“Tell me about your biggest weakness,” I recently asked a job-seeking client in a practice interview to help her prepare for her upcoming job interview for an administrative position. She smiled confidently, and gave me a predictable answer, one often heard from job seekers and which I call “the perfectionist answer”: “When I am given a task, I work very hard at getting it completed, and will not stop until it is perfectly done.” “So,” I said, taking a devil’s advocate role, “are you saying that you get really stressed out about it and that you compromise all other work to get it done?” She straightened up uncomfortably, looked me in the eye, and answered “No. Of course not! I always make sure all my work gets done.” “So, how then, is it a weakness? I would love to hire someone who sets high standards for themselves.“, I challenged her gently. Looking confused and mildly annoyed, she struggled to answer my challenge satisfactorily, eventually looking at me imploringly, “What do I say, then? What do I say that won’t make me look bad?”
I have tattoos on my arms and body piercings on my left eye brow. I’ve started my job search as a help desk or customer service representative at a telecom company. Do you think that my tattoos, and body piercings would affect the hiring? Should I hide them in the interview?
Signed: Proudly Tattooed (PT)
The statistics speak for themselves. Research from a survey conducted with 2700 managers and coworkers on a popular salary survey site reported that 76 percent of respondents felt that tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview; over 39 percent of those surveyed believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Overall, 42 percent of those surveyed felt that any and all visible tattoos are inappropriate at work, and 55 percent felt that way about body piercings.
Age plays a significant role in how tattoos and piercings are perceived at work. Regarding your upcoming interviews, I refer you to the following four suggestions from Monster and Money:
1. Consider the industry and position you are applying to.
Generally, I would recommend covering your tattoos and removing the piercing for the first interview, especially in conservative industries such as accounting or banking. That tattoo or piercing is more likely to worry employers if you’re applying for a customer-facing position, such as a salesperson, customer service representative or a health care provider.
Even if the interviewer is fine with tattoos, they have to consider that their customers, clients and patients may not feel the same way. For more jobs in media, IT and creative industries, these employers might be more lenient.
2. Research the workplace/company culture.
You can use social media to find this out. Examine the photos and profiles of employees at the company you are pursuing. If this doesn’t work, then join some of their groups that are relevant to your career goal and ask this question. Use Twitter to follow the company and employees and again, find out what they recommend.
As a last resort, call the receptionists to ask about the dress code for the interview.
3. Disclose that you have tattoos or piercings, if you hide them for the interview.
If the tattoo is inked in a spot that would probably be exposed in day-to-day work – your arms, for example – bring this up when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Wells suggests saying something like: “I have tattoos on my arm. What are your thoughts about needing to have those covered up, or is it OK to wear a short-sleeved shirt where they might be exposed?”
4. Don’t let tattoos or piercings distract your interviewers.
Job interviews are stressful enough, so I wouldn’t recommend doing anything to distract from your skills and value. As Gottsman says, “You want to be remembered for your skills and your value, not for what you wear or have on your body.” Wear a proper suit. Accessories like rings and watches can hide certain tattoos, but make sure they don’t shake when you move.
For another perspective, check out Kate Parkinson’s on the matter post in this blog.
How do I respond to the question at the interview that requests that I explain my weaknesses or what I would like to change about myself at work? This is by far the hardest question that I have been asked at the job interview.
Signed: The Weakness Question (WQ)
I love the piece written by blogger Aja Frost from an excellent career blog called The Muse (although I beg to disagree with her about the intent behind the question — I do think it’s often meant as a trick question). Regardless, you need to be prepared to respond in job interview in a way that presents what we might call “your best self” yet demonstrates that you are open to learn and improve, as well as able to accept feedback and criticism with self-awareness.