Do You Still Need to Hide Tattoos and Piercings for Interviews?

Published on: 22 Oct 2020

Tattoos at interviews

‘Well, you’re never going to get a job with that metal in your face!’ said my father when I came home with a nose piercing at the age of 19. But was he right?

The Questions

Ten years ago this definitely seemed to be the case, with keen job seekers desperately removing piercings and covering up tattoos prior to an important interview. But today, in the world of work in 2020, is this still the case? Surely we understand that judging potential candidates based on their appearance before their skills and attributes is the most primary example of ‘judging a book by it’s cover.’ In an age in which acceptance is key, why are we still suggesting that having a piercing or tattoo 'gives the wrong impression'? This is surely the exact kind of rhetoric we need to avoid in 2020. In a climate that supposedly praises individuality and self-expression, why does there still seem to be a taboo surrounding tattoos and piercings in the workplace?

The Answers

Deceiving as this heading may be… there aren’t any. Not definitively anyway. The frustrating thing about all those questions is that it’s hard to provide a definite answer to any of them. Policies on tattoos and piercings vary between companies, industries and individual workplaces so it can be hard to know whether or not your potential new employers will approve. According to the website ‘Support Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace,’ 29% of people in the UK currently have a tattoo. This means that 29% of potential job seekers are facing the dilemma of whether or not to cover up before an interview. Although one can hope that mindsets have broadened and adapted enough to understand that one’s appearance is not reflective of their abilities, it appears that these perceptions are hard to shake.

Supporting tattoos and piercings in the workplace

The aforementioned website ‘Support Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace,’ is quite clearly in favour of abolishing discrimination against those with piercings and tattoos. In fact, many companies now believe that not hiring someone because of their body art is archaic and reaffirms misguided prejudices. In his research into the place of tattoos in the hiring process, Andrew Timming at St Andrews University argued that "a change in attitudes is inevitable." With celebrities bringing tattoos and piercings into mainstream culture and a lean towards a more liberal view on the matter, Timming argues that employers are going to have the accept that people with tattoos are integral to the fabric of society.

Against tattoos and piercings in the workplace

It’s always important to look at both sides of an argument. There are still plenty of employers to whom sporting a tattoo or piercing is not a trait of the desirable candidate. In fact, research conducted by Acas shows that some employers, including the manager of a removals firm and the regional director of an accounting firm, would still be reluctant to hire people with visible tattoos in case it put off clients and customers. The key argument against tattoos and piercings at work seems to be the concerns about the companies’ ‘image.’ It appears in many cases that employers are worried that hiring an individual with tattoos or piercings may put across the wrong impression to clients.

Our Advice

Every company is different. Our advice would be to check the companies’ website for their dress code policy prior to the interview. In the UK there is currently no law expressly forbidding discrimination against tattoos and piercings in the workplace. What do you think? Should employers be punished for discrimination against those with tattoos and piercings? Or do you believe that tattoos and piercings should be covered in a professional environment?