Tattoos, Piercings, and Your Appearance

We’ve all heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  The interview is no exception.

Today I’ll tackle the somewhat controversial topic of tattoos, piercings and other areas of your appearance and how they may play out during the hiring process.

Societal norms change over time.  What might have been unacceptable years ago may now not only be acceptable, but might be considered mainstream.  Think of how we dress for school, work, church, or even going to sporting events versus how we dressed for them years ago.  The ways we speak and act have changed as well.

So you have a tattoo, maybe several.  Maybe a sleeve.  How about piercings? Should you be concerned?

Know your audience.  For most jobs, you’ll want to cover any tattoos and remove your piercings.  When in doubt, err on the side of modesty.

People form opinions of us based on any number of factors, not the least of which is body language/appearance.  Fifty-five percent of interpersonal communication is body language.  Are visible tats and piercings worth the risk?  I’d say they aren’t.

A better bet would be to cover the tats and remove the piercings.  During the interview you could ask about what’s permissible.  Or, don’t ask at all.  Just land the job, then observe how your co-workers appear.  Candidates want to be considered for the job based on their skills.  You don’t want your appearance to get you knocked out of the process.

While body art and piercings are becoming more mainstream – to include older people and professionals, remember we’re talking about the workplace, not your social life.  As a hiring official, I’m trying to picture you on my team and/or in front of my customers.  For customer-facing jobs, I’m going to place a bit more emphasis on your overall appearance and personality versus if I’m considering you for a job where you didn’t interact with the public.

Earlier I’d suggested you know your audience.  Perhaps visit their workplace ahead of time to gauge how they’re dressed.  That said, I’d still err on the side of covering them during the interview unless body art and piercings are clearly the norm – perhaps in an artsy/creative sort of business.

Let’s look at clothing in the workplace.  Most companies have relaxed their dress codes a bit.  Now it’s business casual instead of suits… jeans and t-shirts instead of business casual, etc.

As with body art, don’t let your clothing detract from your message of being a skilled employee.  You’ll want to dress to impress.  Avoid flip flops, shorts, ball caps, clothing better suited for Saturday night at the club, dirty/smelly clothing, etc.

Inquire about their dress code when they arrange the interview.  Better yet, if it’s in a professional setting, assume you’ll dress professionally.  If the setting is something less, then go business casual, even if it’s a non-customer facing position.

You may not think it’s fair, but people form opinions of you based on how you look, act, and sound.  Some things may be out of your control – but how you dress and whether you choose modesty are within your control.

How you dress in your free time is one thing.  The organization’s expectations of how you’ll dress and appear may be something entirely different.  Your best bet is choosing to err on the side of professionalism.

Make your first impression a positive one!  Good luck!