Colourful hair, tattoos and piercings are some of the most common forms of self-expression that people use these days. Go back a few decades and it was only the most avant-garde who had hair in anything other than natural tones. Tattoos were for sailors, and piercings for punk rockers.
Of course, times have changed a great deal. As our society has become more liberal and inclusive, and greater understanding of the need to show who we truly are has been gained, all these forms of body art are now common sights.
And tattooing is only increasing in popularity. With as many as 1 in 3 of young people having some sort of ink to display, it looks like the trend made popular by celebrities like David Beckham and the late, great, Amy Winehouse won’t reach ‘peak’ until 2025.
The old advice was always to cover up tattoos, remove piercings and keep your hair natural for a job interview, but is that still the case? With more of us proudly sharing our individuality – and so many people with tattoos – surely that’s changed?
A definite maybe
A recent study showed that as many as 70% of people with tattoos covered their ink when they went for an interview. Now we all know that you have to look professional when you go to an interview, but that statistic says that more than two thirds of people think the only way to do that is to hide their individuality. Are they right?
It seems that for the older generation, who are often the ones with the final say on hiring decisions, the association between tattoos and prisoners or gang members can still hold true. Think of it as a generational thing (like Brexit) with the older generation seeing tattoos as a negative thing, but the younger generation understanding them as a way to express themselves and proudly display meaningful artwork. There’s nothing wrong with the message, it’s just it’s being interpreted wrongly.
The same things hold true for piercings and vivid hair dye, which are well accepted by younger people but still caused raised eyebrows amongst the older generation.
So should you cover yourself up for an interview? The answer is, it depends.
Things to consider
- Start with the company – when you’re doing your pre-interview research into them, try and get a feel for what sort of company you think they are. If they seem to encourage individuality, then you’re probably fine to go as yourself. If it’s more conservative role? Perhaps not. Working behind the bar at the local indie rock venue will need a different approach to an interview for a major bank.
- Thinks about the role – Is it customer facing? Who are your colleagues or your customers? If you’re going to be a carer for the elderly, your unique look may make them uncomfortable in a way it wouldn’t if you were the receptionist at a local arts centre.
- Will it make you worry? If you think that showing your true self at that early stage might give you less confidence, then don’t. Cover up, take out piercings and put a wash-in-wash-out colour on your hair so that you can concentrate on nailing the job interview itself.
- Can you hide yourself long term? At the end of the day, you are who you are, and your personal style is a big part of that. How comfortable would you be if you had to hide your light under a bushel every day? If you need to do that, is it a job you want?
- Be yourself! You could always opt to go to the interview and see what happens. It might be that the people interviewing you are pleased to see your individuality, and it could give you a great opportunity to tackle the subject head on and tell them more about the real you.
Times are changing, and as society becomes more and more understanding of difference, attitudes to things like body art are likely to change. For now, though, there are no hard and fast rules; it’s just a judgement call that you will have to make.
Of course hair dye can be grown out, and piercings removed but tattoos are a permanent reminder of who you were. The really good news is that studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, most people don’t regret having one when they get older. So while you may be concerned about them in the immediate, when you’re one of the senior people make hiring choices? You’ll still be proudly showing your ink.