Do I need to take out my visible body piercings during an interview? What about my tattoos?
– Layla, recent graduate of UC Davis
Good news, Layla, you are not alone!
Tattoos are something of a trademark for the Millennial Generation.
Many people your age competing for the same job will have at least one tattoo. Data from Pew Research Center suggests that:
• 38% of Millennials (people age 18 to 30) have at least one tattoo
• 32% of Gen Xers (people age 31 – 48) have at least one tattoo
• 15% of Baby Boomers (age 49 – 66) have at least one tattoo
A percentage of Millennials will also have body piercing beyond the traditional ear lobe:
• 23% of Millennials
• 9% of Gen Xers
• 1% of Baby Boomers
Your hopes of bonding with your Baby Boomer interviewer about a mutual passion for body art are about as likely as winning the lottery.
Obviously not all jobs and not all organizations are created equal. Your tattoos and body piercing will impact your job chances differently within each organization.
If your dream job is computer programming at Google, your body art may be a non-issue. However, if you’re hoping to land a sales position at IBM, your body art may end your career before it even begins.
Let’s face it, a small nose stud or ankle tattoo is not likely to offend even the most conservative interviewer. However, a large earlobe extender or full arm tattoo may cost you the job in many organizations.
For the sake of your interview, I would remove all body piercings that will not result in large gaping holes, and I would dress to cover up visible tattoos if possible.
Because your goal in the interview is to get the job offer. You do that by differentiating yourself favorably from your competition. In a tough job market where there are many qualified applicants for every open position, interviewers are looking for any excuse to eliminate candidates. Typos on your resume, showing up late for the interview, or visible body art may be just the thing an interviewer is looking for to eliminate you from the competition.
Susan’s Bottom Line: Cover up if you can.
Susan, did I really just read that “a small nose stud or ankle tattoo is not likely to offend even the most conservative interviewer?” I think we’ll have to agree to disagree that a small nose stud would not offend “even the most conservative interviewer.”
That aside, my general thought is that the answer to this question is not a simple one.
The obvious answer is that the “safe” choice is to remove them. Piercings and tattoos tend to be polarizing. You love them or you hate them.
That means that leaving them visible takes a risk.
I do agree with you that the right choice depends on the kind of job it is, the culture of the company, and who you’re sitting across from in the interview.
If the job is an art director position at an advertising agency or a telephone sales position, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about it. If the job is with an accounting firm, law firm, professional services firm, a role where you deal with older clients, or even something like a 3rd grade teacher at a private school, I would be much less likely to display piercings or tattoos if you can avoid them.
I do feel compelled to also mention, however, that if you’re certain people will see them after you take the job and you’re committed to keeping them and/or showing them, I would show them during the interview.
I would rather not get a job because of a piercing than get fired or be ostracized on my first day of work when I it became obvious that I had tattoos and/or piercings that I was committed to displaying on the job.
You’re safer not displaying them but getting hired under false pretenses isn’t a great solution either.
Pat’s Bottom Line: Hide your body art unless you plan to show it regularly after you are hired.
What do you think? Should you cover up or show what you have (and are proud of)?
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