Does Having Tattoos Make You Less Employable?

Local report says young people are being denied jobs because of their tattoos. What do you think?


When you go to a place of business and find that the person taking care of you has easily visible tattoos, does it matter to you? Does it make you uncomfortable or does it make no difference to you?

As an employer, would you hire someone with tattoos on their head face or neck? Tell us in the comment section below.

On Sunday, The Morning Call ran a story about the confluence of two trends: A lack of employment and an abundance of tattoos among 20 and 30-somethings. More and more young people are finding that they are being denied employment because they have visible tattoos.

In one case, detailed by the newspaper, a college student from Bethlehem was denied a job as a ride operator at Dorney Park because of a tattoo on the back of her neck.

Does that seem fair to you? Tell us in the comments section.

Mallory Vough May 29, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I have six tattoos -- the last of which permanently landed on my body this past weekend. So, I have lots of FEELINGS on this topic. Tattoos do not cause you to lose brain cells. They do not make you dumb. And a tattoo does not automatically put you in the "criminal" category. A former employer judged me. I used to waitress and was forced to wear a skirt. Due to the owners’ religion, the tattoo on my ankle was a topic of conversation. At one point, one of the owners walked up to me with a napkin. He asked me to cover my tattoo. I walked away. Call me insubordinate, but that was not happening. My point: Does my ankle tattoo -- of a moon -- make me incompetent? Can I not wait tables now? Because, more often than not, customers were curious. They would ask me the meaning behind the tattoo, ask me why I would get a tattoo, etc. Instead of judging me, the customers would try to understand. My bosses just assumed the customers would judge and scare off. But they were wrong. I didn’t plan on waitressing my entire life -- and being forced to wear a skirt -- so I knew enough to be responsible with my ink. I chose my skin realestate wisely. When you see me in a professional setting today, you'd never know that I have tattoos. I can easily cover them up with pants and a polo shirt, if I want. I can easily put them on display with a pair of capris and a T-shirt, if I want. So, do I think you should be smart about it? In this world… unfortunately, yes.
Staberdearth May 29, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I find the spending of money on tattoos and other body art to be a negative indicator of MY own criteria in evaluating someone else for a position.. Deal with it. First impressions are lasting impressions and I don't even feel the need to ask such folks " what's your story?" any more. I can usually begin with "let me guess" but don't even bother with that. I find the investment in such things to be frivolous, money wasting, and somewhat self centered and narcissisistic. Often it ican be a sign of out of scale rebellion like the ridiculous adornments of metal, piercings, gauging, etc. To me they look ugly and make one look like a peer pressured moron since they usually travel in packs. It tells me that thisperson has absolutely no sense of the long term. Ever see what a tat looks like on an older person? God only knows what large guage spools will look like on someone who is in the 60's! NASTY! To each his or her own, just realize what you have surrendered with your rather expensive frivolities. Such is life, as I said earlier you should know what you are up against before you leap. Sounds like time worn advice. Whining after the fact that you want the rules changed is the height of foolishness.
Mallory Vough May 29, 2012 at 02:25 PM
So, you'd much prefer people to be robots? Yes, you're at work to... well... work. However, you have to allow for some human elements / relationships or your employees are going to be absolutely, positively miserable. Who wants to be treated like a robot? And, "packs"? Really? Perhaps it seems like "they usually travel in packs" because those people are the only ones who don't judge them. I don't want to be around people or employers who refuse to take the time to get to know me as a human being, so I do not blame anyone for gravitating toward the people with tattoos and piercings. Ya know, those evil people who treat them with respect. Tattoos and piercings do not define a person, so you should not define a person by their tattoos and piercings.
DebMel May 29, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Anyone business who deals directly with the public puts their business at risk of offending someone when their customer service reps make unasked-for statements or opinions - be it verbal or bodily through ink, clothing choices, etc. As an individual, you may make almost any statement you want under free speech, but employers have a right to not hire those who put their own message ahead of that of the business. The potential customer should not have to overcome a perhaps negative first impression, "get to know you as a human being" and choose to respect your values before becoming a customer.
Dana Grubb May 29, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Mallory, Unfortunately or fortunately many people are "judged" by their appearance, and anyone making the choice to be tattooed should realize that. It's not about whether it is right or wrong. It seems to be more about whether an employer wants their employees looking like the Sunday comics page and how it will affect the workplace. For me personally, I do not find the tattoed look appealing and although I think this generation of illustrated people will begin to look horrendous as they age and their skin isn't as taut as it was in their youth, I would you hire you as long as you are qualified and your personal choices don't subtract from an efficiently operating work environment.
Mallory Vough May 29, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I agree with you. I cannot blame employers for shying away from potential employees with naked women (or men) or profanities tattooed in places not easily hidden. I suppose my problem comes when people like me, for example, are judged in the workplace for the unoffensive tattoos -- moon and stars, hummingbirds and flowers, daughter and son names, etc. These are all far from offensive. So, my question: Can / should an employer check their personal biases at the door? What happens when he or she doesn't condone tattoos or piercings, believes they are ugly -- no matter the design -- so refuses to hire someone due to that bias? I believe there are employers out there who will accept no one with tattoos, no matter how offensive or unoffensive the design. How could a hummingbird possibly affect the workplace?
Rosemary B May 29, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The customers might not have judged you because of your tatoo, but it seems to have been a distraction from the business since the customers did ask what the story was behind your tats. I am sure employers would rather hire people who don't offer such distractions and can just concentrate of the work at hand.. Not judging you, just seeing the other side.
Rosemary B May 29, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I read that particular article and had to laugh out loud when one of the tatooed people interviewed said that it felt like RACISM when she did not get the job because of her tattoos! You have no choice what race you are born into, but Tats are totally a lifestyle choice! You make a choice you deal with the consequences.
Mallory Vough May 29, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Rosemary B It wasn't a matter of distracting the customers or me -- conversation and a friendlier atmosphere was our "thing" at this particular restaurant, which is local and no longer open. It was a matter of the owners' religion (modifying the body, treat your body as a temple, etc.), which kind of bled onto the employees. And, again, I'm not all about being a robot. Just because I'm a waitress or an editor, doesn't mean I can't have a regular, human conversation with someone -- when appropriate, of course. If someone asks me a question -- whether it has to do with food, writing, or none of the above -- I will answer them. I'm not afraid to be me -- tattoos and all. I personally believe you can gain more respect in the work place if you master the balance between being professional and being human. You can be both at the same time.
Rosemary B May 29, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I totally agree, one does not have to be a "robot" in the workplace. People are free to express themselves whenever and however they choose. They just need to be mature enough and prepared to face the consequences of expressing their individuality. It will not always be welcomed warmly. It is just how life is. I am sure your former employers were also subject to bias because of their conservative religious beliefs. If you believe in them strongly enough you will still express them and not whine about the aftermath.
Paul Berge May 30, 2012 at 01:18 AM
You may begin a conversation with "let me guess" but I would be willing to bet any guesses you had would be wrong if you were speaking to me. The fact that you already assumed I had no sense of the long term is incorrect guess #1. You probably wouldn't even guess that I had tattoos if you were interviewing me since mine are fully covered when dressed for a job interview. The argument that tattoos are frivolous and a waste of money is just a matter of perspective. Everyone spends their money on things that make them happy. Some people buy expensive clothing, others spend their money on cars, houses that are 5x bigger than they need to live, some collect art. How about expensive jewelry, big screen TV's, throwing money at the cable and cell phone companies month after month, drinking expensive designer coffees every day of the week, eating out instead of cooking at home. Every one of these things may seem frivolous to some people, while others are perfectly happy to spend their money them. Why should the way someone else spends their money be any matter to you? Most items we choose to spend our money on have a limited lifetime. My tattoos will be with me forever. If you look at the average cost of even a very large tattoo over its lifetime, you will most likely find that it is far less expensive than a daily coffee habit. One last thing. Can you please tell me exactly what I have surrendered with my expensive frivolities?
Vswan May 31, 2012 at 11:34 AM
YOU made the choice to use your body as a canvas for ink without considering the consequences. Now stop trying to convince society and employers to lower their standards in order for you to be accepted. Live with the painful readjustment, learn a hard lesson...
Geo January 17, 2013 at 09:46 AM
STABERDEATH you are on the money. These tat people are hypocrites. Everyone judges appearance, even the tattoo people, so spare me the song and dance. The difference tattoos are permanent, unless some people are smart enough to get temporary tattoos. Suck it up. It is called life.
Geo January 17, 2013 at 09:49 AM
MALLORY I find all tattoos offensive. Sorry , that is my right. Yet you are judging certain tattoos yourself. You see how that works. I also will not hire people with purple hair, mohawks, jeans on interview etc. Sorry, but it is called life. People need to really think long and hard before they drastically alter their body permanently.
Geo January 17, 2013 at 09:51 AM
Yep. It is funny. They all love their individuality but hate when an employer exercises theirs. As Alanis Morrisette once said... ISN'T IT IRONIC.
Mallory Vough January 17, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Geo, I do not judge anyone. But if someone has the f-bomb tattooed across their forehead, I can't really blame a perspective employer for choosing someone else. That's not judging, that's common sense. My body is not "drastically" altered. If we were in a professional setting together, you would have no idea that I had tattoos.
Sarah February 23, 2013 at 08:52 AM
Xa Ra human rights !! ppl must feel free to watever they like ..they must not judge with their appearance !!
Bubba August 03, 2013 at 11:25 PM
I have hired literally hundreds of employees. I have a job app, and about 20 minutes of face-to-face interviewing to select someone for the next steps, which are a background check and drug screen before hire. Appearances count. My 230+ years of experience has led me to these instant "non-hire" criteria: 1) Visible tattoos/piercings that cannot be covered up- tells me this person has little common sense and judgmental skills. They don't think ahead. They are going to do their "own thing" be damn what the stupid boss wants. (yeah- you're a "rebel" alright) They have a much higher drug/alcohol abuse/incarceration rate and I don't want to waste $200 of my money on a drug test/background check to find out I'm right. 2) Answering cell phone or text while waiting for or in the interview. I'll end up paying this person to yak and text half the day. 3) Dirty, inappropriate dress. You don't need to be in a suit, but at least try to act like you want to impress me. Clean, un-torn, conservative clothes. If you come in with your torn, dirty baggies around your ankles, I'll assume your "dressed up" and will dread your "normal" dress habits. Wearing a hoodie up gets you a 1 minute cursory interview. 4) Smoking before, during, after interview. Just tells me you're going to cost me lots of money for all your "paid" smoke breaks. I realize these criteria probably cost me a few good employees- but they saved me from hundreds of bad ones. Unfortunately I don't have hours or days to "get to know you".
Ricardo August 15, 2013 at 09:55 AM
Let me put this out there. My tattoos do not define who I am. I am a hard worker and very friendly person to be around. Unfortunately people are constantly being judged because of tattoos and piercings which it is ones personal opinion whether they like them or not. Employers really should take the time to look at whether people are truly qualified or not and keep tattoos separate from that. I understand some if the view points that employers make when it comes to "offensive" tattoos, such as naked people or profanity. I could understand if those kinds of tattoos were easily visible why they won't hire. But let's be honest, I see many doctors and nurses with many tattoos on them. Does that make them any less qualified to save your life or treat you when you are ill? They are professionals no matter what they look like or how many tattoos they have visible or not. Everyone in society judges people on what they look like instead of the person they truly are. Employers should at the least give everyone a fair chance. They could possibly turn down an amazing employee and a hard worker.
Barry Morcom September 16, 2013 at 06:01 AM
An awful lot (not all) of these comments miss the point. I have recently moved from London to Bristol and I am stunned by the number of tattoos. Sure a tattoo does not label the wearer as a criminal or any less of a person than people without but I personally do not like them and I find that in a retail environment I will unconsciously choose not to be served by somebody with a visible tattoo. Am I being prejudice, am I being irrational? Sure I am, but just as you have a right to wear a tattoo, I have the right to choose how I spend my money. I am not alone in this attitude, which in a small way renders the tattoo wearer a less attractive employee. Whilst there are many applicants for each and every vacancy, it makes sound business sense for employers to avoid tattooed applicants. You are quite correct, it is your choice to have a tattoo, you are breaking no laws and usually the tattoos are not offensive, but remember, customers and employers also have choices as well.


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