If you’re in college right now and it’s real important for you to express yourself with body art, then you have to think about the industry you’re going to work in. Maybe working for a large corporation or as a pharmaceutical sales manager is not something you want to do because there would be a certain amount of conformity that would be necessary to become part of that team.
Do employers discriminate against tattooed/pierced job applicants?
GLASS:I have a friend in his late 20s who has an earring in each ear. He has a master’s degree and a good job history. He went recently to interview for a job with a financial company. He was recommended by someone high up in the company and that’s how he got the job interview.
He thought the interview went well and he wrote them a thank you note. He did all the things you’re supposed to do, but he didn’t get a call back from them. Finally, someone from the company called him to say that they had found someone else.
The person he knew there said the reason he didn’t get the job was because of the piercings. But obviously, that can’t be said directly to him because it would be illegal. In his job he’d have to work directly with the public and it wasn’t acceptable. Her suggestion: take the earrings out if he applied for another job there. He decided that he didn’t want the job bad enough to do that.
Interns and other people in job training programs that are just entering the work force ask me that question often. They’re saying, “Why can’t I keep my nose pierced or my eyebrow pierced?” In most industries, especially Fortune 1000 companies, it is not considered acceptable to do it. I’m not suggesting that it won’t change at some point. Less than 10 years ago women couldn’t wear pant suits at many banks. You had to wear a skirt suit. … But as things stand right now if you’re interested in working in a large corporation, then having any visible piercings or body tattoos can be an issue.
What about tattooed/pierced people who apply for professional jobs where they’re not dealing directly with clients?
GLASS:Basically, if you work in information technology, usually there’s a lot more freedom in how you can look. The dress code at IT is quite lax compared to other departments because they only work internally and it’s known that they have a very specific skills set. It’s hard enough to get people who are very good at computer technology so [body art] is more acceptable. But people that work in sales for Microsoft at the satellite offices have to dress in business casual to business professional attire.
Let’s say someone hid a tattoo under a long sleeve shirt during an interview then shows up at work with a short sleeve shirt one day. Should that person have discussed their tattoo with the employer before accepting a job?
GLASS:For someone with a very visible tattoo or who’s just decided to wear a nose ring when they’ve never worn one before, human resources could definitely say that they don’t want to send that message out to clients. They may interpret that wrong. We prefer you wear a long sleeve shirt when you work with our clients. It is the company’s full right to say that. Now, it is not their full right to terminate. They would have to come up with a work producing reason to terminate not the tattoo because otherwise that is a basis for a lawsuit right there.
How does the type of industry you work in affect the office dress code?
GLASS:I want to make a distinction between working in a large corporate environment and working in a more of an artsy environment, which could be advertising, certain kinds of journalism or parts of public relations. In those types of creative industries, especially if you’re a creative type and not an account manager, you get a lot more flexibility.
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