Aw, yeah, that new tribal tattoo is looking good. It shows people you’re edgy and you’re not some corporate, pressed-suit drone. It starts conversations, catches eyes. Unfortunately, it might even decrease your chances of nailing a job interview by as much as 46 percent.
Yes, 46 percent — that’s how many employers said a visible tattoo would have an influence on their hiring decision, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupation Outlook Journal. And that's not just at companies where policy prohibits the display of ink; that includes jobs where interpersonal contact isn't par for the course.
Tattooed job-seekers aren't the only ones who face problems, of course. Unusual hair styles or colors are nearly as provocative to your potential boss, and body piercings are even more so. 31 percent said that it would strongly affect the employee's chances. In a rough economy, where new degree-holders are fighting for positions with two or three other candidates, even a small hit to your credibility can be lethal.
Unfortunately, the management's judging eyes don’t stop there. It is a great unfairness of life: attractive people are more likely to get hired, plain and simple. In a highly-discussed study titled, “What is Beautiful is Good,” three psychologists from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin conducted a series of experiments designed to prove that more attractive people would be expected to receive more prestigious jobs. Students at both universities were presented with a variety of people of varying levels of attractiveness and were asked to rate them on a variety of proficiencies: professional, social, marital, parental, etc. The attractive group was consistently rated as superior to the unattractive group in every category with the interesting exception of parental proficiency.
The American Society of Employers states that there is no law, federal or state, that specifically prohibits failing to hire an applicant based only on appearance. There are filing cabinets bursting with legal precedents that lets a company turn you down for just about anything that clashes with their image of a model employee. Grooming policies are largely the domain of the corporation you're working for, and there is a lot of room for them to set their own standards. If you do not meet them, that is on you, not them.
Even with all this evidence, however, there is no accounting for every employer and what they value in the appearance of an employee. That same survey by the Occupational Outlook Journal found that a full 25 percent of them did not care about visible tattoos; 26 percent could care less about piercings. If you are applying to certain jobs, they could actually endear you to your employer and give you an edge. Not every shop and store is looking for a conventional worker, and standing out could be a leg up.
And even if you do not want to or cannot find those special, out-of-the-ordinary employers, it is not like your piercings or your looks are the heaviest weight on your boss-to-be's mind. In fact, an overwhelming 94 percent of the suits said that grooming had the greatest (non-resume) importance to them, followed by the clothes you show up in and the all important post-interview handshake. And guys don’t worry about your beard or 'stache — unless you are facing a company-wide moratorium on facial hair — it shouldn’t matter. So, if you are nervous about your chances for landing that cushy job, just brush your teeth, suit up, and let your handshake seal the deal.