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March 8, 2021
Although tattoos have increased in popularity, they may put individuals at a disadvantage when seeking employment. Drawing on the justification-suppression model and the stereotype content model, we propose that job applicants with visible tattoos experience prejudice in hiring and starting salary recommendations because they are stereotyped as less competent and warm than those without visible tattoos. In Study 1, we compared equally qualified Caucasian female applicants in their mid to late 20s with no visible tattoos, a mild visible tattoo, and extreme visible tattoos for the position of a sales manager. Tattooed applicants were less likely to be hired, especially if they had extreme visible tattoos, and were offered lower salaries and rated lower on competence (but not warmth) than applicants without visible tattoos. Furthermore, competence mediated the relationship between visible tattoos and hiring and salary recommendations. In Study 2, we examined if young Caucasian female applicants with visible tattoos can overcome prejudice through their job qualifications and found they were able to mitigate salary discrimination, but not hiring discrimination by being highly qualified. In Study 3, we proposed that young Caucasian female applicants with visible tattoos can neutralize discrimination by being highly qualified and having volunteer experience. However, volunteering did not mitigate prejudice related to visible tattoos. Our findings suggest that it is difficult for applicants with visible tattoos to overcome discrimination.
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