You’re looking sharp for your dream job
interview – pressed suit, polished shoes,
polished smile. You shake hands and sit
down. The interviewer’s eyes flick to the
tattoo on the back of your hand. A frown
‘Is that a panda doing…?’
‘Modern dance, yes. It’s inspired by that
scene from Footloose. You know, the one
in the warehouse.’
‘Yeah, I got it on my gap year in
What happens next?
Your answer will largely depend on how
old you are. Younger people tend to
regard tattoos as no more of a big deal
than wearing a pink shirt. In a survey by
facilities management provider Direct365,
77% of 18-24 year-olds strongly
disagreed with the perception that tattoos
were an indicator of a person’s
personality or ability to do a job.
They have a point. Of course your
capacity to code for your Shoreditch
start-up won’t be impacted by the break-
dancing moose artfully inked onto your
neck, and of course it is a free country.
But unfortunately the people who actually
dole out the jobs aren’t quite so inclined
towards freedom of expression.
Generation X respondents (aged 35-44)
were split 50:50 on the matter.
The survey was only of 750 people, to be
fair, but it does support the anecdotal
evidence that the older you get, the less
favourably you view tattoos, at least in a
white collar environment.
A collective stamping of Millennial feet
would be wasted at this stage – tattoo
discrimination is not illegal per se. (While
there are issues around religious imagery
and equal treatment of the sexes, a tattoo
itself is not a protected characteristic, as
this article by Thorntons explains.)
Time may be on the side of body art, of
course. Prevailing attitudes may well
become more favourable as the Millennial
generation takes the corporate reigns.
But there are no guarantees. Even if
recruiters are willing to take the time to
assess your competence and personality
rather than judging you solely on the
basis of your ‘phat tat’, it doesn’t mean
they won’t find business reasons not to
hire you.
If you’re applying for a public-facing role
then how you choose to present yourself
is, within reason, fair game: employees
are generally expected to be ‘on brand’,
which your weird dancing animal tattoos
might just clash with at some point in
your career.
Rightly or wrongly, lookism dies hard.
Getting a tattoo remains a personal
choice but, unless you’re in a very
creative sector, all other things being
equal it still carries a risk of being career
limiting at some stage. If in doubt, get
one somewhere discreet or go for henna.