Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Job Interview Tips, What HR Really Thinks, What Recruiters Really Think


Correct tattoo placement for the interview process

Tattoo retrospective

I wanted to post an update to my recent thoughts on Tattoos and the interview process. After further reflection and a bit of insight provided to me by a close friend with a tattooed son and a daughter, I realized that there are some decisions that I am not going to change. Ever. This is not a reflection on the son and daughter or on the parents, but more my communication style and the decision making process. My parents gave me a lot of advice and asked me to avoid a lot of things growing up. My parents also forbid me to do a lot of things, but I plowed ahead and did them anyway. In some cases the stronger the stance someone took on an issue the more motivated I was to resist or prove them wrong. Bell bottom jeans, a lowered Honda with a oversized spoiler and neon lights, and of course my K-Pop haircut phase. The more they said “no”, the more I said “watch this”.

I knew I took a strong position on the Tattoo and the interview process post. It is because I have seen employees in the work place of ALL ages and generations (including 20 something’s) have negative reactions to body art when it comes to interviews and first impressions. But not just interviews and first impressions.  I have seen people do amazing work, and then a tattoo was revealed and impressions changed completely.  Fair?  Right?  Probably not, but it happens. I was trying my absolute hardest to communicate this and in my effort some would say I drew a line in the sand. A line drawn in the sand is usually challenge and meant to be crossed. I should have known better. I may have come across so hard-nosed that I lost some credibility. Lesson learned, crow eaten.

In my initial post, my goal was to pass along the negative reactions I have seen behind closed doors time and time again in response to the tattoo and the interview process. As a leader in various HR departments both Corporate and start up, I have been witness to managers going crazy behind closed doors. These are reactions that the candidate will never see or hear about, and reactions that ultimately decline candidates. If someone is considering a tattoo, I will no longer run around with my hands waving in the air screaming hysterically about how this can kill the interview process.  I won’t shriek like a high maintenance woman standing on a chair circled by cheese eating rodents. Next time, I will just ask that you consider getting your tattoo in a place that will NOT be seen in work clothes. I will actually whisper it so you are forced to lean in closer to me and pay attention.

Here is where I am OK with a tattoo:  inner thigh, your ass, or below your waist. Not on the small of your back – tramp stamp, ass antlers, tramp-too, style. Think about your company summer parties and what you may be wearing. When I say below the waist, I mean think low-rise jeans – below the waist.

Parents may be cringing because we just went from what was thought of as a tasteful and symbolic tattoo to less respectful, and perhaps down right dirty. When we think of a tattoo on the inner thigh, or below the waist, those are not visions of sugarplums dancing through our heads. I realize I am not going to change the decision to mutila. . .I mean get a tattoo, so I want to work with what I may be able to influence. If you are going to get a Tattoo, please consider getting it in a place that is not only discreet, but going to be invisible to others that may not know, appreciate, or understand the symbolism or importance of your art.  More than likely, the person that is making the hiring decision or has some influence with your career is going to be of an older generation and they may not be as open minded as you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get a tattoo myself, but I have seen too many reactions behind closed doors.  In a down economy, hiring manager get very picky when there are a lot of candidates. The mindset is that “there are plenty of candidates out there, find me someone perfect”.  

So, to the young people I offended in round 1, I sit here eating crow.  Please think “discreet” when you take your seat in that parlor chair.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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  • Sarah Shook

    I think both articles show extreme bias against tattoos, not just in the workplace. (You would think about walking out on your significant other if they got a tattoo?!)  I myself have 9 or 10 (EEEK!), including one on my wrist, as well as a large one on my inner arm.  Now, I work in a professional environment, and I always wear some type of cardigan or sweater to cover the one on my inner arm.  As a candidate (and a new employee), one should always be careful of their presentation, and personally I have used makeup specifically made to cover my wrist tattoo until I was sure it was OK to expose it.  However, my artwork does not dictate how I do my job, and it has not (so far) offended anyone.  They actually tend to be great conversation carriers if they are noticed (even by people who do not usually like tattoos!), but they usually do go unnoticed since they are typically covered while at work (due to the fact that I do try to be respectful of what other people may think, even though, honestly, it shouldn’t really matter as long as I don’t have some design on the front of my face or a naked lady hanging out on my arm for all to see). 

    I will say, though, that I do not foresee this tattoo in the workplace issue lasting too much longer.  I constantly see young professionals well-dressed with a hint of bright color extruding from under their shirt sleeves.  The younger generation will be doing the hiring themselves in the not-so-distant future, and there’s a good chance they’ll have tattoos themselves.

    So, obviously, I think one should think about the consequences of getting an obviously offensive tattoo placed somewhere for all the world to see; however, I think you are being a little too extreme.  But that’s just my subjective opinion. 🙂

    • Sarah,
      Thank you not just for stopping by but commenting and adding some perspective.  I absolutely agree with you, and do feel that the tattoo in the work place issue will be a thing of the past.  Soon younger generations will be interviewing and making decisions.   What I am trying to convey here is that not everyone is going to react as favorably to the tattoos or piercings and if there is one thing I don’t care to see is a perfectly qualified candiate get nuked for the wrong reasons.  English isn’t the first language, they don’t dress as well as they could, they talked about the wrong politics in the interview process, they had an extra piercing in the wrong place.  All of these things have no bearing on whether the job will be done, but there are decisions made on these “impressions”.  I have seen a number of people go into an interview with the attitude that “tattoos” don’t matter and what I am trying to convey is that to a silent minority, they do.  I wish more places were like where you work, but until then, I believe that if you want the very best possible shot at landing a job or getting a promotion, “cover up”, which is sounds like you are doing.