September 8th, 2008

New Hires Should Think Twice Before Getting a Tattoo

by Jacqueline Whitmore

If you’re job hunting, be sure to cover up your tattoos. “For baby boomers, tattoos represent an association with criminals and sailors, and it just doesn’t relay a professional message,” says Gretchen Neels, president of Neels & Co., a skills training firm.

About 40 percent of Americans ages 26 to 40 have a tattoo, according to the Pew Research Center. Personally, I am not against tattoos as long as they are in good taste. Besides, my husband sports a small Ironman symbol on the upper part of his back, between his shoulder blades.

If you work in a “creative career,” like entertainment, it most likely isn’t an issue. But in more traditional job environments, inking up still carries a negative connotation. Regardless of your qualities and abilities, people still make judgements based on appearance. Christus Finley, 31, a new home sales consultant, says she’s gotten stares because of her tattoo of a sun, moon and star on her ankle. Today Finley regrets the tattoo, which she got at age 18 for $90 and is now in the process of removing. (The cost runs nearly $1,000 over five treatments.)

It may be many years before businesspeople are judged solely on their merits and not their tattoos. So until that time, just cover it up. It’s not worth getting passed over for a great job opportunity.

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11 Responses to “New Hires Should Think Twice Before Getting a Tattoo”

  1. Mat on February 13th, 2012 2:39 pm

    I am a tattoo artist by profession, while i fully agree with the terms of your article i would like to question the title….A tattoo should be in no way deemed negative, it is purely a sense of expression. Although, as stated above some peoples ignorant pre-concieved notions take the firmer grasp, often reducing a persons chance of being fully understood. So thinking twice before getting a tattoo ?….instead i would say Consider your lifestyle and the way in which a tattoo may restrict the release of your potential. In short, location is key for the best tattoo choice.

    I feel it important though, to express my appreciation of this article. Influencing more thought input towards a tattoo choice is absolutely beneficial.

    Kind regards

  2. Jacqueline on February 13th, 2012 8:38 pm

    Hello Mat,

    Thank you for contacting me. I agree with you completely. I think a person should consider his or her lifestyle and location of the tattoo before making that decision.

    All the best,

  3. Autumn on February 17th, 2012 1:33 pm

    I don’t feel as if the title of this article deems anything negative. I have 8 tattoo’s and while I can cover every one of them up, I refuse to. They are part of who I am, and if a company doesn’t want to hire me because of something that is non-offensive (and most people tell me “they’re inspiring”) then why would I want to work for a company like that? I actually had a job pass me over for a position because I had tattoos. They contacted me 2 months later and offered me the job, and when I questioned them about why there was an opening (I was told it had been filled) this was their exact response: “We had chosen another candidate even though they had less qualifications because our CEO didn’t approve of your tattoos. However, that person wasn’t qualified for this position and unfortunately we didn’t realize that until they were in here and actually working.” I turned down their offer, because I was discriminated against simply because of the way that I chose to decorate “my temple” and I didn’t appreciate that. Now I’m a year from finishing my Master’s degree in Psychology and I work at an office working with children and none of my bosses have a problem with my art. So, while I agree that people definitely need to think long and hard about what tattoo they want and where to get it, I don’t feel it’s fair that it has any bearing on obtaining a job (although, unfortunately, it does.)

  4. Kevin on February 17th, 2012 10:56 pm

    I think you’re missing the point. In the business world, we judge. You were discriminated against because society believes that tattoos represent immature delinquents. Can you blame us employers for doing so? From MY experience, and I’m positive yours too, the vast majority of those that have tattoos are students who have less than a B average in college (how often do you see 3.2+ sporting a tattoo?), dropouts, criminals, drug users, and more importantly, people who don’t plan on pursuing a professional career. I’m not saying that everybody with a tattoo is less intelligent, I’m saying that I adhere to stereotypes because they develop for a reason. You are pursuing a Master’s in Psychology, you are part of the few who do have a tattoo and continue to further your education. Before getting a tattoo, you knew that a major consequence could be potential unemployment. If you didn’t know this then you should have asked somebody. Acknowledging reality, you still decide to go through with it anyway. Why would I hire somebody that would rather get a tattoo than be employed? For some reason, I doubt you would deny a job offer if you were unemployed for an extended period of time. If you disagree, then I’ll likely see you on Occupy Wall Street. If you like art so much, draw a picture or major in it.

  5. Autumn on February 19th, 2012 3:13 pm

    Kevin – I’m not missing the point. Not only people in the business world judge, EVERYONE judges. It’s just the way society is. Do I blame employers for doing so? Well, yes and no. No, because the vast majority of the time it is immature delinquents that have very visible tattoos. However, if someone who has all the qualifications that you’re looking for, and then some, why would you pass them over for a job simply because of a tattoo? That is of course assuming that their tattoo isn’t anything disgusting, offensive, or depicting anything illegal. I do believe however, that your assumption of people in college do not have tattoos unless they have less than a B average is a bit of a stretch. I have managed to maintain a 3.85 GPA for the past 7 years with 8 tattoos, and they haven’t had a bearing on my knowledge or ability to learn. I was aware that getting a tattoo could potentially have consequences in the future, but all my tattoos have meanings to me.I also feel that your statement “Why would I hire somebody that would rather get a tattoo than be employed?” is a little misconstrued, though I do understand the point that you’re trying to get across. You will not see me on OWS, as I stated I currently have a job as well as still being in school full time. I do like art, however my tattoos are not my own drawings. They are pictures that my brother had drawn before he passed away in 2005 at 27 years old. They are my way of keeping him, and his spirit alive and with me. Like I said, all my tattoos have meaning to me, and that meaning runs very deep. <3

  6. Jade on February 20th, 2012 2:48 pm

    Kevin & Autumn both have valid views, however something caught my attention when the words “my temple“ were used. Look up Leviticus 19:28 in the Bibie where God specifically speaks on this topic (tattoos & markings). Our bodies are “His“ temples and not our own. Of course He does give free will but what we choose to do is between that individual & God. The problem here is that people are sometimes so full of pride for whatever reason & are unwilling to lay that aside long enough to excel the way they could in this world.

  7. Misty on February 20th, 2012 10:25 pm

    I feel that ANY person considering a tattoo should think AT LEAST twice about it! I mean cmon it’s permanent, and you should really think long and hard about all of the details of it. I have many, and if I had to do over again, I may not have gotten any.
    The title is correct, you should think twice about it~

  8. Andy on February 22nd, 2012 6:46 am

    Tattoos seem to represent polarizing viewpoints. If someone I interviewed chose not to cover them up, I would question their taste level, and wonder if they would well represent the brand of my business. Appearance counts for a lot, and I wouldn’t want to lose potential income because reps from other business find my employee off-putting. I am more comfortable in a t-shirt and gym shorts, but does that mean I display that in the professional world? Of course not. I prefer my hair longer, a shag if you will, and that’s definitely more me, but the world I work in, I have to maintain positive relations with clients.

    I don’t think one tattoo here or there is a big deal (though my people I have known say they regret them, as they fade and no longer represent what they thought they did), but I wouldn’t recommend anyone get one. For the most part, any artistry behind them belongs to the artist, not to the canvass.

    Everyone deals with death in their own way, but why did you chose to make your body a shrine (or a tomb) to your brother?

  9. J.D. on February 22nd, 2012 1:02 pm


    I knew someone would bring up Leviticus 19:28. Can I assume for the moment that you also:
    1.) Observe the Sabbath?
    2.) Make a burnt sacrifice and then eat it the next day?
    3.) Exile anyone who eats that sacrifice on the third day?
    4.) Leave the edges of your field un-reaped?
    5.) Hold back the wages of anyone you hire overnight?
    6.) Plant a garden with 2 types of seeds?
    7.) Wear clothes made from 2 kinds of fabric? (Such as a cotton shirt with denim pants and leather shoes?)
    8.) Burn a ram as a guilt offering when you sleep with a slave?
    9.) Wait for 5 years to eat the fruit from a tree you’ve planted?
    10.) Eat red meat?
    11.) Read a horoscope?
    12.) Trim the sides of your beard?
    13.) Stand while you are in the presence of someone older than you?
    14.) Treat all foreigners as though they are native to your land?

    According to your favorite chapter, all of those are commandments. Or could it be that the reference to a tattoo was a cultural reference for the old covenant only?

    I love it when folks rip stuff out of the Bible to try to dishonestly win an argument.

  10. Autumn on February 28th, 2012 12:59 pm

    I didn’t even realize this was an argument, but I do like your point J.D.

    Andy – I didn’t make my body a temple or a tomb to my body, if anything I made it a shrine, but even that’s not the most appropriate word. My brother was (and to this day still is) my idol. No one else in my family was alive when he passed. Him and I were bonded together, and I didn’t want to feel like I lost that bond just because he passed on into the next world. So, I found ways to keep our bond strong, not only emotionally, but also physically (not in the sexual way of course).

  11. Autumn on March 19th, 2012 12:39 am

    Since the last post, I have gotten 2 more tattoos. Again, both are able to be hidden. I feel, as long as they can be hidden if your employer/potential employer has an issue with them being shown, then there should be no problem. But, again, that is simply my personal opinion.

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