Why Your Bias Against Tattoos Means You’re Missing Out on Talent


Whether it’s motivational quotes, pictures of flowers, or an image of a beloved pet – tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, it’s estimated that around one in five UK adults have tattoos, with those under 40 significantly more likely to get their skin inked.

And as more people go under the needle, we’ve also seen a professional shift start to emerge. Whereas tattoos have historically been seen as an office taboo, a significant number of workplaces have begun to relax their dress codes, and in many offices where tattoos were once a taboo, you’ll now see professionals proudly displaying their body art.

So given that almost a fifth of UK adults have tattoos, and attitudes seem to be changing, at LinkedIn we wanted to look at a level of acceptance of visible tattoos in the workplace  – and whether having a tattoo on display still affects the hiring process.

The results were eye-opening

After speaking to 500 people working in recruitment, we found that three quarters (75%) think a candidate’s image plays a significant role in the hiring process – and 88% say that having a tattoo could limit someone’s career progression. On top of this, four out of ten (41%) admitted to actively rejecting a suitable candidate because they had a visible tattoo.

The top three reasons given for these rejections were:

  • Just under half (47%) said it was due to industry intolerance
  • 46% felt a visible tattoo showed a lack of professionalism
  • Two fifths (41%) said it was because the employer had a strict dress code

It also seems as those tattoos aren’t the only remaining workplace taboo, as significant amounts of recruiters said they would feel uncomfortable hiring someone:

  • Wearing clothing which is too casual (34%)
  • Who had visible piercings (26%)
  • With brightly dyed hair (21%)

HR and recruitment teams are well aware of the problems this bias against ink and image is causing – with 82% of those surveyed saying that discrimination against physical image indicates businesses could be missing out on top talent.

Times are changing

We are glad to see attitudes are changing. Three-fifths (60%) of recruitment professionals said that discrimination against tattoos and physical image had decreased over the last five years.

But those working in HR and recruitment aren’t taking this shift in attitude for granted. Keen to make sure their organizations aren’t missing out on top talent, many have introduced systems and processes to iron out any bias against image. We found that phone interviews, virtual reality assessments and screening candidates via bots are the top methods to tackle the discrimination. In addition to this, recruiters can also use LinkedIn’s Career Advice feature to engage with colleagues and other professionals to give or ask for advice on any aspect of working life – including bias against image

This growing awareness of the issues of bias in the hiring process is reflected in the results of our Global Recruiting Trends report. The report found that half (49%) of UK hiring managers believe that changes to interview techniques are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important to the future of hiring. The same research found that 42% of respondents believe interviewer bias is one of the biggest problems for talent leaders.

So while it’s clear that prejudice against image is clearly still rife in the hiring process, there are signs that attitudes are changing. And with tattooed professionals making up an ever-growing section of the workforce, it’s worth businesses evaluating their hiring process – and seeing whether there are simple steps they could take to make sure they’re not missing out on top talent.

What’s your view on tattoos in the workplace? What does your business do today not to miss out on the best talent? You can join the conversation on LinkedIn by using the #InkAtWork hashtag.

About the author: Rebecca Drew, the Sales Manager for LinkedIn Talent Solutions, has 20 years of experience in Cloud Software, Recruitment, Management Consulting and Social Media.



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