The future of tattoos in the workplace is brighter than ever

Back in the day, one of the most important things to think about when getting a tattoo was whether you’d be able to completely cover it up ― that is, hide it ― for things like job interviews, business meetings or even just for showing up at the office.

But the tide has been changing quickly on that front, research has shown. The tattoo taboo has been fading quickly, especially as elder millennials come to occupy leadership positions in some workplaces.

A study by Michael French at the University of Miami found that tattooed job applicants were getting jobs just as easily as non-tattooed applicants, and that among some demographics, having a tattoo seemed to be positively correlated with having a job.

“We went in expecting to find a negative relationship between tattoos and success in the labour market,” French told the Harvard Business Review. Instead, they found that the opposite appeared true. “We even saw two small positive correlations: Men who had tattoos were seven per cent more likely to be employed than men who didn’t have them, and both men and women with tattoos worked more hours per week.”

Those stats seem to reflect a more common reality. A recent Financial Times article contacted some of the most historically conservative employers out there ― banks and law firms ― and asked about their tattoo policy; none had any tattoo policies anymore. “Tattoos are definitely not prohibited,” one 134-year-old law firm said.

In fact, the tide may be turning so much that a tattoo confers some advantages. A 2022 University of Houston study found that “employers in white-collar jobs that involve artistic or creative skills may find that hiring tattooed employees gives them a competitive advantage,” because “customers viewed tattooed employees more favorably and competent than non-tattooed employees.”

We’re talking correlation here, of course, not causation ― you won’t likely boost your salary by getting inked up. Those who might do well to take notice, though, are those in hiring who might still be quietly scanning an applicant for their tattoos as they head into a job interview, if only because, as French put it, “If you are discriminating in the labour market against those with tattoos, you’re going to be left with a pretty small labour pool.”

Content written by Kieran Delamont for Worklife, a partnership between Ahria Consulting and London Inc. To view this content in newsletter form, click here.