in general. I know that the Navy has a long history of being more acceptable to tattoos than most other branches of service, as it has been a part of the sailors culture for decades. Here, I believe we hit the nail on the head. While American society has often frowned on tattoos, other cultures around the world have accepted them as the norm. Personally, I do not like tattoos, but do understand in some circumstances why a person would desire to obtain a tattoo. Perhaps an individual’s mother passed away, and that person simply feels obligated to tattoo the face of his mother on his or her arm as a measure of respect. Others may simply let their egos control them, and say to themselves: “Look at me and my magnificent tattoo!” Corny of course, but human nature. Do tattoos have any place in the work place of America? I think that this will depend on who’s asking. Certainly there are employment areas that tattoos have no business being. Example: What if a fancy restaurant hired some guy with tattoos all over his face, to wait tables to millionaire ritzy clients, of whom the majority frown on tattoos in any form? Chances are, the restaurant would not remain in business very long. Therefore, there is a need for restrictions on tattoos in regard to certain employment positions for the sake of the livelihood and long term well being of the company.

  31. As a person with both tattoos and piercings, I know that neither reflect your character or your work ethic. They just make no difference to me and I’m more inclined to give those candidates a chance because I know how hard it is to find employment when you’ve got art on your skin. I do believe that this archaic thought is phasing its way out as more and more people with tattoos sit in leadership positions. There are some jobs where a cleaner look is more appropriate, say politics. But for others, I don’t see how it carries much weight. Unless they’re in a board meeting or leading a presentation, the tattoos of my employee aren’t my business. I would just hope they’re appropriate and aren’t hateful /deviant in anyway.

  32. Currently, most young adults have tattoos or body piercings. If they were invited to interview for a job, then they must have been considered a qualified candidate. Hopefully, they showed up to the interview looking and acting professional.
    Personally, I do not have a problem with employees having tattoos and piercings a long as they dress professional at work. This means that they are well groomed, mostly covered, and conduct themselves in a professional manner. However, I do not agree with multi-color hair and big nose rings in the office.
    I am not going to hire an exceptional candidate because of ink and metal. I would inform them of the wardrobe and grooming expectations and afford them the opportunity to learn and grow at my organization.
    Overtime, body art has become the norm. People are no longer shocked to see employees with tattoos. At first, it took me some time to get used to seeing at work. But if the manager sets high expectations for the staff, then it does not stand out as much. Managers should not tolerate any employee to look messy. It is grounds for termination.
    Body art can be tasteful in the workplace. Leadership must enforce the rules and make sure employees follow written guidelines.

  33. This article brought back memories of my time working summers for a local grocery store chain in my hometown. The business catered more to a select clientele and, therefore, employees were required to adhere to a strict dress/appearance policy. For example, tattoos had to be covered up and multiple piercings were not permitted.

    I do believe that tattoos and body piercings are a form of human artistic expressions. However, I think it is important to really think about the placement of a tattoo. The term “job-stoppers” come to mind whenever I see someone with a neck or face tattoo. Due to the level of visibility, it is almost impossible to cover these tattoos. Also, they have the potential to create negative first impressions on potential employers. However, depending on the company one is seeking employment, some tattoos are not considered as a reason not to hire. Nevertheless, it is still important for one to consider the pros and cons of getting a tattoo.

  34. I partially agree with the author, however, I am not going to reject people with body art outright rather I will still consider them for the job. I presume, I am more of intrigued by what their tattoos meant, maybe it has an underlying story, or a history, or its in their culture. I am fascinated of what it symbolizes, maybe their bravery, a tribute to their loved ones, or perhaps, it is their style. As long as it does not look offensive to others or it does not imply that they are a member of a gangster, I believe, I am good with employing them.

    I suppose, for some companies, they discourage getting people with body art because some customers might not be fond of what it looked or read. The company may also have a dress code and it does not comply with their code (especially if it cannot be hidden or covered).

    Nonetheless, we all have heard the teaching, ‘don’t judge the book by its cover’. A person must be considered for the job they are applying for because they are qualified, they have the skills, and they have the knowledge to do the job. Tattoos should not be a factor for not hiring them. If the tattoo never interferes with their work, people with tattoos should be fine.

  35. Reading this article has brought about many thoughts on how much society has changed over the years. Growing up, I was never taught that tattoos were a bad thing but growing up in a conservative environment, I was taught that it was only appropriate to have my ears pierced as my “body is a temple.” As I began to form my own opinions and got older, the idea of having a tattoo was something that struck an interest within me. The only thing holding me back, ironically, was how would a visible tattoo would impact my chances of having a successful career, would it even matter at all?
    This also brought my back to thinking how much smoking cigarettes has changed over the years. It’s hard to imagine there was a time where commercials were made encouraging individuals to smoke. Now we see the exact opposite, how can we get individuals to stop. It also reminds me of my childhood, when going out to eat, one of the first questions the hostess would ask is, smoking or non-smoking section. It was a big ordeal when restaurants starting getting rid of the smoking sections inside.
    It seems as though tattoos are also starting to change within society. They have seemingly become more acceptable and gives way for individuals to express their artistic side. It’s also important to be aware of what type of statement is being made. With a tattoo that is inherently visible, are political statements being made? If so, I do understand how that could impact an individual in the workforce. Especially if the tattoo goes against the values of an organization that one would be representing.

  36. Very interesting read. I would say that there is a fine line when navigating the requirements set forth for candidates being hired. This is a new challenge as many companies are altering and changing policies regarding personal alterations including tattoos and piercings. I would have to agree with quite a few of the recent comments that it shouldn’t be an immediate red flag. I was raised and fall under the idea that the work place is presenting yourself in a professional manner and many times is associated with no tattoos visible and minimal piercings. Playing a little devil’s advocate here, but the standard is only created by the hiring employer, which they have a right to, but do all companies need to follow the same standards? I personally don’t have tattoos, but if you are thinking about actually completing a job well, the tatoos aren’t going to inhibit someone from completing it. I still understand and respect the perspective that people don’t think tattoos should be visible to someone in a professional environment, but I do believe that times are changing and business are updating policies an becoming more open. I also think this generation and especially the age of social media and influencers getting many expressive tattoos and piercings is changing the mindset of younger people. Just as you stated, people are getting more tattoos and I personally know many people getting ‘little’ tattoos or spontaneous ones just because.

  37. Whether consciously or unconsciously, hiring managers may have avoided people with body piercings or tattoos fifteen years ago when this article was originally written. However, I would argue that in the last decade most companies have come to realize that they must create an inclusive and diverse workforce to compete – this includes tattoos and body piercings. The recruitment and hiring strategy should be to hire the most qualified candidate for the job.

    The author uses Starbucks as an example and so will I. Yoest states, “At Starbucks, “baristas” who serve the $5 lattes can’t display any tattoos or wear any piercing jewelry besides small, matched pair earrings. Each ear can’t have more than two piercings. Serving upscale coffee demands upscale workers, according to Starbucks, and tattoos don’t fit that scheme.” This may have been true in 2006, but in 2014 Starbucks updated its tattoo policy to reflect the growing diversity and inclusive needs of its partners (employees) and its candidate pool. The Starbucks Look Book (dress code) now states “Visible tattoos on face and neck are not allowed. Other visible tattoos are permitted so long as they don’t contain obscene, profane, racist, sexual, or objectionable words or imagery. Please cover any not-allowed tattoos with clothing compliant with our Dress Code (like long-sleeve shirts, pants, turtlenecks) or concealing makeup….Tattoos are allowed, but not on your face or throat,” the company’s updated dress code policy reads. “Treat tattoos as you treat speech—you can’t swear, make hateful comments or lewd jokes in the workplace, neither can your tattoos.”

    Like many companies, Starbucks recognizes that they need to compete in a more inclusive way for candidates and allowing tattoos, body piercings and even crazy hair colors is one way for them to do so. I would argue that businesses should want their employees to reflect their customer base. If the business has a diverse customer base, then they should have just as diverse an employee base. Hiring the best candidates for the job should be the singular goal of the hiring managers.

  38. Danielle Waldschmidt

    The key take away from this article for me was the ending. It is important to know the requirements of the job. When hiring employees there are so many things to consider, certainly meeting the professional objectives of the employer are important. For some it might be easy to get caught up in things that aren’t important for the job.

    I want to bring my best to any job and to present my best self to the job. It is also important to work in an organization with a supervisor that aligns with my values and is a good fit for me. All of these are a balance to finding the correct employment. I expect my employer to be upfront about those requirements as well. I’m fine with meeting the expectations like a professional dress code.

    The issue of tattoos seems to changing and potentially could be a no-win situation. Everyone has differing perspectives, in some individuals are okay with tattoos, some don’t want to see them, etc. By focusing on the job and what you can bring to the job and meeting your supervisors’ objectives you are less likely to have any problems. This will create a win-win situation for everyone.

  39. Body art is a way of self expressing and allowing oneself to be the canvas. A question that I always ponder, “When that person turns 75, will they they still appreciate the art that they selected in their youth?” This is something that I think many people think about, especially when you see the older citizen that is covered in tattoos. From a business standpoint, I agree that there is a time and a place for a great display of “self-mutilations.” If I were to go to a professional or upscale establishment, a five-star restaurant or hotel, I personally would not expect to see any persons with tattoos or multiple piercings showing. But on the other hand if I were in a dive-bar, I would expect to see such things. I think that this paradigm is important to acknowledge. We should hire people for what they know and the skills that they possess, not for what they look like physically. As a previous manager of a restaurant and bar, I know that the expectation of my establishment was that the servers and bartenders had their tattoos covered on their arms and if they were wearing a low-cut shirt that those markings were covered as well. During dinner service, this was easy to enforce, but when the late night crowd began to roll in and the clientele changed, it was a little more acceptable to have such things showing. It built rapport with the clients and even allowed for more business at times.

    An aside, one of the best instructors I had in my career was a fundamental mechanics teacher that was covered head to toe in tattoos and piercings. The first day that I saw him, and I dare say the first moment, I definitely judged him and thought, “This guy can’t know anything about mechanics and working on airplanes.” Turns out, that not only was be a bonafide expert in the mechanics of airplanes but also anything that has a motor and runs. Not only was he an expert mechanic, but he was one of the most genuine guys that I have ever met.

  40. The workplace and expectations for employees have changes drastically over the years. Whether it is work place decorum to a more fluid hours when in the office these changes seem to be more prevalent over time. One other change is personal appearance and how we are seen. I agree with the article in that there is always going to be the hurdle of what interviewer or potential boss may be thinking. We can’t help whether someone was brought up to believe in some other values than your own. But I believe this is a two-way street. The interviewer should know that there is more to body art or tattoos than meets the eye. This may show a creativity or perspective that your company or team may be missing. Overall, I agree with the last line of the article “You will be hired for your wisdom and your judgment.” This should always be the guiding principle for any interviewer, hiring manager, or owner. We have seen countless time where preconceived notion gets in the way of better judgement. That looking at someone solely based off looks can lead you potentially getting worst employees and hurt your business going forward.

  41. Upon my first reading of this blog, I was initially a little taken back by the seemingly stricter stance on tattoos and piercings in the workplace. I have always been of the opinion that even if I did not like something physically about a person, ultimately It was something I had a problem with and that only that person could change it and not me.

    However when it comes to business I completely agree with Dr. Yoest. I can recount a number of times where I walked into a business and one of their “greeters’ ‘, another job that I have an issue with but that’s for another time, would approach me with multiple piercings, tattoos or dyed hair. On a personal level normally i wouldn’t find any issue with that, however when doing work in a place of business i feel as though certain standards do need to be met, such as an acceptable appearance of which i do not think one with multiple tattoos, piercings and dyed hair fall under

  42. Geraldinne Silva Sanchez

    While I was reading the article, I could not stop hearing my mom’s voice saying, “Imagine going to a business meeting with a tattoo showing; it would not look professional, and no one will take you seriously” My parents were strict about tattoos and piercings. Let’s keep in mind that religion had nothing to do about it. It was only their opinion. I must say that culture influences as well. In Colombia, most old people believe that tattoos are only for bad people. A tattoo will show your education level, and it will define you as a person. A tattoo will represent you as part of a gang. They believe how you present yourself to the public is important, and how the first impression is what matter the most. Is it important what others think about you?
    These days, tattoos are more common among society. Although it is a form of free expression, people still face issues in the workforce. Even though tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable, the prejudiced attitudes are still present. People do not understand that a tattoo is not an imposition to pursue a professional career. It does not define you as a person and does not measure your knowledge. In my opinion, it would be important what others think about you as long as they get to know you as a whole person.

  43. Body art, piercings, and things of the like should not affect whether a person is hired or not for a job. These outward signs of self expression are just that- signs of self expression. The catch is, in a professional world, coworkers, bosses, clients, and so forth don’t really care or need you to express yourself. While most of the time these outward expressions will be unnoticed or glanced over, sometimes they can be taken the wrong way, and unintentional or in the case of this article some intentional bias can come in to play. If tattoos and piercings are your way of expression that’s great and I personally would fully support that, but there is a general understanding than any sort of permanent body art opens oneself up to the discretion of the employer. In extreme circumstances this can be bad, but as a general rule, body art should not dictate whether someone is ever hired, because it has no reflection on a person’s skill set or how they fit in to an organization.

  44. First, I considered the date this article was published; much can change in 1 year, much less 15! Body art has continued to increase in popularity; it may not be the disadvantage when interviewing that it was in 2006. I then considered employers aim to please their customers; with that in mind, as an employer, you would be concerned with how one expresses themselves overall. If the body art is obscene, hateful, or unsafe, then that is certainly a reason to avoid or impose an adjustment to that “image” for your company; for example, a prominent swastika or nude tattoo, or numerous dangling piercings when working with heavy equipment or healthcare. While appearances and first impressions do matter in many circumstances, the quality of a person or their credentials should not be immediately called into question based on appearance. Many parables are based on the idiom of “not judging a book by its cover.” Einstein stated, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” The ability to change and grow – to adapt – is important in nature, in business management, and in society. While ultimately, it is up to the company culture and leadership to enforce their guidelines, I am hopeful that a potentially talented employee is not lost due to an old bias; may the last article statement ring true – “You will be hired for your wisdom and your judgment,” and not your appearance.

  45. Before reading this article, I already had a general bias towards body art, and believe that it should be limited-to-none. Body art is a form of expression, but in a professional business setting there is only so much ‘expression’ you can do. After reading this article, I believe that businesses should have a set appearance standard when accepting applicants into their company. This may not be the case for every company, but businesses who have a persona or image to keep intact, should consider the benefits to limiting the amount of body art(tattoos) shown on a potential employee especially if they are the main focus of the brand (unless it aligns with the company’s goals). Companies always have the final say of how they want their employees to represent their brand, and potential employees should understand the requirements to be successful in the workplace.

    Overall, the main takeaway of this article was that body art in the workplace will always be a controversial topic due to the social acceptance of change and business trying to relate to clients and future customers; while some businesses are head-strong in their standard policies (no body art). Whatever the case may be, the topic is always debatable.

  46. Colleen McLaughlin

    Times have certainly changed over the past decade. Workplaces are not requiring suits, rather a business casual attire is deemed appropriate. With that being said, the stigma behind not hiring someone if they have tattoos has calmed down tremendously because more and more people are getting tattoos. It is important to note that it is ultimately the person who is writing the checks preferences at the end of the day. On one hand, the employer could be missing out on a hard working, intelligent employee just because they have visible body art. It’s as simple as saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But, on the other hand If the person has tattoos that are visible, inappropriate and vulgar that could potentially reflect poorly on the employer. I also do think that there should be some emphasis on the placement of a tattoo. If someone chooses to have tattoos on their neck, or face they should probably be prepared to be looked at differently as soon as they walk into an interview because of just the unprofessional look.

  47. Likith Sai Srinivas Yella

    Now, three and one half years later, there may be even more people in that age group with tattoos. It seems as though half that population now has tattoos, although I do not know the exact figure.
    The extent to which a job candidate’s body art is visible may be important to small businesses. For most small businesses excessive visible body art may not be desirable. Their clientele may associate a certain stigma with such bodily displays, depending on the business type. More conservative businesses may experience this issue. There may be some businesses, though, for which body art is more acceptable. For businesses such as vaping shops, where patrons go to inhale flavored vapors, body art may be part of the culture of the customers. For businesses that prefer not to have their employees display body art, dress and grooming codes are probably the best course of action for the business to portray the image they wish to convey to their customers

  48. ngoltoingar chantal bayor

    The lack of structure in the process usually leads to the recruitment of an unsuitable candidate. The case in the article shows several mistakes. The boss shouldn’t be inquiring at this stage, “I’d hoped they’d ask if she spoke Cantonese, the major dialect in Hong Kong”. First issue. Then” She was picture-perfect, right off the silver screen. And she spoke “Chinese” second problem and the third one is for the sales team to realize within a week that she spoke Mandarin; the dominant language in most of China. However, she didn’t speak Cantonese.” It is essential to understand what the company wants to achieve and how human resources will need to work and collaborate to get there. Recruiting strategically requires an effective and well-structured recruitment process. They shouldn’t rush. They must be able to determine upstream what the company needs before starting the recruitment process. Anticipation is a quality that every recruiter must have. They shouldn’t favor speed over quality. Having the steps of the recruitment process a fingertip allows RH to know when they need to do this or that task. They miss the goal of the recruitment. and spent two months to identify the issue and fix it. How about the cost of that mistake?

  49. ngoltoingar chantal bayor

    Tattoos have become fashionable, before being a fashion, tattooing was a symbol. A mark of difference. It was for minorities, marginal, prisoners, or was reserved for certain trades, sailors, military. It was associated with people with links to delinquency, this is no longer the case.
    If the tattoo is offensive or scares customers, the employer can refuse to hire an employee with the tattoo. Because in an interview, we are first seen, then heard, and finally understood. And this is where we must be careful: the vision that the person has had of us comes to give a whole tone.
    The labor code remains unclear regarding tattoos. I was told it wasn’t professional or serious. But we shouldn’t reduce the person to his tattoos. In my country most of the 80% of girls that have been victims of the female genital mutilation have a visible on the face.
    They didn’t make the choice. Will Starbucks refuse to hire them?

  50. Berhanu Sinamo DEBOCH

    Yes, Jack I agree with your point of view that the candidates should be employed based on their potential and wisdom. In the modern culture, things are changing and the majority of the new generations like tattoos, especially in Europe and the USA. The tattoo culture is very rare in the developing countries like Africa and Asia. However, many young people who feel this way are looking for ways to establish their individuality as their self-expression becomes more important. Every work place has their own criteria for recruiting their employees. For instance, the Airline companies have their own criteria for recruiting their hosts in regard to their physical appearance. Some of the work places do not require tattoos as criteria. But in a recent survey by, 31 percent of human resource managers said that visible tattoos can have a negative impact on their decision for hiring employees. Since we came from a different cultural background, we have different experiences with these kinds of issues. For example, in Ethiopia (my own country) the personal protocol does not value or look for tattoos for recruiting employees. Tattoos are not common in our culture. But personally I don’t have any problem with tattoos because I believe that the potential and the wisdom of the person is more important than tattoos.

  51. Interesting to read. It’s just reminding me of how I used to see people with tattoos back then. I used to think that those who have tattoos are dangerous people somehow, but I was totally wrong. I am currently working with someone who has tattoos on both arms, but I can tell you that he is a nice person that I ever met, and he gets the job done even much better than those who do not have tattoos. The issue here, we judge people on their appearance rather than trying to get to know them. To find a great employee, you must know what you are looking for in a person and not focusing on the outside because the outside won’t do the job. You can miss out a great candidate if you are focusing on the outside and hired the wrong person. However, I understand that every organization have different policies when it comes to hire a person who is going to represent them. This show how challenging it is for those with body art.

  52. This brings up a great concern for both the interview-er and the interview-ee. Will it be a fair interview if the interviewee is being judged by appearance or to say it another way, “judging the book by its cover” or is the interviewer losing out on great talent when they immediately discount a person based on appearance? It is quite hard to understand why a person gets one or more tattoos or has piercings when you do not have any of the above. Both, body piercings and tattoos have a history which is hard to forget or deny. We seem to think that “only a certain type of person” gets a tattoo or a piercing and these thought stands directly contrary to hiring for certain jobs. Tattoos also have the characteristic of sending its own message which might not be acceptable for some companies.
    To get passed this with the intention of hiring the best candidate available, the interviewer needs to “look past” the outer appearance, whenever possible, and discover the person in front of them. If the candidate is the best fit for the job and yet they have visible piercings and tattoos, there might be a solution that can be reached like covering up the tattoos and piercings during work hours.
    There are other solutions that do not immediately discount a potential employee who happens to have great talent. One thing an interviewer must know when looking for new talent is that they should know their company culture before recruiting additional talent. By knowing their own company’s culture, a lot of potential problems can be avoided before they begin.

  53. I find it extremely outdated that there are people that do not get hired because of the tattoos on their body. Many years ago tattoos were equated with people that are lower in society, the bad people, criminals ect which I never agreed with. Overall now as the article stated, a very large amount of people have at least one tattoo or piercing. Tattoos and piercings do not measure the worth or intelligence of a candidate. There is a balance where they are representing your brand and you want them to look a certain part but in no way can tattoos and piercings make someone worth less or less intelligent. It is a very judgmental part that some people can not get past. I have a good amount of tattoos, most can be hidden because they are on my legs but the faces of some people when I am wearing shorts and short sleeves with my little tattoos always shocks me. I understand the association that some people can not get past but I always find tattoos to be a good way to represent who you are or even just express yourself in way youre comfortable with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *