Will not covering up this tattoo negatively impact me at my upcoming job interview?
June 16, 2008 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I have a job interview on Wednesday for a very interesting non-profit organization involved with animal research (for good purposes). All of my suits are skirt/jacket combos. I'm very short...too short for pant suits, and no time for alterations. The skirt suits wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have a huge tattoo on my leg. In my former career in creative arts, tattoos were acceptable and even commonplace. I'm not sure if this is a big deal with the new field. Nylons look silly over the work, and tights make me look like a little girl. Plus, it's very hot out. Is showing the tattoo something I should worry about? Do you think it will be viewed negatively? Any suggestions to help make me look more professional?

FYI, the work covers my shin/ankle/foot and is water, leaves and flowers. This is in California.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (32 answers total)
I don't really have any suggestions about what to wear, but I don't think you should show your tattoo at a job interview. I'm sure others will be along to say that it will be alright, but tattoos are not professional attire and you simply have no idea how those you meet might react to it. You obviously care about presenting yourself professionally, or you wouldn't frame the question in terms of suits in the first place, so you should certainly work to cover it. Think of it this way: if you don't get the job, do you want to wonder if wearing tights would have made a difference?

I have several large tattoos that I keep covered in professional settings.
posted by OmieWise at 7:25 PM on June 16, 2008

Can you get some Dermablend before Wednesday?
posted by thisjax at 7:26 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't show the tattoo, but I don't understand what's wrong with looking like "a little girl" either. Speak well and have a good interview and this won't be an issue - it could be a plus. I'd vote for tights, and hope for a cool day.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:30 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have a day to get a pair of pants -- that's what I'd do.

Once you're safely employed you won't have to worry about it, but I cover up my (shoulder) tattoo until it's too late for them to turn back. If it's as warm where you are as it is in Montreal then I wouldn't wear tights either. Get pants!!
posted by loiseau at 7:32 PM on June 16, 2008

In terms of tights--they're rather in style in NYC, and I would go for that over a tattoo. Avoid white, however.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:33 PM on June 16, 2008

I feel for you on being short and unable to buy a pair of pants that you can just wear the next day. I'm short too, and have to get everything altered.

Do you wear high heels at all? You could get the shortest dress pants that you can find and the highest heels that you can wear comfortably....and that might even the extra length out. Or.....and I realize this might sound more unprofessional than the tattoos or tights....or you could go with a pair of pants that can be cuffed, and do a safety pin hack. I've done it before and managed, not for a job interview, but I just thought I'd throw it out there....

Good luck!
posted by Squee at 7:38 PM on June 16, 2008

I'm short-five feet tall-and I buy pantsuits in the petite section. Alternatively perhaps you could find pants that would match jackets you already have? If this won't work I second the Dermablend idea.
posted by konolia at 7:39 PM on June 16, 2008

(if you buy the right kind of shoes you can get away with not doing alterations, at least temporarily.)
posted by konolia at 7:40 PM on June 16, 2008

I interpret "tights" to mean thicker hose made of wool or cotton. Black stockings might do.
posted by Morrigan at 7:43 PM on June 16, 2008

If you can't make pants work in the timeframe you have, I'd recommend going with the tights. My research job is in the northeast and perhaps California is a lot more relaxed about this sort of thing. Even so, I think it's generally a good idea to err on the side of being overly conservative at a first interview. If it's a conservative enough setting to wear a suit, it's conservative enough to cover tattoos.
posted by Stacey at 7:45 PM on June 16, 2008

By the way, you can do an at-home alteration by pressing at putting in a few stitches at each hem... even duct tape if necessary.
posted by loiseau at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dermablend if you want to leave your legs uncovered. Tights are a good second choice. I don't think tights would be too out of place with a nice skirt suit. If you were going for, say, black tights & shoes with a black skirt, it will have the added bonus of elongating the leg line and making you appear taller.

For pants, Nordstrom has an extensive petites department and can usually do same-day alterations. Alternately, just buy some petite pants and fold them up underneath, and use some hem tape or some safety pins to keep them up.

I also have some very large tattoos and I keep them covered for interviews and at work, but have small ones on my wrist & finger and they have not hampered my career in the slightest. I would still cover them as well as I could for a job interview. After they've hired you and see how awesome you are, then you can use your discretion on showing them.
posted by bedhead at 8:04 PM on June 16, 2008

If you decide to go the Dermablend route (I've been very happy with their stuff, but never had to cover something as big and dark as a tattoo), ULTA has it at least some of their stores.

I feel you on the tights! I think I'd buy pants and hem them myself (possibly with tape). Alternatively do you have a pair of pants that are smart enough to look like half a suit with nice shoes and a top?
posted by crabintheocean at 8:05 PM on June 16, 2008

I've never used Dermablend, but I've heard good things about it. However, if you do go that route, I'd strongly suggest trying it out a day in advance. You don't want to look down halfway through the interview and realize it's started to wear off and half your tattoo's peeking out. For safety's sake, I'd go with tights or pants.
posted by CrazyGabby at 8:24 PM on June 16, 2008

If you want to find professional, petite pants on short notice, check out your local thrift store. It's worth a shot...
posted by limeonaire at 8:31 PM on June 16, 2008

Another vote for keeping the tattoo covered at a job interview. Among other things, a huge tattoo might distract their attention from your other attributes (you want them to remember you as that really good candidate, not as Tattoo Girl).

You can get away without wearing a suit. I always wear nice pants and a nice top to interviews, but never an actual suit (a suit would be little too stodgy for the type of research jobs I apply to; this may be true for your position too). Temporary duct-tape hems and high heels will serve for a day, but a nice pair of pants is a good thing to have on hand for future interviews. None of the tops I'd wear to an interview would show my tattoo, and I'd err on the side of caution if you don't know the people you'll be talking to.

Another option might be dark stockings with a prominent pattern knitted in. I was woolgathering on the train one day, idly looking at a pair of black stockings with a sort of argyle pattern knitted in, and it took the longest time for me to realize that the woman had major tattoo work on her legs. But your fastest solution is probably to find a pair of pants that fits well in the hips and butt, and hem them to the right length.
posted by Quietgal at 8:40 PM on June 16, 2008

Honestly, any other job I would say get yourself some really opaque tights, but it's a nonprofit and its in CA, I wouldn't worry. From my experiences people at non profits are VERY liberal and there is no shortage of tattoos.
posted by whoaali at 8:41 PM on June 16, 2008

Buy yourself dark tights (the microfiber ones are very opaque AND light/breathable) and some kickass, sophisticated grown-up shoes to match and I guarantee you they won't make you "look like a little girl". Really. That only happens with light colored hose and mary janes.
posted by availablelight at 8:55 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pants. Try Talbots petites or Ann Taylor petites, if you're in the neighborhood of one.
posted by amtho at 9:20 PM on June 16, 2008

Nonprofits can be very old-fashioned in some ways, too. I'd wear pants for the interview. Use no-sew hem tape -- it's not the best permanent solution, but it'll be fine to get you through the interview. For summertime, nice slacks and a nice top are fine in lieu of a suit.
posted by desuetude at 9:20 PM on June 16, 2008

I second desuetude. I work at a nonprofit in California. Nobody would say "oh, tattoos, she must be some crazy radical." (At one point, two different people here had 75% of their arms covered.) But someone might wonder, "does she think this is some funky place to be cool instead of a serious, professional organization?" That's why I vote for putting on a professional show, so they can tell you are taking it seriously and can play that role successfully when necessary (eg, a meeting with a funder).

That said, if you wore black hose and someone could discern that there was a tattoo under them, but only if they were really looking, that might be fine.
posted by salvia at 9:40 PM on June 16, 2008

Pants, and go to your local cleaners and get them hemmed. You can show them your tattoo later.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:28 PM on June 16, 2008

Dress-boots would work as well. They send out a "confident and in charge" vibe, too, which could help at an interview.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:29 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another vote for keeping the tattoo covered at a job interview. Among other things, a huge tattoo might distract their attention from your other attributes (you want them to remember you as that really good candidate, not as Tattoo Girl).

Whilst I generally agree with this.... I hired a woman some years ago who came to the interview for a professional position with sleeves short enough to showing some extensive ink work. (The face piercings would have been harder to hide.) She was otherwise impeccably dressed.

My impression was that she was confident and "all business" and not really caring what people thought about her tattoos and piercings which for her just seemed to add to her professional bearing. It worked for her.

I wanted someone who - in addition to certain professional experience - could deal with a lot of difficult and complex personalities and who be assertive and wouldn't take shit from anyone. That's what I saw at the interview and that's what she turned out to be.
posted by three blind mice at 2:28 AM on June 17, 2008

Doublesided tape does good emergency alteration.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 AM on June 17, 2008

I don't think anyone had mentioned using some sort of cover-up foundation on it.

This may not be totally effective on a warm day, or depending on the shade of your tattoo/cover up. It may be worth a try in the next 24h if you haven't already run out and bought some new pants.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:35 AM on June 17, 2008

As a very short person, I know it's damn near impossible to just go out and "buy a pair of pants". Petites are usually made for women 5'1"-5'3". The tape could work, if time for shopping allows.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:11 AM on June 17, 2008

The problem with showing the tattoo is that then the interviewer may believe you don't have the good sense to cover it up in situations where that would be appropriate (like a job interview). That said, I don't think this is the end all be all or that it will definitely screw up your chances of getting the position. In fact, I think you are probably overthinking - it sounds like your tattoo is in a good area of your body and it's not like it's a skull with flames shooting out of the eyes or anything. I probably wouldn't worry about it, unless I really, really wanted the job, and wanted to be sure everything was perfect.
posted by xammerboy at 9:15 AM on June 17, 2008

I'm 5' so I know how hard it is to find pants you don't have to hem! I've been able to get suit pants at Banana Republic petites that don't need alterations--it might be worth checking out if you have one in your area.

Can you wear shoes that cover some/all of the work? I think tights might be weird if it's really hot out. Have you tried black nylons? Those will cover better than nude nylons but won't be as heavy as tights.

Do you know who is interviewing you? Gross generalization, but if you know it's someone younger (read: more used to tattoos) it might be okay; whereas if you know the person is older, it may be more of an issue. My older bosses/coworkers tend to be really distracted if I show my tattoos; they stare at my arms, but don't say anything, while my younger colleagues will make a comment about them and stop looking.
posted by min at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2008

FYI, the work covers my shin/ankle/foot

Pardon me for just skimming, but has anybody mentioned knee-high socks yet?
posted by danOstuporStar at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2008

Regardless, you'll likely be interviewed by an HR person, and they don't (gross generalization) tend to be the most progressive department. xammerboy's got it -- it's not that your tattoos are going to be a problem, you just demonstrating that you're NOT the kind of person who doesn't get that there may be times that you'll need to cover 'em.

danO...knee-high socks with a skirt-suit to a job interview?!
posted by desuetude at 11:33 AM on June 17, 2008

I'm voting tights/pants. If I hired someone to work in my (professional) office who didn't have a tattoo on their leg (covered up by make-up) and a few weeks later I saw that they did have a tattoo I'd feel odd that they covered it up in such a way rather than just wearing pants and letting the tattoo show naturally in time. It's the intention of hiding something, as opposed to not flaunting it, that I think makes the difference.
Looking short is no issue, so long as your attire is professional. I've had plenty of people come to job interviews in suits that make them look bigger/smaller/frumpier than they are only to hire them and discover that they're actually snappy dressers once they're comfortable enough to wear things that aren't standard interview attire.
Good luck with the job.
posted by Rubyspicer at 4:29 AM on June 18, 2008

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