Body piercings, unusual hair color and obvious tattoos are among the things that can influence the hiring decisions of employers who recruit new college graduates, according to Job Outlook 2002, an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Paul Wong
Ann Arbor resident Randy Burke works at Village Corner on South University Avenue. “The owner here recognizes I do a good job no matter what I look like,” he said. (DAVID ROCHKIND/Daily)

But many University students and employees in the Ann Arbor area find the city is one of the few places that often disregards various looks without question and hires based on experience, not on appearance.

Buddy Paul, an employee at Kayu on East Liberty Street said, “I live an hour away and that’s part of the reason that I work here – because I can get a job and my dreadlocks are not a problem.”

Some students find that certain careers are just more conservative than others and things like piercings, tattoos and unusual hair colors are accepted in many other workplaces.

Heather Burgy, an Eastern Michigan University junior said, “It all depends on the type of job that you want to get into. For example, if you work in retail, then it’s not a big deal, but if you want to work in a more conservative place, then conservative is what goes.”

NACE surveyed its employer members about hiring plans and other employment-related issues and 92 percent of the respondents said that a job candidate’s appearance could strongly influence their opinion about the candidate.

“I have an unusual hair color and people will either ignore it or make random comments. Ann Arbor is a lot more accepting than many other places,” said LSA freshman Eric Madsen.

Employers reported additional major factors for attributes in a job candidate such as nontraditional interview attire, handshake and unusual hairstyle.

However, nearly 90 percent of employers said that beards and mustaches would have no influence on them.

“Students need to keep in mind that what is commonplace on campus may not be acceptable in the workplace,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director in a written statement.

This year’s respondents have fewer job openings due to the instability of the economy and they have a greater need to examine each candidate to find the best suited for their respective companies.

Generally, the responses of the employers suggest that these perceptions of prospective job candidates do not change with the economy.

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