Why You Shouldn't Judge A Book By Its Cover When It Comes To Recruitment

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A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 88% of recruiters think that tattoos limit a candidate’s career prospects.

This is a shockingly high percentage if you consider the fact that a fifth of UK adults have a tattoo which is a figure set to steadily rise as tattoos are becoming increasingly popular amongst millennials.

Of course, this view towards tattoos would only apply to those that are visible but it’s still concerning that so many employers still look at that aspect of appearance as being one that doesn’t “belong” in certain workplaces.

In fact, 4 in 10 recruiters admit that they reject candidates if they have visible tattoos and 46% think that tattoos show a lack of professionalism.

This opinion would vary industry to industry as more creative fields tend to look more openly towards tattoos whereas, a profession such as lawyer or accountant would probably have stricter rules when it comes to appearance.

These statistics regarding a candidate’s appearance goes beyond just tattoos:

But is it fair to take this approach when deciding on who to employ because tattoos, piercings and hair colour, though to some may not look professional, are not a reflection of someone’s character or capabilities for the job.

Social constructs have created this idea that tattoos, or other alterations to one’s appearance, should be looked down on and that a professional and reliable person wouldn’t have such things – but do these beliefs need to adapt to the times.

The outdated opinion on tattoos could be doing a disservice to your business as you are probably missing out on a lot of great talent.

In fact, ACAS have actually stated that it is wrong to reject an applicant because they have tattoos. Though there is no law that protects workers or prevents employers from punishing an employee who gets a tattoo, you do have to tread carefully with this matter.

Some tattoos or piercings may be based on the religion of the employee so you could fall into religious discrimination territory if you do not hire someone based on these features.
Alternatively, rather than dismissing a candidate because they have a visible tattoo, you could address the issue in the workplace dress code policy and also discuss it with them before offering them the job.

It seems more fair to disregard appearance and hire someone based on skill, experience and talent. Then, if you have any issues or concerns with hair colour or visible ink, bring it up with them before they start working by asking that they cover their tattoos as much as possible or they avoid wearing jewellery in their piercings whilst at work (ensuring there are no religious reasons).
But this should all be clearly stated in your policy along with a justifiable reason for your decision and the consequences that may follow if an employee ignores the dress code rules.

What is your opinion on hiring someone with tattoos, piercings or brightly-coloured hair? Is your opinion varied depending on the industry? Do you find yourself discriminating against certain aspects of a candidate’s appearance without even realising it?

If you are unsure of how to handle this HR issue, then feel free to get in touch on 0845 2626 260 and we will be able to advise you on the best practice for your business.

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