How to Deal with Tattoos During Interviews

In what would have been a classic lapse of tact and judgment, a British interviewer is said to have told a tattooed job candidate that she would have a better chance with a bag over her head or by standing behind a wall.

Lots of people with visible tattoos and piercings face a dilemma when they go into an interview.

Once, I interviewed a candidate who wore such a broad watchband that I asked her about it. She showed that it was covering up a modest tattoo encircling her wrist. She simply didn’t know whether the tattoo would be offputting and decided to cover it.

It was not an issue at the Detroit Free Press, where she was hired, and she ditched the watchband.

But what would have happened if she was hired by a company or editor who opposes visible tattoos? Would the uber-watchband have become a permanent part of her wardrobe?

There are two ways to deal with tattoos, which Jimmy Buffett says are the permanent reminders of temporary feelings.

One way is to decide how you would customarily like to display your tattoos and piercings at work and go to the interview that way. If you are someone who doesn’t want to compromise on your mode of dress and you don’t want to work for people who are intolerant of these choices, this will flush the issue out into the open immediately. The woman who says she was told to wear a bag over her head apparently took that route.

A more cautious approach — wise in this economy — is to go to the interview in conservative mode, win the job offer and then bring the issue of body modification up for discussion before you accept.

Questions about how to dress for an interview? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Tuesday: Join me and Poynter’s Colleen Eddy at 3 p.m. ET for a free live chat about who’s hiring journalists.

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