Should you cover up tattoos or piercings for a job interview or client meeting?
When people hear I am a corporate image consultant, they often share interesting anecdotes with me.
A Canadian biotech CEO admitted he made a branding mistake and told this revealing story.
Bad image advice?
The CEO set up a meeting with some venture capitalists to pitch his firm’s newest invention. He invited one of his associates, a brilliant young chemist, to
Now the chemist typically wore a nose ring and asked the CEO if he should remove it for the meeting. The CEO without hesitating advised him not to worry because he knew how competent his associate was and didn’t see an issue.
But at the meeting, the money men virtually ignored the young chemist and addressed most of their inquiries to the CEO.
The guy with the nose ring
During a follow-up phone call, one of the venture capitalists asked the CEO “Who was the guy with the nose ring?” That’s when the CEO realized he had set his associate up for failure.
Because he was used to seeing the ring, he didn’t give it a second thought. But the venture capitalists focused on the nose ring, undermining the chemist’s contributions and expertise.
Personal brand advice
Personal branding often comes down to the question – what do you want to be known for?
Think of the industry you want to develop a career in. What is appropriate, accepted in that industry and meets the customer/client expectations.
Tech, start-ups and creative
Certainly a lot of start-ups creative industries are more accepting of tattoos/piercings/wild hair colours, especially if they sport the look themselves.
Having said that, not all millennial’s embrace tattoos. I was chatting with the owner of a graphic design firm who said that her values are more consistent to a boomer’s and prefers that employees not reveal their tattoos, especially during first time client meetings when the relationship is new or not yet well established.
On the other hand the president of environmental services firm said that while he would never wearing piercings, he has no problem with his employees expressing themselves in that fashion.
Tips for the job interview
It’s important to do your homework. In addition to checking out the company web site, talk to people you might know who actually work there, or who know people that work there. Ask them how they presented themselves for the interview. If you don’t know anyone, it’s ok to speak to the receptionist, share that you’re prepping for the interview and want to make a good impression.
My advice? Don’t get a tattoo anywhere that you can’t cover it up, such as hands and neck. Think of removing the extra piercings.
There’s a time and a place for self-expression, and unfortunately a job interview isn’t always one of them.
The down side
There is downside of visible tattoos, piercings etc. because recruiters are forced to make many decisions very quickly about a job candidate’s ability to fit in with their corporate culture and often it comes down appearance, right or wrong. They usually have a shortlist of qualified candidates and they are looking to eliminate candidates to shorten it further.
Even in a creative environment, if a recruiter/interviewer/owner is not bothered by your tattoos/piercings/hair colour, some of their customers may be, especially if the customers are of an older demographic, 40+. Because it can affect the bottom line, especially in a down economy they will be more inclined to hire someone who shows they understand and fit their company standards/culture.
Your informed choice
Once you have the position and demonstrate your worth, then you can push the envelope more. But for important job interviews or client first meetings make your own educated/informed personal branding choice, so you aren’t known as the guy or gal with the nose ring.
More career advice?
For more tips here’s a link to a recent article I was interviewed by Daniel Bortz of monster.com entitled Should you cover up tattoos for a job interview?