How to Prevent Discrimination from Tattoos, Piercings & Colored Hair
Joe asked on Snagajob’s Facebook:
“Can jobs really discriminate against me because of my hair? I have dreadlocks, and I’ve heard it looks unprofessional, or its too long, but I could wear a hair net or hat – plus I saw females working with very long hair.”
While dreadlocks shouldn’t prevent you from getting a job, you need to make sure your hairstyle is clean and controlled no matter how you wear your hair. Remember that maintaining a professional image by carefully choosing what you wear for interviews is even more important than usual when you choose to express yourself through style selections.
I have a tattoo, but you won’t catch me showing it off in interviews. It’s on the top of my foot, so when I’m wearing my $14 interview suit and heels it’s extremely obvious – that’s why I spend an extra 20 minutes putting on tattoo cover up and making sure it doesn’t show. I’m fortunate to work in an ink-friendly environment, but when I came in to speak to them about the job it was completely covered with makeup. Once, I put on tattoo coverup and an interview outfit just to drop off a reference letter. Why? Because there was a chance I’d be seeing the hiring manager when I stopped by (that was actually what I was hoping for.) I don’t think my tattoo is controversial or offensive, but I don’t want interviewers to focus on anything but my qualifications.
One hole per ear is safe, but avoid wearing big earrings that will distract the interviewer. Beyond that, take out any extra piercings that you can. I have a few extra holes in my ear, but for interviews I go one stud per earlobe – period.
Facial piercings are distracting at best, and against company policy at worst. And clicking your tongue piercing against your teeth while you nervously ponder an interview question is annoying to the interviewer – not to mention bad for your teeth.
No matter how you choose to wear your hair, make sure it is clean, controlled and out of your face. If you’re applying for food service positions, this is extra important, but it’s good to remember for any interview. You want the interviewer to remember your awesome follow-up interview questions, not how you wear your hair or how you couldn’t stop messing it.
Unnatural hair colors (pink, blue, green, etc.) will be an issue for almost all employers. I know a lot of talented people with alternative hairstyles (my last boss had pink hair, and a close friend of mine is an art director with hot pink hair), but if they were job hunting they’d tone it down with a more natural color. Unless you can find a job with an employer who will view your alternative style as a positive, you need to ask yourself what’s more important – your hair color or your chance to land the job.
You can never be too careful when you’re trying to make a great impression. Personal expression is empowering, but until you’ve landed a job with an employer who appreciates unique personal expression (or you’ve become successful enough to own your own business), it’s best to let your qualifications, not your personal style, stand out during your job search.