To Tattoo or Not Tattoo?

As representative of the generation in which many bosses, supervisors and hiring agents reside, I feel it is important to explain to job seekers that to those of us born in the 50’s or 60’s or even earlier, tattoos were not as socially accepted as they have become in recent years.

In my upbringing, I was taught that exposed tattoos were only worn by ex-cons and carnival folks, who were suspicious and untrustworthy, not ordinary citizens or people one might consider hiring in a regular job. Maybe, a military man might have a discreet tattoo he could cover with clothing. Only that was socially forgivable.

Many of my peers have now embraced tattoos.  But, they know that old taboo and tend to put them in places which can be covered up with clothing, too, because tattoos still have not been as broadly embraced in professional and work situations as they have been by the general public.

A couple of years ago I met with a very impressive young man who had extensive training in leadership.  He was frustrated and confused that no one would hire him, even for the most basic jobs.  I immediately saw the problem and gently explained that while the rough, homemade tattoos of his youth on his right knuckles, spelling out the word “LOVE” might not be a problem, the bookend word on his left knuckles, “HATE” was probably the reason people weren’t seeing his skills, abilities and general niceness.

He was flabbergasted.  It never occurred to him that people would negatively judge him based on his tattoos or that questionable word.

I referred him to the local cosmetics store to purchase Dermablend©, a light, full-coverage, foundation make up specifically designed to cover stretch marks, bruises, birthmarks, scars and, yes, tattoos. I used it myself when I stumbled over my own two feet and gave myself a scary black-eye.  The coverage is not always complete and it does wear off eventually.  But, I got a better reception from others by wearing it.

My client purchased and wore the product on his next job interview.  He got the job.  Later, I heard he had those tattoos he no longer felt he needed professionally removed, realizing they were a detriment to his social acceptance and professional status.

I have seen many beautiful and meaningful tattoos on both men and women.  But just like wild jewelry and flamboyant or too casual clothing, tattoos are not recognized by most businesses as appropriate dress.  Those of you who have tattoos not coverable by clothing and think you may be encountering the same puzzling job search challenge, should consider purchasing and using your own tube or tub of Dermablend©, which is created for many skin tones.  Unfortunately, the make up will not cover up a lack of skills, credentials, personality flaws or a poor personal presentation.  But, it will cover a distraction that could cause you to be misjudged.

Of course, some employers and businesses are not concerned about tattoos.  But, as I suggested to my young client, covering up during the job search process is generally a good practice.  Then, when a job is offered and you learn of company dress codes, and maybe have a discussion with your boss, you may be able to opening display your body art.  Of course, if the person interviewing you is openly displaying tattoos, the question may be answered then and there.

To those of you considering adding a tattoo to your body, I strongly suggest you keep what I’ve said in mind when you chose the location.  Discreet placement could save you a lot of hassle in your job search process, or even a challenge by a current employer who tells you too late they don’t want to see it.

Posted on site 12/3/15