Should candidates' tattoos matter?

A recruiter has reignited the debate around jobseekers’ tattoos after two of her candidates were seemingly rejected due to their ink.

Amanda Maria Dobson is the Recruitment Director at recruitment consultancy Lee & Grace Associates. She’s had two candidates under consideration for roles, until her clients saw their tattoos.

Speaking exclusively to Recruitment Grapevine, Dobson says that the first candidate was looking for a new role that he was “probably over-qualified” for.

“He was very, very good at what he did,” she explains. “He had exceptional experience and qualifications.”

And the client seemed to think so too as the candidate passed both the first and the second interview with flying colours. However, things took a turn for the worse when the jobseeker was invited for a meet-and-greet with his potential co-workers in order to gauge his cultural fit.

“Halfway through, my candidate rolled up his sleeve because it was quite warm and he had tattoos on his arm,” Dobson says.  Afterwards, the client stated that the candidate was great but not “a good fit for the company”.

Dobson says: “However, I knew that he was the only candidate who had been offered this meet-and-greet, so I knew that something somewhere was wrong.

“I think it was down to his tattoos.”

A second of Dobson’s candidates were recently rejected after the client saw her tattoos. The candidate was one of several Dobson had sent to a client looking to fill a receptionist role.

“One of them came back and was very distressed,” Dobson says. “She has a tribal tattoo that runs down the side of her hand to where her finger is. Quite discreet, but they asked if she could cover it up with either gloves or with tattoo-camouflaging make-up.

”I was very surprised as this was not a high-end company.”

The candidate was rejected, even after saying she’d said that she would be able to cover up the tattoo.

This spurred Dobson to ask the recruitment sector on LinkedIn if it is right or wrong to not hire someone because of their tattoos. The community was quick to respond. Some said that it shouldn’t matter whether a candidate is inked or not.

Ciaran Doyle, Recruitment Consultant at Fusionpeople, said on LinkedIn: “She has dodged a bullet in my mind. I feel sorry for the company not wanting individuals... better off [if] you ask me!”

However, others stated that it was within the client’s right to not hire people with tattoos. Matt Wheeler, Associate of UK Search at the executive search firm Granger Reis, said on LinkedIn: “Tattoos are not the same as gender, skin colour or ethnicity, those you have no choice over. Tattoos are something that you choose to do.”

This is not the first time that candidates’ appearances have been debated. It was the topic of the Great Debate in Recruitment Grapevine’s January issue. Check it out to see what the recruitment sector thought then.

What do you think, should clients be able to judge candidates on their tattoos?

Comments (19)
Tue, 19 Apr 2016 4:30pm BST
There are a couple of comments here that tattoos are a matter of choice, unlike gender or race but then religion is also a matter of choice. I imagine that most organisations will have the religion angle covered by their equality and diversity policies? Perhaps they should include a policy on tatts rather than leave it to instinct.
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Mon, 11 Apr 2016 2:01pm BST
I guess there is the argument that candidates with tattoos are able to make big, long term decisions.
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Sun, 10 Apr 2016 1:47pm BST
PaulSK@ DAn
Surely it is up to the employer as to who they employ . If they don't care for tattoos then they should be able to not hire. Tattoos are a choice thing, not like race or sexuality.
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Sat, 9 Apr 2016 12:15am BST
I agree you have to be compatible with the role and organisation. You have to meet the expectations of your service users - in healthcare heavy tatoos do not read professional yet, although they may be irrelevant in the future
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Mon, 4 Apr 2016 1:41pm BST
I think what people may have overlooked is that tattoos, especially if visible, might say something about that person's attitude and outlook (I don't mean attitude in a negative context). If those are compatible with the role and organisation then there shouldn't be a problem. If not then the person risks being unsuccessful in the role and not fitting in to the employer. Bad news for all concerned.
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