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Tattoos And Piercings - Turn On Or Turn Off?

View profile for Elizabeth McGlone
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You are recruiting for a sales manager, a customer facing role and the applicant in front of you has a lip piercing, nose piercing and wrist/hand tattoos.  Do you:

  1. Automatically make the judgement that the candidate is not right for the role?

  2. Consider what the applicant would look like minus the piercings and with strategically placed clothing?

  3. Proceed to ask the candidate whether the piercings can/will be removed and the tattoos covered up?

  4. Look past the tattoos and piercings and consider them as a ‘sign of the times’ or an ‘expression of individuality’?

Whatever your personal viewpoint this is something that employers and potential employers are having to face more frequently as it has become more socially acceptable for people to have visible piercings and tattoos and not consider that this may have an impact of their employability.

The key question here is can you decide not to recruit someone solely on the basis of your dislike of their tattoos and piercings?  The simple answer is yes.  If you do not think that the display of tattoos and piercings on an employee is suitable for your business brand or you think it will have an impact on your customer loyalty then you are entitled to make the decision that is best for your business.  People often believe that it is ‘illegal’ for a potential employer to cite this is a reason for rejecting a candidate or a ‘discriminatory practice.’  A claim for discrimination can only be asserted following alleged less favourable treatment on the grounds of a ‘protected characteristic’ (disability, race, religion & belief, age, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, sex, sexual orientation).

On the flip-side of the above some employers have adopted the attitude that employing people with tattoos and piercings has had a positive impact on their brand image as they are seen to be ‘in touch’ and an organisation that is forward thinking. ‘funky’ and accepting of different types of people.  Others simply say that they want the best candidate for the role and therefore look past personal appearance to ensure they do not miss out on talent.

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