Friday, 02 February 2024 13:01

Tattoos, Piercings and Trainers

Clinging too tightly to traditional norms may lead organisations to unintentionally risk restricting their talent pool. Today's workforce is increasingly diverse, which we must embrace to bring a wide range of skills, experiences, and perspectives that can drive innovation and growth. In a multi-generational workforce, each generation will have a different expectations of what is acceptable and what looks smart.

Placing too much emphasis on appearance, and what many might consider to be a conventional look, particularly at interview stage, could result in companies overlooking highly qualified candidates who could bring substantial value to their teams. This is especially relevant in sectors facing skill shortages; which in the UK, is most industries currently.

First impressions are undeniably powerful and often shape our perceptions and decisions in a matter of seconds. In the context of a job interview, attire and personal appearance play a significant role in the initial interactions. However, we must consider that reliance on traditional standards may not only mean that we miss out on the best candidate for the job, but also perpetuates stereotypes.

In a society that has become dominated by globally reaching social media that rewards popularity and measures success in likes and followers, it is increasingly challenging for individuals to express their individuality. Younger generations are therefore more likely to embrace tattoos, piercings, and casual dress as forms of self-expression. This might put them at a disadvantage when it comes to job applications; not because of their skills or potential but owing to outdated perceptions of professionalism by the interviewing company.

In addition to missing out on potentially good candidates, placing too much emphasis on appearance could put organisations at risk of committing indirect age discrimination. 26% of the British public are reported to have tattoos with 11% have visible tattoos. Anecdotally, it tends to be the younger generations that sport visible tattoos and piercings, and who consider smart training shoes to be acceptable business-wear. Individuals also have tattoos to honour their religion or belief. A blanket approach that simply discounts any applicants with a certain ‘look’ could easily be challenged.

At the other end of the spectrum, older candidates might feel pressured to conform to modern aesthetics to appear "in touch” or up to date with modern trends and thinking. This approach may also risks adversely affecting job prospects with companies that don’t employ an open-minded approach.

Just as we have seen a trend towards omitting candidates’ dates of birth and names on job applications to avoid age discrimination and unconscious bias, interviewers will now have to develop the skill to be unphased and oblivious towards tattoos, piercings etc to demonstrate a truly inclusive culture.

Of course there are limits. Politically or racially motivated tattoos that are constantly visible, on the face or neck for example, probably aren’t the image you want your company to portray. We might expect an individual to be able to make that judgement and refrain from getting an offensive facial tattoo if they plan to pursue a career in a customer facing role such as sales or nursing.

Whilst first impressions will always play a role in the recruitment process, it's increasingly important for employers to look beyond the surface. By adopting more inclusive hiring practices, organisations can ensure they are truly accessing the full spectrum of talent available, thereby enriching their workforce and fostering a more dynamic, innovative, and inclusive workplace.

During the recruitment process, it would be acceptable for the employer to advise the candidate of their dress-code expectations, which is where we would expect to see the policy on visible tattoos to sit. It would then be up to the candidate whether they wanted to deselect themselves from the recruitment process or to adopt the code.

Fostering an inclusive culture that values diversity in all its forms can also enhance an organisation's appeal to a broader range of candidates making it seen as a desirable place to work, thereby attracting the best available talent, ahead of the competition.

For further support with your recruitment processes, organisational and workforce planning call us on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Read 463 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 February 2024 11:23


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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