I Do Have A Tattoo. #NewToHR

I Do Have A Tattoo

Another HR Question:

My name is Rene and I have graduated with a Business degree in Human Resources. I am struggling getting a job. I have completed two paid internships and both organizations said I did an excellent job. One of the organizations’s had a vacant position available after the internship so I applied. There were two of us that applied. The other individual and I came from the same university, so we have identical degrees, education, and experience. However, he was given the job.

I wasn’t sure why they chose him over me so I asked the Director of Human Resources if I could find out what the reason was (they usually say “they were a better fit” or “their skill set met our specific needs”). She was a nice lady, her comment was exactly like I predicted, and she said “He was a better fit for the organization.” I asked her, “What does that mean?” She explained to me that, “A better fit means any number of things, such as, better education, more experience, better suited to the organization’s culture, skill set to do the job, meets company’s mission and vision standards better, these are just to name a few.” I asked her to be more specific. We both knew she wasn’t going to give me the exact reason. She told me to, “Ask yourself those questions, answer them honestly, and see what you come up with.” She smiled and said, “You should figure it out.”

I sat down and thought about it for awhile and then started asking myself the questions. I knew we were the same on experience, skill set, and education. When it comes down to better suited to the organization’s culture and meeting the company’s mission and vision standards better, had to be what the reason was. We have similar personalities, physical attributes, and positive interaction with staff we worked with. I was thinking too hard. I needed a break so I decided to go to dinner with friends. I was telling them about the job and the circumstances. One of my friends laughed and said, “You really don’t know why they didn’t hire you?” I said, “No, I really don’t know why?” She said, “Your Tattoos.” That never even crossed my mind. It made sense, but then why did they let me complete my internship there? They never brought it up. My question is this. Why didn’t the HR Director tell me the reason I wasn’t hired was because of my tattoos and how come this never came up during the internship? I hope you can help me understand and do you have any advice about the tattoos?

Thank you and I hope you answer this soon. Waiting Patiently, Rene

Hi Rene,

As we understand it from your letter, your question is:

Why didn’t the HR Director tell me the reason I wasn’t hired was because of my tattoos and how come this never came up during the internship?

Your question has two parts.

“Why weren’t you told that the reason you were not hired was because of your tattoos?”

As you stated in your comments, you knew she would not give you an exact answer. Employers will usually just give you a generic answer such as, “we found a more qualified candidate.”

While the other individual didn’t have a tattoo, but you can’t be sure that was the only reason they didn’t hire you. In your comments, you never mentioned a tattoo or where it is located until your friend brings it up at dinner.

From the information you have provided in your comments, Human Resources is a field that deals mainly with the public sector and usually requires a set look. This look leans more towards the conservative side. So, depending on where your tattoo is located may have been a contributing factor in the hiring decision. Most organizations have a policy on Appearance which identifies their requirements on tattoos and body jewelry. Organizations, where the majority of their clients are more conservative, usually have very rigid policies and require all tattoos to be covered up and body jewelry removed.

How come this never came up during the internship?

When internships are arranged between an organization and a university, the details of policy regarding dress code and appearance are discussed and the policy would usually be provided to the university. You stated no one ever mentioned your tattoos, either they are not that obvious or both the university and the organization dropped the ball in conveying the requirements and enforcing them.

If there is a rigid policy in place, we would expect the organization to enforce it, even if the university failed to do so. Personally, we feel that if the tattoo was the only reason for the decision to hire the other candidate, it would have been discussed early on with you. From our experience, we feel that other factors, such as personality, ability to interface with others in the organization and being a “good fit” for the position probably played a role in their decision.

Our advice on tattoos is, think before you act. If you want body jewelry and tattoos, get them in an area where they are not visible or can easily be covered up. If you have tattoos and you can’t cover them up, try tattoo makeup. If that doesn’t work, look for an employer whose business serves a more relaxed, easy going clientele and may have a more lenient policy 😉

Our response to your question is based on our professional experience and knowledge. This in no way means this is the only way to handle the issue, it is just the way we would handle it.

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