In a recent article on BBC News, it was reported that Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has warned employers against rejecting applicants on the basis of them sporting tattoos. According to the organisation, despite a fifth of Britons having at least one, for many employers, tattoos are still considered to be unacceptable. By turning away these applicants, Acas has said that companies are “drastically reducing the pool of potential recruits”. The public body has called for a more relaxed dress code in the workplace, after its research found that employers from a wide range of sectors felt that their clients would find tattoos offensive, or at the very least have a negative perception of tattoo-wearers.
Acas states that “Almost a third of young people now have tattoos so, whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers”. It argues that ultimately, companies are restricting themselves in a huge way.
When one interviewer told the BBC that her work (in the airline industry) required candidates to disclose their tattoos at the application stage, the BBC asked: “should your tattoo be on your CV?” Although most blue-collar jobs have relaxed their stance on body art, it still remains an issue for those at the executive level. There is a general understanding among high-level professionals that any tattoo should be well hidden by clothes. If the tattoo can be concealed, the answer to this question seems simple: there is no reason why a person should have to disclose their tattoo on their CV. In this situation, an employer need never know that you have any body art at all. In this situation, your tattoo remains a private issue that does not affect your company, your reputation, or how clients may or not perceive you.
If, on the other hand, your tattoos are visible in your work attire – as in the case of one woman who was able to hide all but one of her 20 tattoos when applying to work for the RAF (her application was rejected) – you might consider mentioning it on your CV (even though there is no legal basis for doing so). There could be various benefits to this: firstly, it saves both your time and the interviewer’s time. If a workplace has a strict policy that will not allow them employ you, being honest about your tattoo from the very beginning will you save you from going through the rigmarole of being interviewed and rejected, when in actuality you stood no real chance in the first place.
Another good reason to be upfront is that this gives you the opportunity to spin your tattoo in a positive light. If, for example, you portray them as being demonstrative of your creativity or quirkiness, you then have some control on how the hiring manager views them. One pitfall of highlighting your tattoo on your CV is that it may give employers the opportunity to make negative assumptions about you before they have even met you, depending, of course, on how they view tattoos.
The BBC interviewed a UK barrister who admitted to having more than one. The anonymous professional says that although nobody at work has spoken out against her body art, she does suspect that at least some of her co-workers dislike them: “I am sure some of my older colleagues and superiors don’t necessarily “approve”, but I think there is an understanding that at this level of professional life your skills as a lawyer should speak for themselves and your appearance is of little importance.”
Those who are working against tattoo-based discrimination argue that candidates should not have to disclose their body art (assuming they are inoffensive), since they have no bearing on one’s professional abilities. Even so, Careerbuilder.com did a survey which found that nearly 40% of HR managers state that tattoos do limit one’s career potential. Although most people would agree that it shouldn’t, the very fact that it can have such a huge impact on one’s career means that job-seekers must consider these factors when deciding if and where to be tattooed. Although attitudes are changing, these changes are slow; it may take some before executives with visible tattoos are accepted without judgment in the workplace.
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