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Are you discriminating against tattooed candidates?

The world of work is no stranger to discrimination against people due to their appearance. From handsome men being perceived as more competent, ‘heavier’ women being passed over for a job, and candidates with visible tattoos almost always coming across as “dirty” or “unsavoury”, various forms of discrimination based on appearance is visible in the workplace.

Although effort has been made to implement a law to prevent employers from refusing to employ or promote people because of their weight, companies are still able to turn down a job candidates because of tattoos without facing legal consequences.

According to a recent survey on 1000 hiring decision makers by DPG, more than three in five (64%) thought tattoos were undesirable features in candidates, and 54% of hiring decision makers would rather hire the non-tattooed candidate when faced with two candidates of the same ability, the only difference being that one was tattooed.

The survey also revealed that, next only to scruffiness, tattoos were the feature deemed most likely to limit career potential, highlighting the potentially widespread stereotypical judgement facing tattooed candidates – denying them a fair judgement based on their ability to do the job.

It further revealed that 43% of hiring decision makers see visible tattoos as being valuable markers for determining a candidate’s character; and nearly a third (30%) thought visible tattoos were telling clues in determining a candidate’s predicted performance - despite tattoos having no link to actual ability.

Digging deeper, the survey found that male hirers were more discriminatory in all areas of the survey. Additionally those over 55 years old were the most likely to see tattoos as undesirable features, and the most likely to think that tattoos can have a negative impact on the workplace – followed perhaps surprisingly by the youngest age band – the 18-24s.

Surveying the DPG Community, here are the most shocking things they’ve heard said to tattooed employees/candidates, visualised as tattoos:

[gallery link="file" ids="82473,82474,82475,82476,82477,82478"]


On the bright side, Paul Drew, managing director at DPG, said: “Perceptions may be changing with the prevalence of tattoos, and we are seeing some truly inspiring companies leading the way with their acceptance of a wide range of previous flashpoints. Our study found that a small but notable faction of 13% would actively choose to hire a tattooed candidate over one without tattoos, and a full third (33%) stated that it wouldn’t make any difference.”

“A dress code can be an important way of shaping how a business is perceived. Features such as tattoos, however, can be problematic. Such a large portion of the population is now tattooed in some way, so potentially widespread discrimination can present a very real problem that can limit talented workers from entering the workforce.”

ALSO READ: 9 guidelines for a fair selection process that encourages diversity

Photo / 123RF

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