Job hunting tips for tattoos, piercings and dyed hairstyles


Two years after writing 10 Ways to Survive being an Alternative Student, Roswell Ivory has left university with a degree and a debt. It’s time to either take another course and defer the outside world for three more years, or get a bloody job… The thing is, she’s still an alternative student at heart and some jobs just don’t accommodate that.

So, for current students looking for holiday work, or uni graduates seeking a career, here are… 7 ways to survive being an alternative jobhunter!

1) Job hunting costume

It’s a sad fact that it is easier to find a job the less tattoos and piercings you have. It sucks but it’s true. Though some employers have become more relaxed about small tattoos, if you have bright blue hair, facial ink and lots of piercings, you may have to tone down your look for job hunting.

Decide how far you are willing to compromise. Would you take out your piercings for the perfect job? How about dying your hair or wearing a wig? Covering your tattoos? If you are willing to make some changes, your task will be easier.

Think of it as your job hunting costume.

Tip: Tattoos are becoming far more acceptable in society today. A small one may not get you grief with potential employers, but large visible ones may. Piercings, sadly, seem to be more of an issue. Most UK offices see 2-3 stud earrings in each ear and possibly a discreet nose stud the upper limit.

2) I know I have a leopard-print mohican but…

When you know how far you are willing to compromise your look, have a read through your CV. Most CVs include a brief list of your hobbies and interests. “I love The Sex Pistols, tattoos and skateboarding” is probably not a good idea as it contains the words “sex”, “pistols” and “tattoos”! Put your interests into bulletpoints and write “socialising” instead of clubbing as it sounds more work-friendly.

Work to your advantage! Don’t write “I know I have a leopard-print mohican BUT I’m really hardworking”. That sounds as if your hairstyle is a bad thing.

Instead, try: “I bring a sense of individuality and creativity to all I do.” (It says yes, you’re an individual, and that you’re creative too, which are both good things.)

3) The search begins

What sort of job are you looking for? If you’re just after a few weeks holiday work, try approaching places you have in mind. If you’re really not fussy about where you work, the local supermarket is a good bet. If you are looking for something more permanent, job agencies, the Job Centre and newspapers all advertise vacancies. If you go to visit a job agency, look smart/casual. You may be called for a discussion on the spot.

Tip for job agencies: The phone book will list job agencies and the Job Centre (UK) website is

4) The Liberal list

If you are unwilling to change anything about your look, there are some jobs where this will not be a problem but your choices will be limited.

Shopworkers (eg Tesco and Sainsbury’s), music/videogame shopworkers and most call centre employees (phone operators) are generally allowed to look the way they choose. A uniform may be given but this is usually it. Some hair and beauty salons are also quite liberal, but you will need training first and may need to do another course at college.

Tattoo artist apprenticeships and jobs in alternative shops are safe bets too, but they are usually hard to come by as they are in demand!

5) Now make me lasagne!

Some employers may negotiate piercing numbers with you. Chefs and restaurant managers will NOT. (It’s a hygiene thing). If you are looking for a job where you will be working with food, you will have to remove ALL piercings and nail varnish. If you have hair longer than a few inches, you will also have to wear a hairnet! However, if you’re already passionate about becoming a chef, you probably know all that already and it shouldn’t matter a bit!

6) The Interrogation Room

Interviews are scary at the best of times, but if you are obviously a former Alternative Student, you may be scrutinised even further. Be prepared for questions and comments on your looks and interests, especially if you have very unusual interests. Think up answers beforehand and impress the interviewer with your ability to stay calm under pressure.

Here are some questions that have been fired at me, and my more decorated friends:

  • “Would you be willing to dye your hair/take out your piercings/cover your tattoos if you are offered this job?” (You should already know the answer to this one!)
  • “You say one of your interests is bellydancing. Could you please tell me more about this?” (Why do you enjoy it? Have you won any awards etc?)
  • “What does that tattoo mean?” (Honesty can sometimes be interesting here, unless it was a present from an ex or a reminder to never take heroin again! If that is the case, “It represents my ambition to achieve my goals” is a good answer!)
  • “Your CV says that you have taxidermy skills and would like to be a professional taxidermist, so why are you applying for a job in a supermarket?” (If you are applying for a job that has no relevance to your interests, make sure the interviewer hears a good reason for this! E.g. “I’d love to improve my customer service skills and I think that working behind the till in a supermarket would really help me to achieve this”.)

Have dreadlocks or tattoos?

  • If you have dreadlocks, tie them up neatly and wear a suit to all interviews.
  • If you have tattoos that could be offensive (e.g. ‘Hate’, nudity etc), cover them up.

7) Success

Well done, you have the job! After celebrating in your usual refined manner *cough*, start work looking conservative so that you can see what other people are wearing. If the girl at the desk next to you has an eyebrow stud, you can probably get away with one too. If not, don’t tempt fate and be asked to remove something in your first week.

If you have worked there for several months and have a good relationship with your boss, it may be safe to show the very edge of a tattoo or put a stud back in. If you work on them slowly, you can show that it is possible to be alternative and smart for work at the same time!

Good luck!