Tattoos; body art or corporate eyesores?

There’s a lot of conjecture in industry about tattoos; visible or otherwise. Should these be on display in the workplace? What’s certain, this argument will run and run. However, my immediate thoughts about attitudes to visible tattoos will only change with time. Objecting to the tattoos is a generational opinion. The 21st Century is increasingly liberal. On the reverse side of the coin, there are some traditionalists who are not fans of body art, so you need to be sensitive to the business and industry you work in.

Life choice

Having a tattoo or body piercing is a life choice; if everyone looked the same the world would be a very boring place. Individualism is a good thing, yet it is tolerated more in some industries, and that’s reflected in the culture they work.

Take the creative and media industries. Those in production and creativity, for example, it is widely accepted for a “freestyle” way of dressing and your choice of additional body art. This is where a tattoo might actually be beneficial to your ascendancy up the corporate ladder. However, in our shared industry of finance and accountancy, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable sartorially and/or creatively is not something we actively push. Frankly, the industry isn’t ready for it.

For instance, finance is still a traditional industry where – in the main – it is expected that formal business dress; shirt tie and suit or dress, is expected. There are of course exceptions, but it is slowly, slowly catchy monkey. As time goes on, you’ll see ties being discarded, but that is as far as it goes. As finance continues its development into a more business facing/influencing function, accountants are seen more and more at the coalface of the business. So will we see accountants who are spending more and more time on the shop floor in industries such as manufacturing, engineering, construction and other blue collar industries, integrating themselves better if they have tattoos?

At MRK Associates, we are working with businesses to speed up their recruitment process, talented or not, the chances of a hire being confirmed if the person in front of the hiring manager with a visible tattoo is going to be no more than 50/50.

Two-way street

It works both ways; it’s a candidate driven market. Supply and demand working against one another. So whether a client objects to a tattoo being on display, the likelihood is the candidate isn’t going to want to work there in any case.  Like many aspects, it’s about compromise. Will a tattoo limit the abilities to do a role (is tattooing on eyes still illegal?); if they have the skill set (and if applicable, necessary experience), then of course not. However, clients hold the purse strings. If attitude is against the candidate, what more can be done?

If recruiting through an agency, the recruiter needs to be clear, concise and objective. Whilst it won’t say “devoid of tattoos”, to manage expectations, the recruiter must mention the obvious.

Recruiting directly offers different challenges. Yet, candidates absolutely mustn’t state on their CV that they have a tattoo. Why should they? That would be ridiculous. Businesses must recruit on talent, cultural fit and soft skills. Should tattoos really fall into any of these categories?

The fact is that tattoos should not be a barrier to hiring the talent right in front of you, however, there are many other factors. Candidates know they are the ones more in control of the market at the moment so they’ll wait for the right work “home” for them.

Roland Seddon, Managing Director, MRK Associates.

MRK Associates is a recruitment and career advisory company specialising in three distinct areas of professional employment – finance/accountancy jobs, office support/administration jobs and revenue management/yield jobs. Our main geographical focus is in the Northern Home Counties area (Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire) where we provide a personal, knowledgeable and professional service within these markets.

For more information, please telephone 01442 824400 or email:

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