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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Body art can have impact on people seeking jobs

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, so many people have tattoos today. Do you have a sense for the impact a visible tattoo has when somebody is applying for a job? I realize they are probably acceptable in certain creative fields, but in the business world, or in a medical office, what is the reaction?

A. Anyone seeking a job involved in the interview process needs to understand that every aspect of their appearance is being considered by an interviewer. What candidates wear, how they carry themselves and what is showing in the category of body art impacts someone's impression of a job candidate. And job seekers should understand that visible tattoos and body piercings can become a real obstacle in today's job market, especially if those jobs are in traditional settings.

Research tells us tattoos and body piercing have been around since ancient times and are nothing new, but the popularity for certain generations today can still be an obstacle when other generations are doing the hiring. Today's job market is very competitive, and employers have a great advantage. They can be very particular when it comes to hiring.

Everyone has the right to decorate their body in anyway they would like, but every interviewer has the right to reject someone who they think will not fit into their corporate culture or may give the wrong impression of their organization. Despite the fact that tattoos and body piercings are very popular today, for some people they still represent something negative. There was a time when tattoos were associated with convicts, and certain tattoo colors have been associated with gang involvement. One person's creative expression can mean something very different to someone else.

There are a lot of celebrities and other high-profile people with tattoos, but many of those people are not competing in the job market that the average person is competing in.

So, when seeking a job and going on interviews cover the tattoos with clothing or makeup and understand that many traditional work environments have specific guidelines about no visible tattoos in their employee manuals.

If you are considering a tattoo, be careful where you put it. If it is in a spot that can't be easily covered by clothing, you may find it to be a huge liability.

I suspect there will be a big market for tattoo removal in the future.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.