Here's why experts say you still need to cover up your tattoos when you're interviewing

Jacob Lund/ShutterstockCover up your ink — unless you’re interviewing at a particularly progressive workplace.
  • Tattoos are finally becoming more acceptable at work.
  • But experts say you should still cover them up when you’re interviewing.
  • In industries like media or tech, which are more progressive, it might not matter. According to three experts, though, you will definitely want to cover up if interviewing at a law firm, bank, or another conservative industry.

Tattoos are becoming more commonplace, and less indicative of unsavoury behaviour.

One in five Americans has a tattoo. Nearly 40% of Americans aged 18 to 29 have one.

Despite these statistics, career experts told Business Insider that they advise people not to show their ink while at job interviews.

“Don’t distract your interviewer with your tattoos,” Raleigh, North Carolina-based human resources consultant Laurie Ruettimann said. “Make the interview a referendum on your skills, not your ink.”

Plenty of things can go unexpectedly wrong in the interview process. You don’t want to add additional complications by flashing your tattoos.

“Why waste any amount of focus on wondering whether an interviewer is silently (or unconsciously) judging your tattoos?” career coach Marc Dickstein said.

Covering tattoos is especially important for higher-up roles, said Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of career website Ladders.

“Tattoos have become more common among Americans, but are still not widespread in managerial ranks,” Cenedella said. “The more professional the role, the more you’ll want to cover up.”

Naturally, this rule doesn’t apply to absolutely every industry, the experts all said. People are less likely to notice – or take into account negatively – your ink in creative, media, tech, or other progressive industries. Indeed, your interviewers might be tattooed themselves.

But take extra precaution to cover your tattoo when interviewing at an investment bank, law firm, or a client-facing position, Dickstein said.

While tattoos may seem mainstream, particularly among millennials, plenty of those in charge of hiring and human resources still have a bias against ink, according to a 2016 survey.

Nearly 40% of HR managers ranked tattoos as the third most-likely physical feature to limit someone’s careers. Of HR managers aged 60 and over, 63% said tattoos are inappropriate at work. That goes down to 22% among managers 25 and under.

Three in 10 HR managers also said in the survey that bad breath is a bigger red flag than tattoos. In other words, your interviewer would prefer you have tattoos than smell bad.

“Crazy as it may seem that there are still employers in 2018 that have an issue with non-offensive tattoos, it’s true,” Dickstein said.

Women with tattoos are seen with particular scorn, according to one British study. They’re perceived as less attractive, heavier drinkers, and more promiscuous than females without any ink.

That’s why Ruettimann encourages women, in particular, to cover up their tattoos.

“Interviewers have bias, and most people in corporate America are still sexist,” she said. “Men with tattoos are creative or daring, young women with tattoos are immature or dramatic.”

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