Do You Let “Job Stoppers” Stop You From Hiring Qualified People?

If two job candidates walked into your company and one was more qualified than the other, but sported a ‘job stopper,’ which one would you hire?

Before asking whether you would pass over a more-qualified candidate sporting a ‘job stopper,’ perhaps the first question that should be asked is: Do you know ‘job stopper’ is?

Of course you do.

A job stopper, according to the urban dictionary, is a “tattoo on your body that is exposed all the time. (i.e. a tattoo on your neck, knuckles, forearms, hands, face, etc.).”

For some, a job stopper might be a full-sleeve tattoo, like this one…

Or, if ‘sleeves’—which seem to be more acceptable in the some workplaces these days—aren’t a job stopper for you, what about facial tattoos?

There are approximately 45 million Americans with tattoos. That is a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. However, not all of those with tattoos bear ‘job-stopping’ ink.

Although ‘job-stopping tattoos’ are not quite mainstream yet, they are becoming more prevalent, according to some.

Anna Felicity Friedman, a scholar who runs the website Tattoo Historian, said that starting in the 1990s, it became common to see athletes and celebrities with tattoos. Soon, reality TV shows (with titles like “Best Ink” and “Tattoo Nightmares”) and magazines began covering tattoo culture, and Americans embraced body art like never before.

Tattoos, as a result, began losing their renegade status. Hence the creep upward, past the neckline.

A recent study “regarding patients’ perceptions of physicians with exposed body art” found that patients “did not perceive a difference in physician competence, professionalism, caring, approachability, trustworthiness or reliability in the setting of exposed body art.”

A tattooed doctor helping a patient. Image credit: New York Times

In addition to doctors, even police officers are exposing their tats.

As one police force explained, it is “more concerned with employing people who want to serve the community and show dedication than the nature and amount of tattoos they have.”

Not all police departments are welcoming of officers’ tats though.

While Austin, Texas celebrates its tatted cops (below), the Fraternal Order of Police–a union–is pushing the Oklahoma City Police Department into changing its ban on exposed tattoos.

Although tats are moving into more mainstream occupations, that does not mean that all employers are ready for it.

One job seeker featured in the New York Post claimed that his neck tattoo had cost

“There’s definitely a stigma attached which there shouldn’t be,” stated Joe Parsons, the the tatted job seeker who claims he’s been turned down for jobs because of his neck tattoo. “I do think it’s a form of discrimination.”

Job seeker Joe Parsons’ neck tattoo. Image source: New York Post

Another question to be asked: If you are ‘okay’ with formerly-job stopping tattoos in your organization, is it by degree?

For example, are you okay with a small facial tattoo, but not a full-facial tattoo?

This brings us back to our opening question: Let’s say you have two job candidates applying for a job in your company and one was more qualified than the other, but sported a ‘job stopper,’ which one would you hire?

Do you hire the more qualified job seeker, or do you judge a book by its cover?

In a tight labor market, it’s a question you might want to answer for yourself before you’re ‘faced’ (pun intended) with the situation.

A post shared by Ano (@anoxink) on

Disclaimer: This writer sports 3/4 sleeve tats, but none are considered job stoppers, as they are covered by long sleeve shirts in most professional settings.

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