Tattoos on jobseekers can put employers off giving them work, a study has found.
The British Sociological Association (BSA) asked 15 employers about their attitudes towards tattooed interviewees, and many told researcher Dr Andrew R. Timming that they would not consider some of them for jobs.
Dr Timming pointed out that companies were more concerned about their customers' reactions than their own, saying: "visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be 'abhorrent', 'repugnant', 'unsavoury' and 'untidy'."
He continued that the firms feared their "customers might project a negative service experience that tattooed people are thugs and druggies."
This is a big problem for jobseekers: The Telegraph reported last year that more than a third of 18-44 year olds now have at least one tattoo, while even the Prime Minister's wife has a dolphin on her ankle.
The BSA confirmed that small tattoos of this kind were not off-putting to employers, with one employer saying “If it’s gang culture-related you may have a different view about the tattoo than if it’s just because it’s a nice drawing of an animal that they’ve done on their arm."
Another manager confirmed that the subject matter was the most important issue, telling the study: “We all judge people on first impressions and what we sum up is quite quick. When they [customers] walk in the door and see there's a receptionist with guns or knives tattooed, or 'hate' tattooed, I think that is something that would be uncomfortable."
The kind of body art that can be wholly covered is not seen as a problem, and some - particularly regimental insignia on old soldiers - are actually admired.
The employers worked in a range of companies including a hotel, bank, city council, prison, university and bookseller.
The prison manager was the only one to have an overall positive impression of tattoos, saying they " can be ‘something to talk about’ and ‘an in’ that you need to make a connection with the prisoners", suggesting that those with more aggressive representations should apply here first.
Dr Timmng has some advice for those thinking about taking the plunge with a new piece of body art: “In the event that one chooses to get a visible tattoo, one would do well to select a genre that is unlikely to be perceived as distasteful by hiring managers, co-workers and customers alike."