If a resume is all about highlighting your value to a potential employer, does it really matter what font you use? The short answer is yes!
The longer answer? Fonts are crucial to making sure your resume is legible, memorable and pleasing to the eye. The right choice should also be appropriate for your industry, area of expertise, and the corporate culture of your target employer.
First impressions are everything
As you narrow down your font choice, consider fonts that are likely to be contained on hiring managers’ operating systems. Most recruiters will use MS Word to view your resume, so use a simple resume format in MS Word and select a font contained within the program’s basic font collection.
It may be tempting to scour the internet to find a unique typeface, especially if you work in a creative field, but the human resources manager who initially views your resume is unlikely to have access to rare fonts. The last thing you want is for your resume copy to read as code on someone’s screen.
Remember that hiring managers spend an average of six seconds determining whether to recommend you or remove you from consideration. During this critical pass-fail phase of the hiring process, style is nearly as important as substance. Once you’ve perfected what you want to say to potential employers, make sure you say it with style, and above all, with clarity.
Talking to the machines
Increasingly, your resume will need make it past an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) before it even reaches human hands. Many ATSs are programmed to read only fonts contained in widely used platforms, chief among them MS Word. Employing a specialized font or using colored text may render your resume illegible to the ATS, eliminating you from consideration.
Now that you know what you are up against, you need to consider what the experts have to say as you decide on the perfect typeface for your job search documents (yes, your cover letter and other materials should all use the same fonts). If you are applying for a position in a design or creative field, consider employing two — but never more than two — complementary fonts in your resume design.
Professional resume writers favor simple fonts that are evenly spaced and easy to read. All the fonts listed in the “Fonts to Consider” section of this article — serif and sans serif — have been deemed easy to read and likely to impress by design and hiring experts alike.
Stick with medium weight for body copy and use bold type to punctuate headings and categories, but use it sparingly, as it is harder to read. Optimum font size ranges from 11 to 13 points. Once you have selected your font, experiment with the size, as fonts differ; size 12 in one might be much smaller and harder to read than size 12 in another. Use a slightly larger font for your header than you use for the rest of your resume.
PS: If you really, truly get stuck on the best font to use, consider checking out a collection of resume templates in MS Word, all of which are easy to customize.
What to avoid
Some experts advise against the use of serif fonts — typefaces with small strokes at the end of each character. Keep in mind, however, that serif fonts are generally easier to read on paper, whereas sans-serif fonts — typefaces with no strokes at the ends of characters — are easier to read on screen.
The fact that sans-serif fonts are more legible in a digital environment does not mean that you cannot use a combination serif and sans serif to differentiate body text from headings, or that you should not opt for serif fonts for body copy in some circumstances.
Research indicates that fonts trigger readers’ psychological perceptions about the author. According to the data, serif fonts telegraph a formality that may be ideal for a more traditional workplace culture and certain types of jobs, whereas sans-serif fonts are read as more modern, casual and innovative.
Fonts to consider
According to design site Canva, the best sans-serif fonts are Gill Sans, Verdana, Tahoma and Helvetica. Avenir Next was designed specifically to look good on screens.
Simple serif fonts, such as Cambria, Constantia and Palatino, are all clean enough to read well on paper and screen. Didot is a good choice for an upscale employer; Garamond was designed for the screen; and Georgia is a good-looking, updated alternative to Times New Roman.
Fonts to avoid
In the interest of legibility, avoid overly ornate fonts like Brush Script, Papyrus or Trajan Pro, and never use fonts that mimic handwriting. Bulky typefaces like Impact are difficult to read and should be avoided, even on headings, but especially in body text. You’ll also want to skip quirky fonts like Comic Sans.
Some fonts are just too ubiquitous to give your resume the unique or contemporary look that will help you stand out. Times New Roman, for example, is hard to read in small sizes, overused, and less attractive on screen than it is on paper. Arial and Calibri, default fonts on many operating systems, should also be avoided. Courier can make it look like you typed your resume, a modern no-no.