Skip to main content

Back in 2005, a company called CI Host offered to pay individuals to tattoo their foreheads with
the company’s logo in exchange for a lifetime hosting package for their website. Several people
accepted the offer, receiving tattoos of the CI Host logo on their foreheads.

Other companies have also made offers to individuals to be “Human Billboards”. This is
low-hanging fruit for the writer who wants to poke fun at people getting face tattoos for
corporations. For instance, under one’s lower lip, a great corporate tattoo would be for Bob
Chinn’s Crab House. Or on the forehead, it is great positioning for The North Face logo.
Thankfully I am someone who does not feel the need to grasp at low-hanging fruit.

I raise the above as extreme examples of addressing the very sensitive topic of appearance in
the work world. I think we all will agree that one’s appearance in interviews is important
although we may disagree on what level is truly appropriate. Let’s first see what we can agree

As it relates to “Eat At Joes” tattoos on the face, or any other facial tattoos for that matter, I hope
we can agree that most highly professional work environments outside of the entertainment
industry will shy away from people with them. There are maybe a few more exceptions here but
the overwhelming majority of corporations will view facial tats as non-starters in the interview
process. This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs on anything, I’m simply stating an
observation based on 30+ years of working with lots of different companies.

At the other extreme, there are very few corporations that will view a candidate wearing formal
attire such as a tuxedo or bridal gown as acceptable for an interview. Yes, I get that interviewing
for a Cruise Ship or as an Event Planner may warrant this type of dress. But again, we are
talking about the majority of interview situations.

So if we agree on the above, then we have narrowed our dress range that goes somewhere
from graphic T-shirts and shorts all the way to suits and formal business attire. Which is great
getting to this stage because other than Facebook, I’m running dangerously low on facial tattoo

Here is my suggestion – to determine the appropriate interview attire, one simply needs to ask
the company “what is the typical dress code for the interviews” AND then actually wear one level
up from what they suggest. So if the company suggests dressing business casual, I would
recommend that a male wear a sport coat and nice shirt. If the company suggests casual, I
would suggest a female wear an elevated nice shirt and pants. In other words, do something
slightly more formal than what the company is requiring.

I recently met with a potential client and I asked the dress code question as I was visiting them
for the first time in their office. The reply was “business casual” but my contact mentioned that
some of the executives I was meeting may be wearing either a tie or a sport coat. Using my formula above, I wore a nice suit with a tie. I wanted to send a visual message that this meeting
was important to me and that I am taking it very seriously.

I’ve worked with too many people over the years who get very righteous about this topic. I
understand the sentiments of “If they don’t hire me because I wear a graphic tee then they don’t
get me”, or “these lambchop sideburns are coming back into style and they are a great
conversation starter” or “My piercings reflect me as a person”. Honestly, I have no issues with
any of the above statements – people need to be who they are. But when it comes to working in
professional environments, sometimes interviewers can be judgmental and make decisions
based on appearances. I believe your role is to remove appearance as a criteria on which you
are judged. To this end, you may need to make some compromises.

Hire Thought  First impressions are lasting impressions so be thoughtful about your appearance in all
face-to-face recruiting activity. I view this topic like so many others in recruiting – I don’t make
the rules and guidelines, I simply need to know what the guardrails are so I can provide solid
advice to others. It’s naive to think that appearance does not factor into working in a highly
professional setting – simply accept the fact and hopefully let your skills, competencies,
attributes, and voice win the day.

Leave a Reply