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    Why Employers Would Hire Applicants With Tattoos and Piercings

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    A doctor, after a long seventeen-hour shift clocks out and gets in her car, ready to head home to her family. After dealing with dozens of patients and saving several lives, many would consider her a hero – kind, brave, strong, and capable. She spent several years in medical school and more than a dozen years in her field. She sounds qualified, doesn’t she? How would you feel if I were to tell you that she had two full sleeve tattoos (tattoos that cover her arms from shoulder to wrist) and gauges in her ears?

    Although I’ve made this example up, the concept of tattoos, stretched ears, and other piercings in a professional work setting is a controversial topic in today’s workplace. Should tattoos and piercings outweigh a person’s job qualifications, or should employers reconsider what it means to be a professional?

    There are many reasons as to why employers would not hire applicants with tattoos and piercings. They look unprofessional, they are a safety issue in some professions, and tattoos and piercings can make others uncomfortable. As long as twenty or so years ago, piercings and tattoos would be considered that of carnival workers, bikers, sailors, and soldiers. Nowadays, however, they are becoming more and more popular, especially with the younger generation (Elzweig, 13).

    The issue with this is that many people do not want to see their doctors and police officers tattooed and with gauged (stretched) ears – it just looks plain unprofessional. A non-professional appearance can be defined as anything that makes a client, patient, or customer uneasy (Williams, 373). If the very people you are trying to assist are uncomfortable around your appearance, shouldn’t you, as the professional, be courteous and cover up?

    The issue with arguing professional appearance, however, is that every single person has a different idea of what professionalism looks like. For example, one employer might find a nice dress shirt, khakis, and black leather shoes perfectly acceptable and professional, while another employer might find anything less than a suit and tie too casual.

    The same concept applies to tattoos and piercings: one employer may be okay with several ear piercings and a small tattoo while the other employer may make that employee take out all of her piercings and cover up that tattoo. Professionalism is nothing more than opinion with a cultural base, and while yesterday’s culture found tattoos and piercings offensive, today’s culture finds that tattoos and piercings are much more commonplace.

    Many people do not seem to realize that body modifications such as tattoos are not a new trend. There have been recorded cases of people being tattooed as long as 6000 to 7000 years ago. While tattooing was used as branding and marking to exclude certain groups of people, tattoos were also used for religious purposes, and in some cases believed to be protection from evil. Even today, tattoos are a part of some religions. Although many religions ban tattooing, there are some who do not have a strict rule for or against it, such as Christianity – some are for it, some are against it (Isaacs, 1051).

    Elizabeth J. Greer, director of the radiologic science program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, states that anything outside the standard appearance of a professional, such as tattoos and piercings, can cause coworkers to be distracted and even cause questions about proper hygiene. She says that working in a team, when one member of that team throws everyone else off by their appearance, the team doesn’t perform as well. She argues that companies need to enforce strict dress codes that are both socially acceptable and that meet the company’s standards (Keith, 57).

    Although I agree that there should be some sort of a dress code in place and hygiene should be maintained, as far as distractions go – shouldn’t professionals be trained to adapt to changes and work through distractions? Especially with medical professionals, my hopes would be that if I were to walk into the emergency room needing immediate attention, the doctors and nurses would be able to look past any piercings, crazy hair color, or tattoos on my body and perform their duties as if I were just another person requiring the skills possessed by a group of professionals.

    And as Rebecca Keith, an instructor in the School of Diagnostic Imaging at Northern Virginia Community College in Springfield, VA, says, “Judge my skills, not my skin.” She argues that she has had cases where patients have actually been more comfortable opening up to her and working with her because she has tattoos – and a lot of them, at that. She has more than enough experience to express her qualifications for her job, and yet people like Keith are judged daily less on how well they perform their job and more on their appearance (Keith, 56).

    However, in terms of safety or sanitation, it is perfectly reasonable for piercings to be removed or covered up. For example, working in the kitchen of a restaurant or cafeteria, piercings should be removed if they can be or covered up so that they do not fall out into food or get caught in machinery. While there are many cases where you can argue why piercings can be allowed, the kitchens, factories, or anywhere that machinery or food is used or prepared are not included.

    Nevertheless, if tattoos are being ordered to be covered and piercings to be removed on the basis of them making others feel uncomfortable, this is not a highly convincing argument. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, many people would have argued that working with people of colored skin would have made them immensely uncomfortable. Sixty-five years later, if someone were to make the same claim it would be considered discrimination. Even though people cannot change the color of their skin, but people make the choice to get tattoos and piercings, the analogy is still sufficient. Whether it be today or sixty-five years ago, no one should have to feel shameful of what is on his or her skin.

    In conclusion, tattoos are a significant part of today’s culture, and just as styles change throughout the years so has what is considered a “professional” appearance. Tattoos and piercings, although once considered to be rebellious and only meant for miscreants, have now become less negative and more expressive. While there will always be exceptions as to when piercings should be allowed in terms of safety, overall, the times are changing and therefore so are the standards of professionalism.

    Should we spend less time judging people’s skin, and as Keith puts it, more time judging people’s skills (56)? As a society, we need to move away from trying to please everyone and worrying about making people uncomfortable with appearances. People will always find something to blame as being “uncomfortable,” and just as we have come to accept people of all colors, we too will come to accept people of all body modifications in the workplace.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Why Employers Would Hire Applicants With Tattoos and Piercings. (2023, Mar 12). Retrieved from

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