White Collars and Full Sleeve Tattoos

September 5, 2013 Features

Nowadays approximately 1 out of 5, or about 14% of Americans can boast that they have a tattoo on their body—this is a dramatic increase compared to only about a decade ago. The rise of the body ink culture is making many young adults question whether or not having tattoos will affect their job search, and the answer to that quandary is: it depends.

“Even in this tight job market, most companies aren’t going to view tattoos too harshly. Companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate,” says John Challenger, a CEO of a consulting firm. His statement is a reflection of the typical hiring manager’s mentality about body ink. As times are changing and generational shifts occur, a significant amount of employers could not care less if someone has tattoos or not; it usually comes down solely to his or her job performance. In fact, many companies will allow tattoos because they believe that their lax policy will bring in young applicants fresh out of college.

Recently I conducted an interview with an old coworker of mine (who happens to have many tattoos) named Casey Cook. At one point Casey worked for a high level corporate job here in Orlando, and I wanted to know what his experience was like when he was interviewing for a job.

Karina: How many tattoos do you currently have?

Casey: Depends on how you count, but technically 2 full sleeves (arms covered), plus neck, and like 15 more or so scattered about probably.

Karina: Did they at any point affect you while you were searching for a job in a corporate environment?

Casey: For my first interview I wore a suit so everything was covered aside from the very top of my neck tattoo. If I wasn’t covered in them I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to wear a tie, but having the collar of my shirt buttoned hides more of the neck tattoo so having them affected my wardrobe choice for sure. Luckily they hired me!

Karina: Did you have to tell your employer that you had tattoos during your interview?

Casey: Aside from the visible parts of my neck tattoo I didn’t feel required to tell them anything more. I think both parties in the interview usually have things they’d prefer not to disclose to the other—a few weeks after I was hired I asked my manager if I was “required” to wear long sleeves and he said I didn’t need to.

In general, society is taking a more relaxed position on tattoos and other body modifications, but there are still some employers who see view tattoos as a distraction in the workplace. Research done by CareerBuilder found that 31% employers were deterred from hiring applicants with tattoos. Nonetheless, many of the employers who hold strict views on tattoos may still allow them, but with stipulations.

More and more companies are enforcing very precise and strict dress codes that may allow tattoos, but will not allow them to be seen. Justine Lisser, senior attorney advisor at the EEOC said, “Employers are permitted to impose reasonable dress codes, which could include banning visible tattoos, within certain constraints.”

These rules are in place to give a strict appearance of professionalism in the work environment. For example, if an employee has a sleeve of tattoos they may only be allowed to wear long sleeve shirts while in the office. If they were to violate the dress code the employer has a right to address the issue and do something about it.

As of right now there are still primarily mixed reviews on tattoos in the workplace, but as society is changing there might soon be a definite agreement on the acceptability of body art. For now however, if a college student is debating on whether or not to get a tattoo sleeve he or she might want to wait a little while to see where they end up career wise in a few years. Until then the student should simply get a few small sweet tats that can easily be covered up by clothing or hair.

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