Tattoos: Think Before You Ink

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

The good news is that the job market for new college graduates is not as bad as the press is reporting, or rather, it’s not as bad for Penn grads. Quite the contrary, the 2011 grads did well in the job market, and while some sectors have reduced their interviews, others are ramping up.

But the less good news is that the market is still very competitive. Employers have their pick of good candidates. That means you have to make a strong first impression, and to present yourself as professionally as possible.

Last week I received an email from a student at another university, who was writing a paper on tattoos in the workforce. She asked me questions I couldn’t answer, such as, have tattoos become more acceptable in the last ten years. I suspect the answer to that is yes, but a very qualified yes. A survey from 10 years ago found that almost 60% of employers said they were less likely to hire a candidate with tattoos or piercings. Maybe fewer feel that way now. A quick search didn’t turn up more recent studies. But even if that percentage has been reduced by half, about one in three interviewers will still reject you if you have tattoos.

What that means for job hunters is this: as far as employment is concerned, think twice before getting a tattoo in any place that is visible when you are dressed for a summer’s day. While certain fields, such as the arts, may be more accepting, I would not take the risk.

If you already have a tattoo, my advice is to cover it up during the interview process and, at least initially, in the workplace. This assumes your tattoo is not offensive. If anyone could be offended, keep it covered up at all times. (And if you have multiple piercings, remove some of your rings too, but that’s a subject for another blog.)

Employers are looking for new hires who will fit in with existing staff, and who will represent the organization well with clients or others in external organizations. They may personally not object to tattoos, but don’t want to risk offending clients. So before you do something you may later regret, think before you ink.

Author: Patricia Rose

Patricia Rose is the Director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania.