Tattoos No Longer Taboo in the Workplace


When I was growing up, Cracker Jack was one of my favorite snacks – not so much because of the flavor, but because I loved digging through the mountain of caramel corn to find the prizes. I always hoped for the fake tattoo, which I proudly displayed to family members, my Cabbage Patch Kids – even my beloved puppy who was my partner in crime during countless adventures for 14 years.

Recently, I read a press release by Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. that talks about something I never had to worry about back then: the impact of tattoos on a job search. It suggests that the growing popularity of tattoos over the last 20 years (approximately 45 million Americans have at least one) has contributed to body art becoming more socially acceptable in the workplace.

According to the company, employers are most concerned with hiring the best person for the job and if that person has tattoos it’s not a big deal in most cases (although some professions such as banking, accounting and law are more conservative in their approach). Also, many of the people involved in hiring decisions are young and have less traditional views about worker appearances.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas discourages candidates from hiding their tattoos during interviews unless they are offensive or they think the employer would object to them. One easy way to find out? Ask the receptionist. If the company doesn’t approve of tattoos, it’s the employee’s responsibility to conceal them.

The firm offers some additional interviewing tips related to modern trends:

  • Piercings: With increased security at many corporate offices, too much bling could set off metal detectors. In addition, too many piercings might be a distraction for the interviewer. Also, it would be prudent to remove tongue and lip piercings, as these often make it difficult for others to understand what you are saying.

  • Cell phones: Cell phones should be turned off and stashed away in a bag or briefcase. Even on vibrate, a cell phone going off can be a major distraction in the interview.

  • Portable music players: Keep the iPods at home. If co-workers see you with ear buds in your ears all day long, they will assume you are not listening and possibly not working very hard.

  • Dress for the job you want 

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