Body Art and Oil, Gas: Are Your Tattoos Keeping You From a Job?

Body Art and Oil, Gas: Are Your Tattoos Keeping You From a Job?
Have attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace changed or does body art hinder job candidates' chances of getting hired and promoted?

Degreed? Check. Experienced? Check. Great attitude? Check. Tattooed? Not so fast.

While a job candidate may have all the credentials necessary to do the work and the potential to do it well, body decorations in the form of tattoos could still be a deterrent for some hiring managers.

According to a 2013 survey of nearly 2,700 people, 76 percent of respondents said tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chance of getting hired during a job interview. Further, 42 percent feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work and 39 percent believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers.


Rigzone set out to find what attitudes about tattoos are like today and how that affects the many oil and gas professionals looking for jobs.

Prevalence in the Industry

While entertainers and athletes rarely have to worry about losing their jobs due to their tattoos, the majority of the world’s workforce can’t take such liberties. The same survey found that just 9 percent of respondents who work in energy and utilities have tattoos.

Valerie Streif
Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor, The Mentat
Senior Advisor, The Mentat

“In the energy sector, candidates with tattoos may have a bit more trouble winning over their boss or hiring manager. Tattoos are more accepted and prevalent in creative industries and the energy sector is a hard science application,” Valerie Streif, senior advisor at The Mentat, an organization with decades of experience in hiring, managing and mentoring job candidates, told Rigzone.

Those applying to work offshore where they’ll spend the majority of their time on oil rigs probably won’t be judged as harshly if they have visible tattoos, but candidates who desire to work onshore or in an office environment encounter a different set of rules.

On a Reddit comment thread asking engineers with visible tattoos how tattoos have affected their job experience, one poster admitted to having an upper arm tattoo that he “consciously decided to wait on getting” until after he left his oil and gas job in Houston. He was an automations programmer who mostly worked in the office, and only went into the field for installations.

Another commenter made the point “sometimes it isn’t the presence of tattoos that is the problem, but the content of them. If you have obscene or graphic tattoos, it makes sense to cover them up no matter what job you have.”

“Is it my Tattoos?”

Some workers who have been employed at the same company for years may begin seeking advancement opportunities. If your tattoos didn’t keep you from getting the job, should they factor in to whether or not you get a promotion?

Denise Noble
Denise Noble, Senior HR Consultant, The HR Engineers
Senior HR Consultant, The HR Engineers

It can be a tricky question to answer.

Denise Noble, senior HR consultant for The HR Engineers, suggests workers watch others in the company who are in positions that they desire. If they don’t have visible tattoos, that may be a point to consider.   

“If all of your performance evaluations are good and there’s no markdown on appearance, it might be best to ask if your tattoos are holding you back from being promoted,” Noble, who has 20 years of HR experience, told Rigzone. “Phrase it by saying, ‘I’m really interested in moving to the next level. What would it take for me to get there?’”

This should be a one-on-one conversation with your immediate supervisor, she said.

“And if all else fails, it may be necessary to take the bull by the horns and ask, ‘is it my tattoos?’”


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Valerie is an experienced writer and editor dedicated to providing useful and relevant career news about the oil and gas industry. Email Valerie at


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
keith | Dec. 10, 2016
HUman resources thinks hepititas risk

Anna Gatskan | Nov. 30, 2016
Very intersting article. It`s a sensitive question - but I agree with those who say that young people have to wait and think thoroughly before making a tattoo. At the University our advisors told to be careful with them since though tattoos are accepted in OIL&&GAS it still depends on the place you work:platform, Site - is OK, but 21 floor of the Head office - is completely different....Regards!

EBG | Nov. 30, 2016
Tattoos are skin deep.Words cut deeper

Brian | Nov. 30, 2016
its not whats on your skin.its whats in your heart.judge not lest thy be judged

Ed Drozda, The Small Business Doctor | Nov. 28, 2016
A very insightful article and I think Denise Noble sums it up best. I dont agree that any employer should judge talent by their tattoos. However, they do or may and since we're talking your ability to make it in the employer's world, some thoughtful guidance has been provided.

Benjamin Fletcher | Nov. 25, 2016
So employers are now judging people based on the colors on their skin? I have some of the highest government clearances, I have degrees, have worked for some of the top government contractors and have a past military background. And it's the type of person behind the tattoos that matters. Chances are in this day and age(accepting of tattoos)if someone isn't progressing at their job anymore, the supervisor is using it as an excuse because someone isn't making the mark.

Randy | Nov. 24, 2016
This is simply not true anymore. Tattoos are very much accepted in the oil and gas industry now, even in HR. Stay away from stereotyping and look at candidates and people for what they truly are and their real qualifications. Tattoos are no different than piercings. | Nov. 22, 2016
I used to dread the idea of living with tattoos, because they felt like a permanent thing. I have since learned that they are not. In fact, I managed to remove mine without undergoing a dangerous laser operation. This is the 21st century where you can safely remove tattoos.

Jared Ferranti | Nov. 22, 2016
My son has had five (5) open heart surgeries, and the doctor that has performed these surgeries is completely sleeved on both arms with tattoos. He's saved my son's life countless times, and is one of the best pediatric heart surgeons on the planet. The fact that he has tattoos is a complete non-factor. Shame on an employer who will pass on a great candidate for a job simply because they have tats or piercings. There are more of us than there are of you.

Lindsey Lee | Nov. 22, 2016
While it has become commonplace to have visible tattoos today, we also live in a country where employers are pretty much free to do as they choose to do. For this reason for my money, I would advise any young person to wait many years before committing to a visible tattoo, or multiple ones. Also if the ink vulgar, sexual, or otherwise not ready for prime time, count maybe two strikes against the person. Just saying have a good day all


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