Celebrities have been showing off their ink lately, from Miley Cyrus to Lea Michele. Being judged on their body art isn’t really something celebrities need to worry about. Let’s be honest, no one’s going to tell Adele she can’t make another album because everyone can see her hand tattoos. But what about for all us regular folk? Sadly, there still seems to be a prejudice against people with tattoos, a prejudice than can affect your career.

It seems it’s the old generational divide thing that has come into play. A survey by Careerbuilder.com found that 31% of HR managers said that visible tattoos can have a negative impact on their decision whether to hire someone. Why? Because the people who own companies typically fall into the 50-70 age bracket. Tattoos used to be associated with rebellion, and well, to put it politely, being a bit intimidating. However, for the younger generation, tattoos are much more common, being an expression of themselves and even considered an art form by many. Though one in five of the entire UK population have tattoos, one in three young adults do. What can I say, it’s our kind of thing.

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So though tattoos may be becoming increasingly mainstream, does it still give off warning signs to managers? Are more senior business owners seeing young people tatted up, and then judging them by old stereotypes? Unfortunately, it seems so. Andrew Timming at the University of St Andrews said that ‘tattoos still signal a certain rebelliousness that works against job seekers’. In his study, where Timming and his colleagues made participants assess job candidates based on their pictures, some of the photos had a neck tattoo added. They found that the inked candidates were frequently ranked lower, and this inking was the only difference, with the candidates being equally qualified.

Despite a generational difference in how we view tattoos, it may not be an individual prejudice of the interviewer against them. Instead, it seems to be about how the interviewer worries their clients will react to tattoos. Yet, as I said previously, with more and more people getting tattoos, this worry of a societal prejudice seems outdated.

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It might seem that refusing to hire someone based on tattoos is a form of discrimination, yet it’s, in fact, legal. This is because companies can enforce a dress code, and this dress code can include a policy on body art. Of course, I understand the need to be professional, but professionalism is as much in your attitude as it is in your appearance. If someone’s doesn’t a tattoo, but they’re rude and brass, clients are likely to judge them a lot more harshly that a polite person who is wearing body ink. We should be praising individuality in the workplace, as it brings a creativity that sparks innovation. These skills are important for any career, whether that’s journalism, or being a lawyer. Tattoos can act as a great indicator of this important individuality.

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My own hesitancy with getting a tattoo (even though it’s titchy) was that someone may see it in a job interview, and decide not to hire me. Therefore, I got it in a place that I can easily cover up. It seems wrong that even in 2015.When I got my tattoo, that workplace worries were dictating something fun, creative, and about my own self-expression. I really want another tattoo, and I’m thinking of getting in one on of my fingers, a much more visible place. This time, it was my dad who raised the job prospect concern. My answer? ‘If a company is choosing to judge me by my appearance over my qualifications, they’re not the sort of company I want to work for.’

Article by Jennifer Richards

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