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Thursday Troubleshooter: What should man do about tattoos during dental assistant interview?

Nov. 29, 2018
What should this man do about his tattoos when he interviews for a dental assisting position? Is there a way for him to find out if tattoos are acceptable in some practices?

Do you have a problem or concern on the job? Sometimes people are just too close to a situation to solve something themselves. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to [email protected].


QUESTION: I read your article about dental assistants and tattoos. I am currently interviewing for dental assisting positions. I’m concerned, so I do cover my tattoos with clothing or makeup for interviews. I know the dental field is very competitive, so I would love some ideas about how I can find out whether a practice has any rules against tattoos? But I also don’t want to feel like I’m hiding. I know people can be easily judged these days.

I also want to ask whether a man being a dental assistant means he should have lower expectations for getting the job? Also, does having dreads mean he has less of a chance of finding a job in a dental practice?

ANSWER FROM KEVIN HENRY,cofounder of IgniteDA:
I’m going to address your last two questions. The simple answers are no and no.

Dental assistants should never consider themselves the low person on the ladder of the practice. This is because of the relationships they have with patients and the impact they have on the bottom line of the practice. Practices cannot operate without assistants. It's that simple.

While hairstyles or tattoos can always be subjective in the eye of the interviewee, it hopefully matters more what the skills set is that the assistant can bring to the practice. Appearance can be altered during work hours if needed, but work ethic and empathy for patients cannot be taught.

ANSWER FROM GINNY HEGARTY, founder of Dental Practice Development, Inc:
These are great questions. I applaud you for being proactive about setting yourself up for success.

While traditionally most dental practices required that tattoos not be visible during work hours, we have been seeing some flexibility and relaxing of these guidelines. Given that nearly 30% of millennials have a tattoo of some sort, we’re also starting to see that sometimes it’s the dentist who has tattoos.

That being said, the majority of practices that I work with continue to prefer that tattoos not be visible during work hours.

My best advice for you when you are interviewing is to wear clothing that covers your tattoo. For instance, if you have a tattoo on your wrist, you can wear a long-sleeve shirt. If the tattoo is on your hand, or in a place that you cannot cover with clothing, there are skin-tone tattoo covers that you can purchase that will hide the tattoo. I believe this type of cover or makeup would be preferable to Band-Aids.

You can certainly ask your interviewer about the practice’s policy on tattoos being visible during patient hours. Given that your tattoo is not visible during the interview, your potential employer will be able to see that this is not an issue that would impact your potential hire.

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