Why Tattoos and Body Art are Not Acceptable for Job Interviews
Body Art Has Been Around Since Pre-Historic Times
Tattoos, piercings and other forms of body art are becoming increasingly common and more popular these days.
According to a January 1, 2007 article by Cate Lineberry entitled Tattoos - The Ancient and Mysterious History and found on the Smithsonian Institute’s smithsonianmag.com website, tattoos have been used in many places and cultures from ancient times to the present.
The Smithsonian Magazine article points out that scientists studying Ötzi the Iceman, whose well preserved body was discovered in 1991 in a melting glacier in the Alps, discovered that his body had a number of small tattoos on it.
Carbon dating has determined that Ötzi the Iceman lived between 5,200 and 5,300 years ago.
This means that tattooing, which is currently popular among members of the so called Gen X and Gen Y portion of the population, is nothing new.
The same is true for piercings and other types of body art as they have also been practiced in most parts of the world since prehistoric times.
Remove the Rings and Cover the Tattoos
Part of My Job Involves Coaching Adult Students About What Employers are Looking For in an Employee
While I have no tattoos or other types of body art and have never had the desire to obtain any, I have to deal with it almost daily at work.
I manage an adult office vocational training program which trains people for office positions including medical billing and coding positions as well as other medical and legal office positions.
While I can’t arrange for a job for any of the students or even accompany them on their job search, it is important, for the program’s reputation and marketing, that our graduates find work. As a result, I spend a sizable portion of my time coaching students on job search techniques as well as researching and talking with employers about what they are looking for in the employees they hire.
Applicant's Appearance is Very Important to Hiring Managers
In my research and discussions with employers I am not focusing on the technical skills they are looking for as the institution already has employer advisory boards and a research department both of which do a very good job of keeping me up to date on what skills we need to teach.
What I am looking for are the little things, commonly referred to as soft skills, which hiring managers are looking for and which they use to decide which person, among the many technically qualified people who have applied, to hire.
One can learn technical skills or the ability to successfully perform a task to produce a desired result. Other skills, such as getting along with people, teamwork, reliability, etc. are factors that are equally important but more difficult to teach or measure without actually observing a person on the job over time.
However, there are not only costs - things like help wanted advertising, cost of Human Resource Department personnel to take and process applications, the manager having to take time to interview prospective employees, etc. - which make it expensive to hire people and then let them go if they don’t work out, but also laws which limit an employer’s ability to fire people especially after their probationary period has passed.
In Job Interviews Good First Impressions are Everything
While there is no sure way of predicting how a job applicant will perform on the job there are things that can serve as indicators or proxies for these abilities. While most of these are not exact and are usually subjective, most people rely on them when making decisions.
Dress and appearance are two of the most common factors used in making decisions.
Yes, this is both subjective and a form of stereotyping. However, we use this all the time in our purchasing decisions.
Given a choice, people will tend to patronize stores that are clean, modern looking and have merchandise attractively displayed as opposed to ones that are dirty, run down and with merchandise carelessly tossed on shelves.
The same with people. When we first meet someone, we begin to make judgements about them. This is natural and, as the relationship continues and we get to know more about them our opinions change based upon the new information.
The problem with job interviews is that they usually last a few minutes which does not provide the interviewer with enough time to overcome a bad first impression.
In a Job Interview You are Selling Your Skill Set to An Employer
A job offer is nothing more than a purchasing decision by an employer. The only reason an employer hires employees is because they need the talents and skills of employees in order to produce the goods or services the business is selling.
Just as shoppers will tend to purchase goods that are attractively packaged and displayed more often than they will purchase items that are in unattractive packaging or poorly displayed because such items tend to look cheap and unreliable, so too will job interviewers tend to assume that job applicants who dress unprofessionally are not professional.
In my talks and conversations I keep emphasizing the fact that interviewing for a job is basically a sales and marketing activity in which the applicant’s objective is to sell the employer on the fact that the applicant’s skills are the solution to the problem the employer is trying to solve by hiring a new employee.
Private sector employers only hire people because they need the talent and other skills the employee has to offer. As such, the applicant’s goal is to convince the interviewer that they not only have the technical and other skills that the employer is looking for but that what is being offered is better than what the other applicants are offering.
Hide Body Art & Use Professional Dress for Job Interview and After Work Express Yourself With Body Art
There is nothing wrong with tattoos and other types of body art. However, body art is not something that most people associate with professional and office positions.
This is not to say that to say that someone who likes body art does not have the skills needed to be successful in a professional or office environment. However, many people, including hiring managers, customers and other business professionals tend to feel that visible tattoos and other body art are an indication that the wearer lacks professionalism.
Dress and appearance make a statement about a person. Just as it doesn’t make sense to go into a job interview for a position at a bank or a law firm and just talk about your love of fishing, it also does not make sense to go into an interview for such a position with your appearance describing you as being the exact opposite of the type of person you are trying to present yourself as.
So when you are seeking a job make sure that your appearance is saying the same things that you plan to verbalize in the interview. And this means that you remove the piercings and cover the tattoos.
This will greatly increase your chances of landing the job you want and give you the income that will enable you to afford engage in the activities after work where you can show off your body art in venues where it is appreciated.
© 2011 Chuck Nugent
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