Should You Hide Your Tattoos When You Interview For a Job?

I got my first tattoo a few days after my 18th birthday, a small purple star on my lowest rib. And for my 20th birthday, all my friends pitched in $5 or $10 each and handed me the pile of cash that I needed for a frog tattoo on my shoulder. It’s still — by far — the best gift I have ever received. And though my tree frog tat has faded a bit over the ensuing 18 years, it still makes me happy every time I look at it.

Obviously, I’m pro-tattoo — which considering my age and gender, makes sense. More women have tattoos than men, and the younger you are, the more likely you are to be comfortable with tattoos in general, which have at least a 5,000-year-old history and maybe even longer. They were traditionally associated with spiritual or religious devotion. Even today, many tattoos have special significance to the wearer — both of mine absolutely do — and as tattooing has generally become safer, more people have memorialized, marked, celebrated or recognized important aspects of their lives on their skin.

That translates to skin art at work, too. And while tattoos used to be seen as something to cover or hide, especially during a job interview, now you might work at a place where tattoos are totally acceptable. But how do you know before an interview?

First, the company might have a code of conduct, so you can always do some research to find it (or ask a hiring manager before your interview). If that information doesn’t yield useful information, you might be able to make an educated guess based on several factors, like who is hiring you, what type of business it is, and even where the company is located.

According to the infographic below, which compiled research from a number of sources, while 63 percent of people older than age 60 think tattoos are inappropriate in the workplace, only 22 percent of those 18-25 do — so a company that is youth-oriented is probably more cool with tats. (See the list of tattoo-friendly companies like Lush Cosmetics, Whole Foods, Google and Best Buy.) It also depends what part of America you’re in: As you can see in the graphic, 55 percent of people in the Southwest, including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas, think tats are inappropriate on the job, but only 36 percent of people in New England do.

Outside variations in age and location that might affect someone’s opinion of tattoos, but there’s also the question of the kind of work you do. Only 8 percent of people in government have tattoos (the lowest rate found here), but a whopping 36 percent of people in the military do, which is interesting, if you consider that it’s people in government who direct what those in the military do. The next highest rate is for those in agriculture and ranching, at 22 percent, and right in the middle at 16 percent is media, arts, and entertainment, my own field of work.

My favorite stat is that only 14 percent of people regret their tattoos later in life. However you feel about tattoos for yourself or others, in the workplace or outside it, more people than ever have them and are getting them. And considering they’re permanent, they’ll be around for the rest of all of our lives — on people from all walks of life. Ultimately, I wouldn’t let a certain job dissuade me from getting a tattoo — though my field of work might influence where I place it, and how easy it is to cover up. Then you’re able to have the best of both worlds, having a tattoo that you love, but choosing who gets to see it, and when.

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