By Dino Londis
Yes, you’re cool. Yes, you’re talented. But when you show up for a job interview, you’d better have given some thought to what the hiring manager’s going to see when you walk in the door.
There’s no such thing as impartiality. We all make hundreds of judgments about people every day. People’s prejudices don’t stop at the office door. And since the whole interview process is essentially one big judgment session, why would you think a manager would just look away from your body art?
Today’s hiring managers tend to be from a generation where tattoos were limited to Marines and bikers. Even if you had a thick beard and hair halfway down your back, you were always a barber shop away from becoming “respectable” for a job interview.
And like it or not, a hiring manager has to answer to his superiors, who are even further separated from your age. Even if he has no personal problem with body art, the manager’s perception of what’s expected by the company’s owners or executives will prevent him from looking the other way. Because businesses today rarely have a formal policy about body art, hiring managers are left to make assumptions about management’s expectations, and often lean toward the equation’s conservative side.
Employees who’ve tried to challenge discrimination based on body art have met with limited success. For example, Costco management asked a cashier to remove an eyebrow piercing, or even put a bandage over it. The employee refused on the basis of religion, there was litigation - and the company won.
Companies can limit employees’ personal expression on the job as long as they don’t infringe on their civil liberties. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers are allowed to impose dress codes and appearance policies as long as they don’t discriminate against a person’s race, color, religion, age, national origin or gender.
Of course you’re not your body piercings, and we all know that many employees who don’t have body art are lousy workers. You may believe that your talent, your resume, and your interview skills will be enough to overcome any prejudice. Or you may think you don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t allow body art.
Don’t delude yourself. The job market’s not so great that you can easily dismiss the idea of working for a company that doesn’t like your nose ring. You want the job, so you have to factor out anything that could affect your chances of getting hired. So remove the jewelry, and cover up the art.
Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.