Has the perception of tattoos changed in the workplace?

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by DION LIM / NBC Charlotte

khou.com

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 7:28 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One in every 15 Americans has a tattoo. 

Looking at the 26-40 age group, the percentage jumps to a whopping 40-percent.  With the popularity of tattoos, and the crop of tattoo-related reality shows on cable TV, it more than seems tattoos are becoming more mainstream.

But what about when it comes to looking for a job?

Wayne, the owner of 501 Tattoos in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood says he sometimes turns customers down because a tattoo would ruin future job prospects. Like the kid who wanted an outline of the state of Virginia on one hand, and a phrase on the other.

“I thought he needed to think about it!  He’s a kid…had no other tattoos.  Imagine an employer seeing it?”

Hiring managers, have long advised job seekers: cover up that tat. In a recent survey, 61 percent of hiring managers, said a tattoo would hurt a job applicant’s odds.  That’s up from 57 percent in 2011. 

Which is why we asked Wayne to draw some fake tattoos on our volunteer, a financial services professional we’ll call “Brian”.

We then sent Brian to a job fair to see if his clearly visible star tattoo on his hand, and tribal design on his neck, would affect his chances of landing a job.

“I think it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is,” smiles Brian.

As Brian makes the rounds, one recruiter from a financial group told us, for him, tattoos didn’t really matter.

“We’re very easy to judge, but you gotta put aside [your opinions] and learn everybody’s situation and story.”

Turns out, that particular recruiter has a tattoo himself.

We’ll get back to Brian and the job fair in a little bit.  Now that we heard from a recruiter, we wanted to know what the pros thought.  Here’s Harvey Smith, a business and career management coach with Carolina Business Coach in South Park. 

“When looking for a job, you want to know the culture of the organization.”

Harvey says, while it does depend on the industry, an individual’s skill-set is usually more important.

“You want to make sure they’re judging you on your aptitude for the job, and the attitude you bring to the table as a person.”

How about you, the consumer?  What do others, say at a restaurant think of servers with tattoos?  We went to the popular sushi and burger joint, The Cowfish to find out.

During a busy lunch rush, server Rachel Wilson takes a moment to show us her ink.

“This is a dragonfly, it’s for my uncle.  He passed away about 4 years ago.”

Many in the restaurant industry seem to have ink.  In fact, earlier this year, an Arizona restaurant even sought out servers with tattoos, to go with the restaurant’s rock n’ roll image.

Without knowing what our story was about, we asked diners that they thought of Rachel, and if her tattoo mattered.

“I didn’t even notice.  No, not at all” says one blonde-haired woman.

However, another man did.

“Yes, I did notice she had a tattoo.  But in fact, I kind of liked it, because it made me feel edgier! In fact, I saw it as a positive.  An authentic thing in a contemporary, fun restaurant.  They’re [the restaurant]  ok with it, I’m okay with it.”

Bottom line, maybe tattoos are no longer the “kiss of death” as they once were.

As for our fake job seeker, Brian?  He says he did get some double-takes at the fair.

“I was self conscious!”

But despite the uneasy feeling, Brian got called less than 6 hours after leaving the recruiting fair.  The phone call was from the first company he met with. 

The company where the recruiter himself, had a tattoo too.
 

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