The Possible Impact of Tattoos on Careers

The Views of Society on Tattoos

To exist in this world and in society, certain unspoken or laid down rules exist. For centuries these rules and etiquette have been followed. It may be an old fashioned way of thinking but yet it infallibly exists. In bygone eras, in cultures where it was customary to be tattooed, such communities now do not follow the practice, as it puts a label on them. Similarly, in the United States of America the association of tattoos has always been with gangs and hoodlums, drug peddlers, sex workers, prisoners and roaming sailors. Since the association has been negative all along, the psychological impact has consequently led to a negative reaction and dislike amongst older generations. Often these values are percolated down to the ensuing generations and hence the shunning of body art. In the career world though the tattoo has no direct correlation to the ability and skills of the person, it still matters when a potential candidate is sporting a tattoo. While tattoo removal is very much a possible option, why should having a tattoo make any difference to cornering a dream job, in the first place?


The first basic rule any fresh job applicant is taught is the importance of appearances. It does not suffice to have all the qualifications and knowledge and to be the right candidate for the job, if your appearance does not match expectations. Your appearance, personality and presence also are a part of your job / career development. Remember you may be young but there is always a more older generation around who have grown up with certain values and hence those rules, those values, that dislike and mistrust, will exist.

Hiring Managers Reactions

Most jobs are customer facing or at some point may require you to interact with a customer. Consequently, a hiring manager while vetting your skills and capabilities also looks at you as a brand representation and how you may be viewed. Therefore, if those tattoos are going to make their presence felt, the hiring manager may have to pass you over for somebody equally qualified, even though the manager may have liked you for the person you are.

Negative Tattoos

Some tattoos maybe considered cool to have but to the viewer, especially somebody with very pristine skin and views, these tattoos reflect the negative in you. Tattoos such as a spider’s web on the neck. This could produce a creepy feeling in somebody viewing it, especially if that person does not happen to like creepy crawlies. Tattoos to do with death like somebody being hung, somebody being shot, facial tears, drugs and sex connotations are all certainly a deterrent to landing that dream job. Needless to say if you have a swastika, you can imagine the reaction!

1960s Ban

In 1960s after there was a break out of hepatitis sourced from a tattoo parlor, many states banned tattooing.

Corporate America

Today in many corporate, especially those with strict dress codes (like banks), visible tattoos are frowned upon. Besides if you look at any middle management and above in the Fortune 500 companies, you will not find one sporting a tattoo. In the business world, tattoos are still taboo, especially since many companies want to present a good front to the public in general.
San Bernardino County in California prohibits its employees from wearing jeans, having visible tattoos or sporting of jewelry from pierced lips, nose or tongue.

A study by CareerBuilder’s showed:
  • Over 42% of hiring managers said that their decision would be affected by somebody sporting a tattoo
  • 3 out of every 4 interviewee believe that visible tattoos are unprofessional.