• JC

Does appearance still matter?

I recently read a post published on LinkedIn that was about a candidate who applied for a job but was turned down because of his tattoos. This was backed up a few days later by an article that said employers are still making a decision on a candidate based on their appearance, rather than their skill set.

I like to think that the times we live in are more progressive, open-minded and accepting, but when I read articles about any kind of discrimination it makes me question that view. Do we really still live in an era where the colour of your shoes, the style of your hair or indeed the fact you have body art, is STILL an issue?

As a person of ink, I can say categorically that people still judge me on the fact I have tattoos. I get looks that suggest I'm a criminal or an idiot when I'm actually neither of those things. I am a professional, articulate and well-educated person who is enjoying a successful career. I decided to get ink as I love body art, I think it is a beautiful and expressive art form that can act as a living breathing diary of your life.

Margaret Mountford, a former aide to Lord Sugar on TV's The Apprentice, told The Sunday Times that tattoos harm career prospects:

"Some people seem to think tattoos are like jewellery but not to me and not to many others"

Head of equality at ACAS Stephen Williams said:

"Businesses are perfectly within their rights to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers' personal preferences."

He continues:

"Almost a third of young people now have tattoos, so whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers."

Now, of course, I'm biased, and yes tattoos are depicted in films as belonging to the 'bad guy', but if anybody can honestly explain to me why body art makes the slightest bit of difference to the ability to do a job then I shall concede.

I can go on to include the humble tie in this argument. And the suit for that matter. Both of these things seem to somehow represent success. Why? It can be one of two things; primarily it's perception due to social conditioning. We are made to believe that a person in a suit and tie is a successful intelligent and professional individual. Believe me, after 20-years of recruiting I can tell you this is definitely not always the case.

The second reason could be that people associate a smart suit with wealth. Again social conditioning and Hollywood movies link a suit to Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, thus prompting us to think that a suit equals success.

So how about we flip the argument. You get a CV from a candidate who ticks every single box. You arrange a Skype video call and they absolutely nail it. Your excitement at finding the 'perfect candidate' for the job for which you have been recruiting for about 6 months is only tempered when they turn up for the interview in an open-collared shirt with two full sleeves of tattoos. They nail the interview but in the back of your mind your thinking about your company dress policy which doesn't allow open collared shirts and tattoos.

What are you going to do? Sacrifice the best candidate for the sake of a prehistoric dress code?

Look, I'm not suggesting for a second that we should let personal appearance in the workplace drop to wearing a mankini and flip flops. What I'm saying is everybody be cool. If that person is capable of doing the job based solely on merit, then let them do it.

There are far bigger things in the world to worry about over a person's appearance.

#business #linkedin #tattoo #professional #WallStreet #GordonGekko