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July 26, 2010

Tattoos and body piercings were once a stigma in the workplace, but new research showed that times are changing. According to FOX Business, more and more employers are accepting applicants with body art in order to avoid decreasing their candidate pool.

Tattoos are now so prevalent that companies are somewhat forced to deal with them as finding a candidate without a body stamp may be difficult. The Food and Drug Administration estimated that more than 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm, said "...With everyone from soccer moms to MIT computer science graduates sporting tattoos, preconceptions about tattooed individuals are no longer valid. Secondly, and even more importantly, companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate."

Challenger also noted that "those making the hiring decisions are younger and not as adherent to traditions about workplace appearance". Studies showed that tattooing is more prevalent among younger generations. MSNBC reported that a 2010 Pew Research Center study found that only 15 percent of Baby Boomers have tattoos, whereas 32 percent of 30-45 year olds and 38 percent of 18-29 year olds have body art. Furthermore, half of the tattooed 18-29 year olds said they have two to five tattoos. Central Valley Business Times added that 30 percent of tattooed 18-29 year olds have their art on full display and one in four have piercings other than the ear lobe.

Although body art is becoming more common in the workplace, Challenger stated that some industries will continue to be conservative. "We may never see visible tattoos on bankers, lawyers, accountants or the clergy. However, areas such as advertising, marketing, sales and technology are more inclined to be progressive and more accepting of new fashion and lifestyle trends," he said. Sue Murphy of the National Human Resources Association told MSNBC that tattoo-friendliness also depends on the position. She explained that employees in client-facing roles are more likely to be asked to cover up. "A company [needs] to decide what is an acceptable or unacceptable image," she said.

MSNBC speculated that tattoo-approval is likely to increase as more of the younger generation joins the workplace. However, when in doubt, Challenger recommended that interviewees play it safe and either cover up or ask someone at the company whether body art is permissible at the office.

Bill Johnson, vice president of the National Tattoo Association and owner of the Tattoo Time shop in Orlando, Florida, advised employers to rely on the quality of their service or product, rather than the appearance of their employees. "You're always going to have a small group of people, no matter, who are going to hate tattooing..." he said. However, if the current trend continues, we may see that group of people get smaller and smaller within the workplace.

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