Tattoo? How To Still Get Hired

Don't let your ink hold you back from career success


There are three things people who have or are thinking of getting a tattoo should know with respect to finding a job:
  • You can definitely get discriminated against during the hiring process if your tattoos are showing.
  • Employers are completely within their legal rights to skip hiring you if you have them.
  • Many corporations have policies against visible tattoos and body piercings (other than earrings on women). Especially when employees are going to be working with clients.
But what do hiring managers really think of tattoos on candidates?

I asked a few hiring managers to share the real reasons why they choose not to hire people with tattoos. In exchange for keeping them anonymous, they opened up about the perception of tattoos in their corporate environments. Here are some of the responses I got:

"They show the person is impulsive."
"It's a sign of someone who is defiant and a rebel."
"To do something so permanent shows a lack of forethought and consequences."
"They are free to have a tattoo, but I shouldn't be forced to look at it."
"The person is most likely a heavy partier and may be an attendance issue."
"They make people look less educated."

What can you do to get you (and your tattoo) hired?

When I asked these same hiring managers what a candidate with a visible tattoo could do to overcome this discrimination during an interview, here's what they said:

Be willing to conceal it. Offer to wear make-up or clothing to hide the tattoo.

Clean up your look. Wear your hair in a clean-cut fashion, select conservative clothing, and do your best to minimize the rebel image that goes with your tattoo.

Be honest and accountable. Explain why you got the tattoo and what you've learned about its impact on your ability to get hired.

Prove you're worth overlooking the tattoo. If you can show them you can alleviate a major pain, or solve an expensive problem better than the other candidates, they will consider hiring you. As one hiring manager said,

"While I don't like tattoos, I do need the best talent. I'm not going to pass up hiring someone who can save or make the company money because of their ink."

Lastly, Consider These Alternatives...

If you have a tattoo and hate the idea of corporate America discriminating against you for it, consider:

A) Finding an industry or job that appreciates body art. Get into a line of work where tattoos are admired, not shunned.

B) Become your own boss. You can wear your tattoo proudly if you are in charge. Set yourself up as an independent contractor and get on the path to business ownership so you don't have to worry about interviews and the discrimination that goes with it.

Remember, while we live in a free country that allows you to have your tattoo, employers don't have to respect your choice. Determining a strategy for having a tattoo and a job is definitely worth doing. (For more information, check out this article by a recruiter on why tattoos are still taboo).

P.S. - First time reading my posts? Nice to meet you! Here are a few others I've written here on AOL that may help you:

18 Things to Bring on a Job Interview
Office Politics: How to Befriend the Enemy After a Heated Battle
4 Things to Keep Off Your Resume

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Funny. Some of my tattoos were impulsive, some I thought about for a while. I actually never party or drink and I'm very punctual with a great work ethic. Stereotypes only make you lose great potential employees.

December 04 2015 at 9:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stuart Pitcher

Some of those responses from managers are awful. I have 14 tattoos and each one I spent 6 months with a picture pinned to my wall so I could make sure I loved the image,hardly compulsive and ignorant of the future, I have an IQ of 170 so bang goes the uneducated image, in 6years i've been late to work once because me and my girlfriend broke up. I really think a lot of businesses need to start ignoring what people look like and start paying attention to their personality and how they act.

February 19 2014 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find it ridiculous how so many companies and daily people are against tattooing. A tattoo has nothing to do with a persons social status, or whether they are a good worker. I mean one needs to be cautious not to have a gang tattoo or a nazi tattoo somewhere on them because that is a form of hate and I can understand having an issue with it. If someone has a little rose tattoo on their wrist or something, how does that make them seem less educated? Or impulsive? Most people who have tattoos take precious time to decide what they want. The tattoos I have mean a lot to me...all in all people need to stop worrying about this little petty stuff and just let people be themselves. Aren't we regulated enough??

January 25 2014 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Erase Tattoo Removal

Wow, this is a great article. It really gives people with tattoos hope.

December 19 2013 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a hiring IT manager with 4 teams/40 staff, who is sleeved out and then some, also possessing dual college degrees, yada, yada, I am looking for creative, talented team members that will add value to the organization. PERIOD. If I see tatts, I'm intrigued; not turned off. That would be the case even if I wasn't tatted. My son's middle school principal was sleeved, although he wore a suit daily (who knew). He was a great principal.

I can understand a business having an image they want to convey, and it is their prerogative to do so. The responses noted in this article are less about the image a company wants as opposed to closed-minded conclusion about a candidate that sound like their from the 1970's school of HR.

Interesting to read these very old myths still exist.

November 14 2013 at 8:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Career Sidekick

I like these tips a lot. It shouldn't be necessary to start your own business or pick an industry specifically because of your tattoos if you follow the advice here. Although there's nothing wrong with starting your own business if you want that type of freedom. I just think the tips here are good, and that it shouldn't be necessary.

November 13 2013 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow! I knew the corporate world discriminated against tats....but the reasons why kind of shocked me a little.

It took me many years to decide on my first tattoo BECAUSE it's such a permanent thing. I mean, I can see where they get the impulsive idea from in that many people do get tattoos on impulse and don't consider the fact that it is in fact a permanent accessory to your body (you have to consider things like are you gonna like 10, 20, 50 years from now, will the spot you put it at stretch it as your body changes through out the years, if you plan to hide it, can you hide it? will it still mean something to you later on in life? will you like it when you're wearing an evening gown or wedding dress or bathing suit? etc) and many people do regret their first tattoos.
...and when we're young, it can be about rebelling.

But we all grow up. Even if we did it out of rebelliousness and/or impulsiveness, we all grow up and learn some time and are no longer that way. So the advice is good if you can't hide certain tattoos to be the first to talk about them head on. Acknowledge the fact that it appears you may be impulsive/rebellious (and if you really were at the time, admit to it) but state how you learned from it in the time since. Or if you did think about it (and wanted the tattoo to be as hard to hide as it is, or you choose not to conceal it), show it means something to you and you put thought behind it

November 06 2013 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reading the comments - looks to me like an awful lot of people (who apparently put in a lot of thought about getting a tatoo) didn't take into consideration that prospective employers might be narrow-minded, ignorant and 'just plain stupid'. Need I say more?!

November 06 2013 at 8:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Adelaide Maisy

Employers who discriminate on the basis of whether a prospective employee has a tattoo when compared with others need to open up their mind. A tattoo is an expression of a person's self and as such should be treated with respect. I've had a tattoo for years (a small lily on my forearm from and have never ever faced any discrimination due to it. The only exceptions would be big and offensive tattoos that are too loud and might convey a negative impression. This is 21st century folks!

October 28 2013 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tattoos are a sign of demonic possession.

October 27 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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