Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tattoos and IQ: Is There a Correlation?

I am asked questions on a daily basis from my clients, my colleagues, my students and my 17 year old son ("Mom, can I ___fill in this blank_________?").

Today, I was actually rendered speechless during a conversation with an individual about the economy and how she is seeing a pick up in hires in the Atlanta area. She went on to discuss a situation where she had a position to fill and her #1 candidate wasn't a cultural fit. I said, "Why is that?" She told me, "He has a tattoo on his wrist, I really thought he was so smart until I saw that." She went on to say that she was going to have to come up with a reason not to hire him and wished that she could have a side conversation with him about covering up his tattoo with makeup.

Really? Are we in 1950?

She then continued to rant about the younger generation and their need to express themselves using tattoos. "Didn't they understand how that ruins their job search?"


I had to ask her a question: "Why is the wrist tattoo a barrier to entry in your organization?"

Are you ready for this answer, from an experienced HR professional?

'You know how people are that get tattoos, they aren't serious about work, and they probably drink and do drugs." I was hoping for the usual, mantra about being a traditional firm and we don't want to offend our customers, blah blah...That would have been more palatable, even though I don't agree. I couldn't believe what I just heard.

I am speechless....crickets are chirping.

I asked her if she considered me smart. She said she had looked up to me for years and that I am an expert in my field. I asked her did she think I am serious about my work. Yes...she said.

She asked me, "Why do you ask?"

I raised my pants and showed her this:

I pulled my hair up and showed her this:

If I could have taken my shirt off to show her my back....I would have.

Now, she was speechless....and I walked out.

I can't believe this really happens. Am I naive or do hiring professionals really still bring this much bias to the process?

It's enough to make a girl with tattoos drink and do drugs...LOL


Robin Schooling said...

Go Cathy! While not confronted with 'quite' that degree of cluelessness from my fellow HR peeps, some comments have come close. And yes; I then pulled up my sleeve....

Unknown said...

It takes a lot to make me speechless, but this did it!! So, I guess it does happen...

so sad


Anonymous said...

It is sad that freedom of expression makes people believe you are an evil or bad person. I strategically placed all of mine for the business world and to not offend a potential client. What a sad world we live in to have to be so protective of ourselves. I'm a biker and proud of it! but shhh...don't tell my clients.

Brent Churchwell, Strategist said...

Yes Cathy, it is troubling the degree of bias out there about any non-job-related information and the lens in which some professionals judge or predict criteria against loose, perhaps even spurious, predictors. Even if the HR professional is not the direct culprit, they can also serve as the proxy for their clients' hangups.

While I don't personally have body art or piercings, I have gone to bat in the past for some highly-skilled well-experienced top candidates who obviously did -- and served as a 'performance advocate' in front of the hiring manager.

When confronting this behavior again, ask what research articles in refereed journals could this HR professional point to to support their assertion(s). I assume deafening silence.

Unknown said...

@blydawg, your secret is safe with me....thanks for commenting!

@brentano, that is exactly what I should have done, was point to the data, that always makes a point better?

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the job one is applying for sometimes, but it should not be a discriminatory factor when considering someone for hire. It is 2010! I believe, as long as one is qualified and the tattoo can be covered up while at work in a "professional" setting, it shouldn't matter. I mean...a wrist tattoo could not have been that big of a deal, I could maybe understand if it had been a face tattoo, but pretty much everywhere else can be covered to maintain that "professional" appearance that employers look for....

Personally, I am not a fan of tattoos, but that is because I change my mind too much. However, if I were an employer, I'd much rather hire someone that was qualified, smart, and demonstrated a professional attitude with tattoos all over there body than to hire someone with no tattoos but dumb as a brick. (Ok, I'm done ranting now...)

Unknown said...

@anonymous, thanks for the rant!!!

Your are right tattoos shouldn't matter.

Unknown said...

Thanks for pointing this out to me. I too am speachless.

I'll be careful to keep my left knee covered... or not... in that person's presence.

Becki Gregory

Chris Higgins said...

It is amazing how much people can shock you with biases or fears.

Every now and then someone that I like or respect will suddenly reveal some completely illogical patten of thought.

Sometimes it is so illogical that you can't pick it up from observing their behaviour, it is only when they actually express it in words!

Unknown said...


Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree, some people just blurt out the first thing they are thinking....bad idea sometimes.


tattoos designs said...

tattoos designs are just for fun . iq has nothing to do with it.

Just want to know said...

Cathy, why do you have tattoos?

Unknown said...

Because I like them.

Anonymous said...

There are studies that coorelate tatoos with lower IQ.This is fact. Whether you decide to slap these tacky looking things all over your body is your own decision, but don't get mad when people judge you for it. You did choose this, after all.

Unknown said...

I would love to read such study. You have made my point…thanks for commenting.