Quartz: Are tattooed job applicants less likely to be hired? Two new studies disagree
Originally found at Quartz at Work, by Lila MacLellan
Only a couple of decades ago, having a tattoo that couldn’t be hidden behind respectable job interview clothes was a pledge of allegiance to the unconventional. Merely appreciating the look of tattoos or wanting to pay homage to a person, subculture, or concept (like “freedom”) was not enough to warrant getting inked in a visible spot. You had to be indifferent to the possibility that certain employers—okay, most employers—might judge you as too rebellious or unprofessional to join the team.
There’s a possibility, however, that attitudes have shifted, according to an analysis of recent salary data by a trio of researchers from the University of Miami and the University of Western Australia Business School. After gathering data from 2,000 participants, they found no evidence of a statistical difference in earnings or employment levels among the tattooed and the non-tattooed, and this held true whether a person had a few tattoos or many, and whether the tattoos were visible or not. Even the tiny percentage of survey respondents who had tattoos self-described as “offensive” did not show any signs of economic suffering for it.
(Without similar past data, the researchers can’t say whether we have long mischaracterized the effects tattoos can have, or when a shift happened.)
That said, a second recently published study, this one lead by a professor at Colorado State University, found that would-be hiring managers still don’t want to see tattoos on job candidates and will offer people with tattoos and body piercings lower starting salaries. The only exception: Those managers with more body piercings were less likely to hire someone who didn’t have any piercings or tattoos.
It’s possible that these studies can be read as Rorschach tests: you’ll find your own bias—either toward tattoos or research methodologies—in your trust of one or the other.
In the study that found no career penalty for the tattooed, which was published in the journal Human Relations, the researchers gathered information from participants recruited online. They argue that this crowdsourced approach—sometimes viewed as more representative of a population than a standard survey sample—makes the findings more telling than previous studies, which have typically found anti-tattoo sentiment among hiring managers through questionnaires, not by examining their practices....
Assuming the results are meaningful, it would appear that tattoos, even the sweet ones, have yet to shake their history as marks of the risk-taking and rule-flaunting. Tattoos generally did make it less likely that a person would be “hired.” The would-be hiring managers, who were tasked with filling the role of sales manager, also offered people with tattoos, or extreme body piercings, lower starting salaries. And the more extreme the tattoos, the less warm and competent the individual was seen to be. Applicants with either tattoos or piercings “were perceived as less committed than applicants without body art,” the authors write in the study, which was published by the Academy of Management.”
Continue reading original article at Quartz at Work.
Read the original research in Academy of Management Proceedings
Learn more about the AOM Scholars and explore their work:
- Chris A. Henle, Colorado State University
- Ted H Shore, Colorado State University
- Alyssa Marshall, Colorado State University