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Written by Debbie BrideDebbie Bride

Piercings and tattoos during a job interview

12 min read
Piercings and tattoos during a job interview
In an era of inclusive, diversity-embracing corporate cultures and relaxed dress codes that embrace self-expression, job interviews can still induce anxiety. If you have tattoos or piercings, should these embellishments be visible during the interview or not? Here, we uncover insights to help you decide.

When it comes to hiring advice for people with piercings and tattoos, the job interview jitters take on an added dimension. The paradox of an opportunity that’s both celebrated and nerve-wracking is quite remarkable, considering how dramatically the business landscape has changed in recent decades. Companies have long been embracing a more relaxed and casual corporate culture, with a vibe that encourages employees to bring their whole, real selves to work. With that has come the acceptance of tattoos and piercings as common forms of self-expression, allowing people to showcase their unique personalities and styles.

It might seem like this shift in a decidedly laid-back direction should have a tension-tempering effect when it comes to job interviews. So why the persistent anxiety, regardless of how well-prepared and confident you feel as that date looms near? And how is this relevant to the confident personal choices you’ve made about body art? Why should those ink and metal designs have any bearing on your professional persona?

Let’s dive deeper into today’s workplace dynamics to answer these and other questions about jobs for people with tattoos and piercings. We’ll explore:

  • Changing perceptions of tattoos and piercings in today’s laid-back work culture
  • To cover or not to cover—what to consider before your job interview
  • Face-to-face with your interviewers—staying true to yourself and focusing on why you’re an outstanding hire
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Are tattoos and piercings acceptable in the workplace?

The 21st century has seen a revolution in workplace dynamics, with a growing emphasis on collaboration, innovation, and a more relaxed approach to office life. With the rise of tech startups and creative industries, it's become almost fashionable to blur the lines between work and play—sometimes even in pet-friendly environments. The results have often been extraordinary in terms of creativity and productivity!

Paving the way for this phenomenon was an earlier gradual trend in workplace comforts, incorporating open-plan offices and flexible dress codes. Long gone are the days when corporate culture was synonymous with tightly knotted neckties, rigid hierarchies, and strictly defined roles.

It’s hardly surprising that perceptions of employees with facial piercings and visible tattoos have shifted too. What was once seen as a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity is now widely accepted as a form of self-expression. Alongside adopting diversity and inclusion policies, many employers recognize that tattoos and piercings do not define a person's ability to perform a job.

So what’s the problem when it comes to dressing for success in a modern job interview? Why the stark contrast between today’s prevalently chill workplace vibes and the diehard dread of meeting face-to-face with a hiring manager? Explanations are beyond the scope of this discussion. But for whatever reason, most job applicants find interviews stressful enough in their own right. For those with visible tattoos and facial piercings, there can be another layer of uncertainty to deal with.

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Reveal or conceal? 

There’s no right or wrong answer to this core question: should you flaunt your tattoos and piercings during a job interview or cover them up? The decision comes down to a combination of common sense, gut instinct, and sleuthing. Give yourself time to think about it ahead of time when preparing for a job interview. Waiting until the last minute only adds to the anxiety that normally plagues people waking up on interview day. Here are some factors to consider.

Different perspectives

Keep in mind that views on tattoos and piercings can vary from one employer to another. While some organizations may have no issues with them, others may have strict dress codes that require employees to cover up. Either way, you can never predict how your interviewers might feel and should not assume they are body art-friendly. The best you can do is try to find out about the workplace you are targeting.

Workplace culture

Researching the company culture and dress code can give you valuable insights into whether you should cover your tattoos and piercings. LinkedIn, company websites, and social media pages can yield a wealth of intel about the attire and appearance of employees, helping you gauge the organization's tolerance for body modifications. You might even get a good sense of the corporate culture by reading online reviews by past or present staff. And if it’s practical, sleuth by the office building and check out some of your future co-workers.

Your own attitude

Some introspection about what’s at stake—personally and professionally—can be helpful. Imagine a few job interview scenarios in which your piercings or tattoos are visible. Consider some possible reactions and consequences, and how big a deal it would be, depending on how badly you want the position. Suppose you notice the hiring manager’s raised eyebrow when spotting your copper tongue stud. Would that rattle you enough to botch the interview? What if you ace the interview but still get rejected, suspecting the dolphin collarbone tattoo was a turnoff? Would you regret wearing the boat neck jersey instead of a button-up collar? Or would you rather not work for an employer that frowned on tattoos or piercings? 

The industry 

Obviously, certain artistic fields are known for welcoming individuality and creativity. Typically they include graphic design, fashion, music, beauty salons, etc. In these industries, having visible tattoos and piercings may even be an asset, showcasing your passion for individuality and innovation.

On the other hand, conservative industries like finance, law, and healthcare may have stricter guidelines when it comes to appearance. In such cases, covering your tattoos and removing facial piercings temporarily may be a wise choice for a job interview.

The job

In many instances, knowing whether to bare or conceal your body art during a job interview comes down to the position you’re seeking. Depending on your occupation, this could be clear-cut in terms of how much client interaction it entails. Is it a customer-facing, inside-office, or telephone-only role? Are health or safety regulations applicable?

Such considerations need not dictate your decision to cover the ink and remove or tone down the jewelry when meeting with hiring managers, even with the expectation that you would do so on the job if hired. But image management-wise, so there’s no risk of distracting interviewers from focusing on your qualifications and attributes, the right judgment call might be not to flaunt your tattoos or facial piercings.

Err on the safe side

This brings us to the most failsafe wardrobe and accessory decision you might reach when preparing for an interview. If you're uncertain about the company's stance on tattoos and piercings, there’s nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution. Concealing your tattoos on this occasion does not mean you’re a sell-out or any less comfortable in your own self-expressive skin. If you have facial piercings, consider removing them or choosing subtle jewelry for a professional overall look. 

Bottom line: your appearance can be polished and personally stylish at the same time. And it’s the best assurance that your qualifications and personality will take center stage during the interview.

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Letting your true best self shine through

With all your show-or-hide deliberations out of the way ahead of time, you’ve likely gained self-assuredness about your piercings and tattoos having no bearing on your job performance. You’re free to be yourself and focus on what matters most during any job interview — showcasing your skills, qualifications, and enthusiasm for the role

You can harness the optimum amount of beneficial anxious energy to convey excitement, passion, and motivation to your interviewers. This can make it easier to relax your posture while demonstrating poised and confident body language. Try to resist fidgeting or distracting gestures that draw attention to your clothing or jewelry.

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Telling when you don’t show

Having touched on the “better safe than sorry” rationale for covering up your tattoos and piercings during a job interview—especially when uncertain about the employer’s stance—we’d be remiss in not addressing a pitfall. If you have no intention of keeping your body art under wraps on the job, it’s only fair to you and the employer both that this be disclosed before any hiring decision is made. Should this be a potential deal-breaker, being candid upfront is much better. 

That isn’t to say that mentioning your tattoos or piercings is a great ice-breaker right after shaking hands with the interviewer. But be prepared to broach the subject at some point in a professional and nonchalant manner. Simply ask, "Is it okay to have facial piercings or visible tattoos at work?" This demonstrates honesty and allows the employer to assess your fit within their company culture.

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Key takeaways

  • Job interviews are typically stressful to some degree, if not nerve-wracking, even in an era where workplaces promote casual attire and laid-back interactions. Uncertainty about how receptive hiring managers might be to piercings or tattoos can add another layer of anxiety for job candidates.
  • Piercings and tattoos could affect your job prospects, depending on the company and industry. Acceptance varies widely, so it's important to research and consider whether or not to cover them up during a job interview.
  • As younger generations enter the workforce and occupy positions of influence, favorable attitudes towards tattoos and piercings in the workplace will likely become mainstream. The need for judgment calls about exposure during interviews should become less common.
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