Do tattoos influence the probability of getting hired?

jandedobbeleer profile image Jan De Dobbeleer ใƒป1 min read

Saw this one on Twitter and immediately thought of sharing it here because I'm really curious about the responses.

Does having tattoos influence the probability of being hired as a developer/programmer?

My status: I have a full sleeve on my right arm and one other visible tattoo on my left arm. So far, I haven't had any negative experiences with recruiting within IT, but that might be directly related to the type of companies and cultures I'm engaging with.

If you have tattoos, what are your experiences? Or maybe you don't but know about a policy at work? Or, maybe, just maybe, you've got an opinion about this topic? Share away!

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Jan De Dobbeleer


Software Development Lead at Unleashed. Building the future for Mobile Vikings and JIM Mobile. Solving problems via automation. Ex watchmaker. ๐Ÿ–•๐ŸปNazis.


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Personally, while hiring, it isn't a factor in itself. However, I would say that there are a few things to bear in mind if you have tattoos:

  1. Consider what your tattoos are, and how people would react to the messages and images themselves. Having a tattoo of a noose with "F*** LIFE" is probably going to get a stronger negative reaction than a rose tattoo of the same size would. If you've got potentially controversial tattoo, consider whether covering it up will help you.

  2. Some people associate tattoos with street gangs, thugs, etc. Ensure the rest of your appearance and mannerisms do not reinforce any of these negative images. A full-size arm tattoo PLUS a business suit probably won't register to me at all...I may not even notice. But a full-size arm tattoo plus tattered jeans and a greasy bandana around your head probably will be remembered.

  3. For anyone else reading, before you get a new tattoo or other such body art, consider all the implications of the tattoo itself, as well as its placement. How will it look in interviews or business scenarios? How about with formal wear? Can you cover it up when necessary? These are things you should keep in mind.


I agree with the first statement, the type of tattoo can indeed have a strong influence here.

About implications, I really want to live in a world where it doesn't matter who you are (as long as you're not actively harming other people, either by behavior or appearance), and people can look at skills and passion over anything else.


Oh, I absolutely agree! It would be nice if we lived in a world where people don't look at outward appearance to judge someone. Unfortunately, that's not the world we have, and it doesn't look like we'll be changing the whole of mankind anytime soon. Thus, while we ourselves can choose to focus on character and skill instead of appearance, we should still consider how others may view us, and weigh whether the potential consequences of that are strong enough to bear our own consideration in how we present ourselves.


I guess it depends on the kind of tattoo. If the interviewer is a VIM-User, while on your knuckles it says E M A C S good luck brah


Or, you've got an insane amount of fingers on one hand. To even it out I'd go for : q ! e m a c s


OR to piss off everybody you do E V I L

E V I L M O D E would be perfect ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Just had to look up EVIL. Who would do such a thing?! ๐Ÿคฃ

Joking left aside it's the best option if you like VI-style-coding and want to use it in Emacs. It's one of my three favorite Emacs-Plugins/Modes with Magit and Org.


I work in a digital agency where I can think of at least 5 different employees have full sleeves (and more, one guy has tattoos on his hands as well).

I think it really depends on the company, but generally I think it's probably more of an issue in a much more corporate environment.


I've worked in many environments: academic; non-profit; healthcare; banking and finance; state and federal civilian government; military. To be honest, haven't really found that any segment has a consistent sensitivity to the looks of their IT people ...not within the 2000s, at least. The whole "Internet era" kind of changed expectations across the cultural landscape. It's almost expected, at this point, that your top-gun types are going to be "weird". To a degree, you can use that to your advantage ...but part of that degree is being able to deliver. Projecting a certain persona makes a promise your actions need to be able to deliver on. Which is to say, while tattoos and/or piercings (weird haircuts and unnatural hues) won't make getting in the door appreciably harder, in the more cloistered industries, it definitely makes it so getting pushed out the door is also easier.


I often wonder about that. I avoid corporate environments as that's not really my style, so maybe I'll never know ๐Ÿ˜


Me too! Although my only tattoo at the moment is on my ankle and most of the time it's hidden (Scottish weather ๐Ÿ™„). However I plan on getting one on my arm at some point.


Corporate environments frequently have the money to buy the latest toys, though.

In my experience so do non-corporate environments, and you might even get them faster :-)


I always like to joke that it would be easier for me to get a web designer job if I had sleeve tats. The truth behind the joke is most young designer types do seem to have them.

I think it depends on the company and the content and location of the tattoo.

Some companies are old-fashioned and won't hire you. Others may put you to the front of the list because you look hip. Most fall in-between these.

Facial or neck tats tend to be associated with criminal activity thus have a more negative connotation to most people. Of course, tats with racist, political statements or other provocative themes or language will also be a problem.


Funny you say that. Every UX person that I've worked with that's been great has had great tattoos, so I definitely fall into this explicit bias.


My tattoos are generally coverable. So, while most of the work-people that have hung out with me socially know I have tattoos, they're very much an "after the fact" kind of thing.

That said, my various piercings aren't really hideable. Yeah, can take my earrings out, but some of the other piercings are discernible through clothing.

Haven't really had anyone care one way or the other. To a degree, it's almost expected ...though it also comes with a "guy comes in here looking like that, he's either really good or I'm gonna make him gone really quick" kind of expectation. I was even told as much by one of my customers twenty years ago. That customer ended up writing a glowing review to my company.


guy comes in here looking like that, he's either really good or I'm gonna make him gone really quick

๐Ÿ˜‚ I've had occasional looks like that, yes.


I think it depends on the company and your local, my wife's job is super picky about them and expect them all to be covered. She's avoided getting one as a result. They're a bit of a holdout though where we live.

On the other hand I have script on my wrist and a large script on my right arm and I barely get comments. I sorta fit the type though, big beard, skull rings and jewelry so maybe thats a factor.

Also I'm in austin so I feel like its more of "oh you just have tattoos and not a third ear" type thing. :)


It's all about company culture.

In Dallas, the dress code was so strict that even on "casual Fridays" the specifications on jeans filled half a page. Needless to say, visible tattoos were a no-go.

In Seattle, when I asked about dress code I got laughed off and told "um, just please wear clothes?? lol"

I'm personally planning on getting an upper arm tattoo as a happy medium of not-totally-hiding it but also not-distracting for others.

Overall, I'm much less concerned about discrimination based on my conscious decisions than I am about discrimination about fundamental things about myself that I do not choose (and would not choose otherwise anyway!), like race and sexual orientation. (And I'm sure you are too based on your bio but just wanted to clarify for the record.)


I had the same plan (starting with an upper sleeve), 5 years later I went for the entire sleeve anyway as that's what I always wanted to have.


Heavily tattooed developer/consultant here,

My general response would be: no, it's not a big factor.

Having said that it's also got a lot to do with knowing your prospective employer. Being a consultant, I've worked in 10-15 different large enterprises over the last little while, and I've yet to receive any kind of consistent response in regards to my tattoos/appearance.

In some circumstances, folks said nothing and did nothing. In others it was a bit of a spectacle, folks would come by just to ask me about them and get a closer look.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've been pulled aside on day one and kindly asked to wear long sleeves from then on to avoid negatively impacting the company's image. I've also been not so kindly asked to do the same, something about being a legitimate business and not employing "bikers".

In most scenarios, except the last, I'm happy to oblige. Not every business or culture is comfortable with tattoos, so I'll do what I can to blend in to the organisation I'm working with. In the last instance, I requested to leave the account.

So from the hiring perspective, I imagine the landscape is the same. Check out the company you're applying to, see how they present themselves publicly. If it's a hip, trendy, tattoos and lattes type of place, then let your colours show and you'll probably be fine. If it's a more conservative image (i'm looking at you banking and insurance companies) wear a long sleeve shirt, but feel free to bring up your artwork during the interview.


Nice, thanks for the insight. Personally, I wouldn't want to work at a place where I'm required to cover them all the time, simply because I wouldn't feel comfortable.


From personal experience it depends on the employer, I have had employers that don't mind my tattoos and those that complete hate them. Here's a few situations from both perspectives:

My current employer loves tattoos and has quiet a few himself, he has a simple rule about them. He doesn't care what they are or where you have them, but if they're inappropriate they must be covered up while at work. If you ask me that is a very fair rule, nobody wants to walk around a work environment with someone having racial or sexual content showing on their body (I've worked with people who have both).

Now for the not so good side, at the start of the year I had an interview with a tech company in London (will not name for obvious reasons), my friend works there and encourages me to apply so I did. I went down two days early to visit him and he told me that I should cover my tattoos during the interview. Mine are on my arms and are fairly easy to cover. I went into the interview and within five minutes he asked me "Do you have any body modifications? tattoos, piercings etc". I thought no reason to lie and said yes I have tattoos. It was at this point he said to me "Well you might as well leave, I am not going to hire someone that does that to their body". I was pissed.

I've always seen the work environment as a place that people should always be comfortable in and have as little as judgement as possible or none at all. I personally have no problems with tattoos, piercings or any other form of modification. It should always be about the persons skill set and what they can bring to you as a business. I understand that some companies have an "image" to protect and would rather not hire someone with them, but at the end of the day I have met many great developers and talented people in other fields with hundreds of tattoos, brightly coloured hair and piercings.


My parents are the type that thought that when I got a tattoo, I gave up all chances of getting hired... They are old school.

I'd say that simply having a tattoo should not hurt your chances of getting hired (content of the tattoo tho, that's another discussion).

Also, if a company does not hire you because you have visible tattoos, is that a company you really want to work for?


I think it depends where and what profession. Here in Scandinavia it doesn't seem as a big detractor as it does when I was in the USA.


I know it's not a big deal in Scandinavia, I've met quite a few fully tattooed people from that area. Would have expected the USA to be more tolerant about it.


If tattoos play any rule into the hiring process, please don't go work for this company.