Tattoo You? Don't Hide Them for Job Interviews Just Yet

Last Updated Oct 1, 2010 1:15 PM EDT

My BNET colleague Suzanne Lucas (aka Evil HR Lady) suggests that if you sport tattoos, you'll just have to accept the fact that some people aren't going to hire you. Her good advice: When applying for a job, first look at the current employees and dress appropriately.

But I was heartened to learn that tattoos are becoming more accepted in the workplace. Outplacement specialists Challenger, Gray & Christmas report that even in today's tough hiring environment,

"... most companies are not going to view tattoos too harshly. One reason is that with everyone from soccer moms to MIT computer science graduates sporting tattoos, preconceptions about tattooed individuals are no longer valid. Secondly, and more importantly, companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate."
It turns out that 36 percent of Millennials have some sort of body art, and 40 of GenXers are so adorned, according to a Pew Research Center report this year. In all, more than 40 million Americans sing the body electric. That represents a big dent in the available labor pool.

Of course, some professions and tattoos just don't to go together. According to CG&C:

  • Jobs where tattoos are not common include bankers, lawyers, accountants and the clergy.
  • Jobs where tattoos may not be such be a hindrance: Advertising, marketing, sales and technology. (Let's add to this list motorcycle repair technicians and tattoo artists.)
So fear not you mighty tattoo'd warrior. Your war paint won't necessarily keep you out of gainful employment.

(Image by Flickr user madaboutasia, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.