'Thugs and druggies' – what job interviewers think when they see a tattoo
But tattoos an advantage – if you want to become a prison officer
A YOUTHFUL, spur-of-the moment decision to get a tattoo can damage people’s career prospects for life, a study has found.
Research presented to the British Sociological Association found that no matter how intelligent and articulate a job applicant is, if they have a visible tattoo, most would-be employers will secretly rule them out as looking “dirty” and “unsavoury” or even “repugnant”.
Even employers who do not have a personal objection to body art would think twice about taking on someone with a tattoo because they fear it would damage their corporate image.
But the study adds that those stuck with a tattoo from youth could turn it to their advantage – as long as they want to become a prison officer.
And it concludes that a small number of types of tattoo can be seen as conveying a positive image, such as regimental insignia for military veterans, which can be a “badge of honour”.
In a paper, being presented to the association’s annual conference on workplace issues, Dr Andrew Timming of St Andrew’s University School of Management, set out findings from a series of interviews with employers about perceptions of body art.
He spoke to a cross section of managers from organisations including a hotel, bank, city council, prison, university and bookseller.
Most said that tattoos carried a clear “stigma” for employers, with several expressing strong views on the subject.
“Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be ‘abhorrent’, ‘repugnant’, ‘unsavoury’ and ‘untidy’,” said Dr Timming.
“It was surmised that customers might project a negative service experience based on stereotypes that tattooed people are thugs and druggies.”
One male manager interviewed told Dr Timming: “Tattoos are the first thing they [fellow recruiters] talk about when the person has gone out of the door.”
A woman added: “They make a person look dirty”.
Dr Timming said bosses’ concerns were usually based on perceptions of what their organisation’s clients might think.
“Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos – what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos,” he said.
“The one qualification to this argument is there are certain industries in which tattoos may be a desirable characteristic in a job interview.
“For example, an HR manager at a prison noted that tattoos on guards can be ‘something to talk about’ and ‘an in’ that you need to make a connection with the prisoners.”
But he added that some images were easier for employers to forgive than others.
While in many cases flowers or small animals might just be acceptable for some, those most likely to prove a definite turn-off included spider’s webs onpeople's necks, tears tattooed on to their faces, guns and sexual imagery.