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Bias against tattoos could be causing UK businesses to miss out on talent

New research released today by LinkedIn, reveals bias against image could be causing UK businesses to miss out on top talent, and shows a mismatch between how recruitment professionals and job seekers view its impact.

  • New LinkedIn research highlights the impact of bias against image in the workplace
  • Nine out of ten recruitment professionals think tattoos could potentially limit career progression
  • Three fifths (60%) of recruitment professionals said discrimination against tattoos and physical image had decreased over the last five years

New research released today by LinkedIn, reveals bias against image could be causing UK businesses to miss out on top talent, and shows a mismatch between how recruitment professionals and job seekers view its impact.

The research reveals that three quarters (75%) of recruitment professionals think a candidate’s image plays a significant role in the hiring process, and a massive 88% said that having a tattoo could potentially limit someone’s career progression. And, a shocking four out of ten (41%) admitted to rejecting a suitable candidate because they had a visible tattoo.

When asked why tattoos had caused these rejections, just under half (47%) said it was due to industry intolerance, 46% felt it showed a lack of professionalism, and two fifths (41%) said it was because the employer had a strict dress code. Recruiters also said they would feel uncomfortable hiring someone wearing clothing which is too casual (34%), visible piercings (26%) and brightly dyed hair (21%). 

Despite this bias, many talent professionals know this attitude is holding the industry back, with 82% of those surveyed saying that discrimination against physical image is causing businesses to miss out on top talent.

However, it seems as though many job seekers are unaware of this potential discrimination, with four out of five (80%) candidates convinced they’ve never been rejected from a job opportunity because of their visible tattoos, while over a third (34%) said they didn’t think a tattoo would hold their career back.

Combatting the bias

Although there is clearly still bias against things like tattoos in the workplace, there are indications that attitudes are changing. Three fifths (60%) of talent professionals said discrimination against tattoos and physical image had decreased over the last five years.

There are also positive indications that businesses are taking steps to stop this - with phone interviews, virtual reality assessments and screening candidates via bots topping the methods used to reduce discrimination in the hiring process.

When asked which methods would be most beneficial for reducing image bias, phone interviews came out top with 32%. Integrating technology into the hiring process also proved popular, with more than a quarter (28%) stating that virtual reality assessments would help, and a fifth (21%) said that screening candidates via bots would reduce the bias.

“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,” says LinkedIn’s Rebecca Drew.

“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. 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. Recruiters can also use the LinkedIn’s Career Advice feature to engage with fellow professionals to give or ask for advice on any aspect of working life - including bias against image.”

What’s your view on tattoos in the workplace? Do you feel it has ever helped or hindered your career prospects? Join the conversation on LinkedIn by using the #InkAtWork hashtag.