Tattoos could cost you that job offer

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Looking for a job as a prison guard, skate-shop assistant or fire-eater? Tattoos might well help your application. Any other job though and the ink can be a serious obstacle to advancement or even getting a job in the first place. In the first flush of excitement as they go under the needle, few young people think of the damage they could be doing to their job prospects.

Employers might not voice their objections openly, but research from the British Sociological Association showed that many regard tattoos as off-putting or positively alarming. If first impressions count in interview situations, an arm or neck emblazoned with ink is rarely a positive.

Dr Andrew Timming of the St Andrews University Business School conducted interviews with employers about their attitudes to tattoos. "Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be 'abhorrent', 'repugnant', 'unsavoury’ and 'untidy'," he said. "It was surmised that customers might project a negative service experience based on stereotypes that tattooed people are thugs and druggies."

One recruitment manager told the team: "Tattoos are the first thing they talk about when the person has gone out of the door." The concern is particularly important where the job entails considerable interaction with clients. "Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos," Timming said. "What really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos."

Particularly off-putting are tattoos with sexual or violent imagery. Although, notably in Scotland and Northern Ireland, tattoos perceived to have a sectarian message would also cause significant problems.

The hostility to tattoos in the workplace may be a generational response and may change once the inked-up twentysomethings of the 21st century get into positions of power. On the other hand, if Timming's team's research is accurate, the tattooed masses will never attain those positions.

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