Once again we get a report that states the blindingly obvious.

Research presented to the British Sociological Association found that no matter how intelligent and articulate a job applicant is, if they have a visible tattoo, most would-be employers will secretly rule them out as looking “dirty” and “unsavoury” or even “repugnant”.

Even employers who do not have a personal objection to body art would think twice about taking on someone with a tattoo because they fear it would damage their corporate image.

Well, colour me surprised…

A point to make here is that employers should have the absolute right to refuse to employ an applicant if they feel that that applicant may damage their corporate image. There are all sorts of potential reasons for them doing so and tattoos are but one. So, if you decide to have a tattoo, well, there is a potential price to pay – not everyone will appreciate it and sometimes those people may be in a position to affect your career prospects. Too bad, I’m afraid.

Personally, I would never have a tattoo. I find them grotesque. I recall as a small child looking at the tattoos on my grandfather’s arms. As an ex Royal Navy stoker he had faded blue tattoos on each forearm. As he was about seventy at the time, they had faded and the ink had started to blur. They looked a mess. So, what looks good when you are a bit juiced up at eighteen will look pretty gross when you are several decades older. And I’ve yet to see anyone I would regard as enhanced by body art.

That said, each to their own. If you want to despoil your body with one, then go right ahead. Just don’t whinge if an interview panel takes a dislike to it. They are under no obligation to like it and they are under no obligation to tolerate it in the workplace. Providing they have a written dress code that prohibits visible tattoos, then they are operating within the law. On a matter of principle; their gaff, their rules.

So, unlike the writers of the report, I really don’t see it as an employment issue. People make choices. People take the consequence of those choices – and that applies to both the employer as well as the potential employee. After all, they could be turning away a potentially brilliant employee.


  1. Yea indeed! One of the best, hardest-working employees I’ve ever seen was tattooed and pierced to the hilt.

    Would we have put him on the front desk? Errr, no.

  2. The majority of tats are easily hidden, so anyone turning up to an interview with one visible is clearly just thick and deserves to be sidelined anyway. Or they are the sort who think its their ‘uman right to display it and therefore should just be shot in the face. I would never employ a chav stamp bearer.

  3. The sad thing is the media and peer pressure to get these things done.

    One wonders if having had them done their ‘mates’ then announce that they wish they hadn’t been despoiled either.

    As you say, “each to their own”, but to see a ‘perfect’ 18-year old marked in this way doesn’t seem right, like graffiti on a freshly painted wall.

    • “…doesn’t seem right, like graffiti on a freshly painted wall…”

      Perfectly (and poetically) put.

      • I agree entirely. tattoos are simply vandalism to my eye. I detest them. As well as the metallic junk some people seem to want to adorn their faces with. Look, a discreet piercing of the earlobe is attractive. Great lumps of metal in the eyebrow, tongue or lip just look ugly.

  4. Many of these companies are employing (no pun intended) double standards. If they had the opportunity of using people like David Beckham, Robbie Williams or Cheryl Cole, they would leap over backwards to do so. The fact that by doing so, they would show themselves the hypocrites they are, would matter not one jot if their image, standing and shares increase. Mind you, I would never employ Cheryl Cole, especially now, after her recent tattoo. If she ever suffered a rectal haemorrhage, who would know?

    • Well, I have to say, if I had a business to promote, none of those three would be on my list as I would be wanting to generate an image of quality and class…

  5. I think you are right about the average interviewer’s reaction to a candidate with a visible tattoo. I do think this is partially a generational thing – in my day having a tattoo was also a way of being rebellious – nowadays with Generation Y it appears to be a fashion statement. As the next generation starts to interview, rather than be interviewed, I would expect tattoos to become more accepted. Whether interviews will be any better at selecting the best candidates is another matter!

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