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Blog : Embracing individuality


Embracing individuality

By Emily Perry, Marketing Manager

Last month I read an interesting article. Tattoo removal in Spain is up 81% as the competition for jobs intensifies. Yes, that is right... People are putting themselves through painful laser surgery in order to remove tattoos in the effort to secure employment.

The article goes on to say that men who wish to join the police or fire service in Spain, where tattooed candidates are a no go, as well as women who wish to work in a public facing role, are spending hundreds and thousands of pounds in an attempt to remove tattoos which they believe put a blot on their CVs. Spain is currently experiencing the highest unemployment rates in Europe with a massive 22% of the labour force without a job, so you can easily see why the jobs market has become so competitive.

However should it really take expensive and painful surgery to secure a job?  Does a visible tattoo actually impact an individual’s ability to extinguish a fire or make an arrest?

Going back 30 years, having a visible tattoo or piercing would be a rare occurrence. However with younger generations growing up with the heavily tattooed David Beckham, multiple-pierced Fergie from Black Eyed Peas or Katy Perry with her (some not found in nature) ever-changing hair colours as their role models, these things are becoming more commonplace. Soon it will be a rare occurrence to meet an individual who doesn’t have any of the above.

And let’s not forget that we live in a world where we are required to be more open-minded and embrace what previously would have been thought impossible.  If we weren’t then we may never have had The Only Way is Essex winning a BAFTA , or Sky+ (who would have thought you could pause live TV?!) and, more seriously, appraisals, inductions and exit reviews all conducted online.

In Jane Sunley’s book, Purple your People, she uses Citizen M hotels as an example of a great way to recruit the right people. Beside the fab Saturday morning sifting mechanism, Citizen M looks for fun people who want to be themselves and deliver great service. Tattoos? Piercings? Green hair? Anything goes as long as the really important attributes and skills are there.

Bearing this in mind should we too be taking a more open-minded approach to recruitment? One which looks beyond the body adornments and instead focuses on the skills that individual can offer, their attitude and how well they fit with the business culture?

Is business being left behind as the world becomes more accepting of once shocking methods of self-expression? I would suggest that it is not whether your people look the part, although this does play a role, it’s how well they fit with the business culture.

It is proven that if the cultural fit is not there from recruitment then it is highly unlikely that individual will succeed within your business. And if they aren’t thriving within your culture then you can be sure they are de-motivated, unhappy and un-productive; all of which can impact the people around them and your bottom line. Surely above whether they have a visible body adornment the key to successful recruitment should be whether that person matches or enhances your culture.

Some of the standout business successes of recent years, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, all recruit based upon just this. In fact Steve Jobs famously said... “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius... Think different”. Jobs actively looked for the ‘differences’ when recruiting, because for his culture he needed the unusual, he didn’t worry what they looked like, he just wanted people who thought ‘outside the box’ and could help Apple become the $380 billion business it is today.

I’m not suggesting that image no longer matters; in fact I believe image is vital for a business, both in terms of brand and people. Having a strong image strengthens business proposition and ensures that your company and its people are easily recognisable. It’s this reason why learnpurple has image as one of its core factors.

However perhaps an approach where image has a degree of flexibility, guidelines or a framework to follow, is the more realistic option in today’s ever changing world?  One which wouldn’t require an individual to have costly surgery to secure a role...


Do you think like Apple Incorporated or like the Spanish police force? How flexible is your organisation when it comes to self-adornment?

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