Tattoos and body art were once something that only rebels, outcasts, or military enlistees did. The "good kids" would never think of scarring their bodies permanently. Now, though, it's almost impossible to walk down the street and not see someone decorated with some kind of ink. It's as common as seeing someone wear a pair of jeans.

Even with the more relaxed attitude about body art, several companies have rules about ink in their dress and grooming policies. Some executives still think tattoos project a certain type of image, and wouldn't want an employee's body art to be a poor reflection of the company. Even if there's no official policy, managers may still stereotype those who have tattoos.

Body piercings typically fall under the same policy. Pierced ears are usually acceptable, but some of the more noticeable piercings nose, eyebrow, etc. are often not allowed for the same reason. Body ink and piercings have a long-standing stigma, and even though both are more accepted, it has been difficult to get rid of the stereotypes completely.

Folks have a long list of reasons why they decide to get body art or a piercing. Some do it to show their individuality. Others get them to symbolize an important aspect of their life. And others get tattoos as a tribute to a friend or family member. Some do it because they think it looks cool. And there are those who don't have a specific reason. They just want one.

Even if you aren't purposely trying to make a statement with your tat, give it some thought before you get inked. Your body art might have a stronger impact on your image than you realize.

Let's say you have an interview with a local company for a sales position. The job would require you to wear a suit, tie, and be neatly groomed whenever you meet with a customer. You can live with this, and you're actually excited about the opportunity. On the day of your interview, you show up for your appointment dressed in a suit and tie (so the hiring manager can see firsthand that you clean up well). The hiring manager greets you with a smile and reaches out to shake your hand. That's when he notices the flame tattoos you have going all the way from the back of your hand to your shoulder.

After a quick once-over, he notices the skull and crossbones on your other hand. Your ink may have just cost you a job with this buttoned-up, conservative company. Even though you might be the perfect candidate for the job, and you may seem like the ideal fit on paper, the hiring manager could still have a hard time getting past your ink or piercing because of the negative perception that's still attached to most body art.

Also, depending on the size and placement of your design or piercing, it could quite simply be a distraction to the hiring manager as they're interviewing you. If you have a Celtic knot or some other complicated symbol that's almost, but not entirely, visible to others, you can bet that people are trying to figure out just what that design is based on that part they can see-including the person sitting across from you who is trying their best to interview you for possible employment.

Do you want to be remembered as the candidate with the skills that best match the job, or the one with the crazy tattoo on their neck that baffled the hiring manager?

Although showing your individuality is important, most hiring managers and supervisors are more interested in your job performance and what you can bring to their company. It's more important than ever to set yourself apart from your competition, in the best possible light.

Managers wouldn't want any of their employees to be poor representatives of their business. With this in mind, it might be best to keep your ink covered, or better yet, think twice before you get any body art at all.