HR · 15 March 2018

Is it time for UK recruiters to set aside their tattoo bias?

Tattoo bias
Around one in five UK adults are believe to have a tattoo

A tattoo bias continues to limit the career prospects of individuals sporting body ink, research has suggested, but preconceptions around self-expression could see employers miss out on talent.

According to new survey findings, collated by professional network LinkedIn, as many as nine in ten recruitment professionals agreed that visible body art could limit the career progression of an individual, regardless of their skills and suitability for a role.

LinkedIn also found that over four in ten recruiters had rejected a suitable candidate on the basis of having a tattoo. These decision makers cited the key reasons why the jobseekers were overlooked.

Just under half of recruiters believed general industry intolerance forced their hand, while 46 per cent personally believed a tattoo showed a general lack of professionalism. Meanwhile, 41 per cent had rejected a tattooed candidate due to the employer’s own dress code.

Almost one in five UK adults are now believed to have a tattoo, indicating a significantly narrower recruitment pool for employers to search in.

Other signs of self-expression had also deterred recruiters from proceeding with job hunters. Over a quarter said visible piercings had seen a candidate miss out, while a fifth had rejected someone on the basis of brightly dyed hair.

Despite solid evidence pointing towards a tattoo bias, 80 per cent of jobseekers were convinced they’d never missed out on a position because of their tattoo.

“With almost a fifth of UK adults currently estimated as having a tattoo, the current attitude around visible tattoos and physical image means that businesses and recruiters could be missing out on top talent,” said Rebecca Drew, enterprise sales leader at LinkedIn.

“Despite this, it’s encouraging to see that so many talent professionals are taking active steps to help reduce this bias and encourage more self expression in the workplace.”

Signs of change

Almost two-thirds of recruiters believed the tattoo bias had decreased over the past five years, with employers looking towards phone interviews, virtual reality assessments and online screening among the popular methods used to reduce discrimination in the hiring process.

Drew added: “As we continue to see AI tools incorporated into hiring processes, we hope this will help recruiters remove some of the human bias from the process, and focus on judging candidate potential against the most important things.”

Further research previously revealed which UK sectors contained the most tattooed workers, as well as industries the general public were most uncomfortable encountering tattoos.

Percentage of tattooed workers by profession

  • Agricultre: 22 per cent
  • Hospitality, tourism: 20 per cent
  • Arts and culture: 16 per cent
  • Retail: 14 per cent
  • Finance and banking 13 per cent
  • Healthcare and medical technology 13 per cent
  • Professional Services: 13 per cent
  • Education and family services: 12 per cent
  • Manufacturing: 9 per cent
  • Energy, design and construction: 9 per cent
  • Information technology: 9 per cent
  • Government: 8 per cent


Percentage comfortable

Percentage uncomfortable

Athlete 88 per cent 12 per cent
Chef 81 per cent 19 per cent
Police officer 73 per cent 27 per cent
IT technician 72 per cent 28 per cent
Estate agent 69 per cent 31 per cent
Banker 63 per cent 37 per cent
Doctor 59 per cent 41 per cent
Judge 59 per cent 41 per cent
Nurse 57 per cent 43 per cent
Lawyer 57 per cent 43 per cent
Primary school teacher 49 per cent 51 per cent
Political figure 44 per cent 56 per cent
Air hostess 42 per cent 58 per cent


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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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