Ed. note: The original version of this article first appeared in 2015. But you’re still writing résumés so let’s revisit this subject.
Over the last few weeks, there’s been not one, not two, but at least six mainstream media articles about what font you “absolutely must use” on your résumé. Business News Daily, Bloomberg Business, Huffington Post, USA Today, NPR, even The Onion got in on this action. And it’s not like everyone suddenly had a typographic epiphany: each of these articles piggybacks off the one before it. It’s a frigging style-piece tsunami out there.
Why not get swept up in it too? Let the waves of modern journalism wash over us.
Do you think the font you choose for your résumé really matters? Meh, it probably does. Somewhere less than “having a T14 degree” and more than “the brand of your leather folio,” but it still probably matters a little — especially if you envision some sap pouring over thousands of résumés at once. But is that really how law firm hiring decisions get made? Even at on-campus interviewing I only ever had 10 or 11 meetings in a day. And when I stopped going on campus, I never looked at more than 2 or 3 at a time.
Ultimately, I can’t help but think The Onion’s coverage of this probably hits the nail on the head:
“Nothing says ‘I’m currently unemployed’ like a painstakingly selected font.”
But let’s indulge this call to adventure and check out some of the fonts recommended in these articles by using them in action by converting select sentences from an actual cover letter from a current candidate looking for a job — a former mid-level Biglaw associate, laid off during the recession:
Times New Roman — Hurray! You have Microsoft Word! Good for you. Hell, even Microsoft Word stopped using Times New Roman as the default, that’s how much it sucks. And yet here it is on the recommended list. Actually, this was the most controversial selection to come out of these articles. Some of the experts polled for the litany of articles described the venerable standby as a safe option. Others described it as lazy. Indeed, one creative director said, “It’s like putting on sweatpants.” This isn’t a new opinion in these pages.
On the other hand, the legal industry isn’t filled with people who respect rocking the boat. While it’s not true that every court expects submissions in boring, old Times New Roman, most still put it on a very limited list of acceptable options. So when you’re writing up your résumé, do you want to convey to your future Biglaw masters that you’re “boring/traditional” or “bold/rebellious”? Because it’s going to be hard to thread that needle. Thankfully, some fonts exist that get you there.
Trebuchet — Like this one, if you’re not into the whole “flowery serifs” thing. Personally, I like a mild serif because it makes it look like something’s actually happening on the page. If letters get too minimalist, the document starts to look more like some utilitarian sign pointing you to the nearest dog run than a document with a human face behind it. Trebuchet is just about as minimalist as one can get before some funky effects start infecting your résumé.
Helvetica — Like with this font. Bloomberg Business chose Helvetica as the best possible font for job-seekers. I call bulls**t. Not that it didn’t make for an interesting movie (affiliate link), but the point of the documentary was how much everyone hates the ubiquitous, blocky, space-guzzling typeface. At one point in the film, it’s described as “fascist.” How a font that attracts that much ire ever made it onto any list of recommendations boggles the mind. If you’re writing a subway sign, use Helvetica. That said, this is the same reporter who published the Five Charts That Show You Should Apply To Law School This Year, so she may be suffering through a concussion.
If you’re writing a résumé — or God help you a brief — use something else.
Arial — Business News Daily suggested Arial, which is just a knockoff of Helvetica. The lesson here is that Business News Daily is too cheap to have the original Helvetica on their computers.
Calibri — Finally, a suggestion that won’t chew up the entire page. It’s clear and legible. A little boring though. It’s almost too minimalist, which can bite you in the ass when you try to describe your work experience and it barely fills a line and a half. There’s definitely a Goldilocks effect here: Helvetica looks like you’re trying to snowball them by padding out every word, while Calibri looks like you sketched your first draft on a Post-It note.
Garamond — For my money, this is the Baby Bear’s porridge. There are serifs that make it look like something interesting is actually happening on the page, but it’s not as flourished and played out as Times New Roman. This was the choice of The Onion too:
“Garamond it is. Glad I never have to think about this ever again.”
Comic Sans — Everyone agreed that unless you’re expressing your frustration with LeBron James, you don’t use Comic Sans.
And once again, Wingdings is overlooked.
The Best Fonts to Use on Your Resume [Business News Daily]
The Best and Worst Fonts to Use on Your Résumé [Bloomberg Business]
Typography Expert: Times New Roman Bad Choice For Résumé [The Onion]
Times New Roman, Dubbed The ‘Sweatpants’ Of Fonts, Is A Bad Choice For Résumés: Typography Experts [Huffington Post]
Earlier: Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Perfect Font … To Show You Don’t Care
Finding a job is tough these days. Employers and recruiters are dealing with a higher volume of resumes than ever before. With such high volume, it’s more important than ever before to stand out. An impressive resume font is a great way to stand out! It will grab the recruiter’s eyes and help give you a great first impression.
You’re probably thinking, “Can’t I just use Times New Roman at 10 point font size and call it a day?” Well, you can but you won’t be maximizing your resume’s potential.
Why is your resume font so important? It’s essential to job hunting success for several reasons.
Most importantly, using an unprofessional font and questionable font size will disqualify you from consideration for nearly every job. On the contrary, using the perfect font and size will make your resume look professional while still helping it stand out from the crowd.
In this blog post, we’ll look at popular resume fonts and common resume font blunders. We’ll also discuss the process you should use to evaluate and choose the best font and font size for your resume.
Best Fonts to Use on a Resume
#1 – Calibri
Calibri takes number one on our list and has really gained popularity lately. It’s professional and more modern looking than some of other fonts making it a great font to use on a resume.
Lucas de Groot, the creator of the Calibri font, described it as having “a warm and soft character”. Microsoft has also Times New Roman with Calibri as the standard font for Word and other applications.
#2 – Arial
Arial is another great font to use on your resume and it’s part of the popular sans-serif font family. Many have said that Arial is clean and easy to read. It also has a more modern look to it than other fonts.
Here is a good description from Wikipedia:
“Arial contains more humanist characteristics than many of its predecessors and as such is more in tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century.”
#3 – Helvetica
Helvetica is another good sans-serif font you can use for your resume. It’s very similar to Arial and requires close inspection to really tell the difference. It too offers a clean and modern look that’s easy on the eye.
#4 – Tahoma
Also a sans-serif font, Tahoma has a more modern look than the rest of the fonts listed. It was used by Microsoft for many years for a variety of different programs.
#5 – Trebuchet
Trebuchet is another san-serif font created by Vincent Connare. His goal with Trebuchet was to create a font that appeared well on a screen and also provided a contrast in texture to Verdana, which is next on our list.
#6 – Verdana
Verdana is another sans-serif which is a good font for a resume. It was designed in 1996 by Mathew Carter who worked for Microsoft. Verdana was created to appear well on a small screen as well as screens with low resolution.
# 7 – Garamond
Garamond is a collection of old-style serif fonts created by 16th century French engravers. Although it is a good choice, it may seem a bit stale and outdated to some. If you have a lot of experience, it may be a good choice.
# 8 – Times New Roman
This is probably the most debated font when it comes to resume writing. Times New Roman is a classic serif typeface that may be a bit too classic for a resume. Although no hiring manager will dismiss your resume because you used Times New Roman, it may not stand out as well as the other fonts on our list.
Fonts You Should Never Use on a Resume
NO!!!! We hope it goes without saying but absolutely DO NOT use comic sans or any similar font on your resume. It will make you stand out, but not in a good way. It’s so childish that it will convey to the employer that you’re out of touch with the professional world.
Just in case you’re not sure what font-type we’re talking about, here are a few examples:
Do Not Use These Fonts Please!!!
General rules for choosing a resume font
Let’s go over some basic principles to keep in mind when choosing a resume font.
Readability is, far and away, the most important thing to consider when choosing a font for your resume. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people completely screw up on this one.
If readability is your only concern, any basic serif or sans serif font will do the trick. Also extremely important, avoid those comic-looking childish fonts at all costs.
At the most basic level, you should be able to use your own judgment to determine readability. As we get deeper into the font universe, we’re going to want to think more specifically about the most effective fonts. We’ll get into more specific examples later in this post.
Resume Font Size
We’ve been so intrigued with font styles that we almost forgot to talk about the size! Generally, you will be fine using a font size somewhere in between size 10 to size 14.
However, it is very important to realize that some font styles run bigger and some run smaller. For that reason, it’s important to make a judgment on the font size AFTER you’ve already decided on a style.
Your goal is to maximize the ease of reading your resume without making the text look overly bloated. Of course, you’ll have to use your best judgment when deciding if it looks bloated. But, if you stick to font smaller than 14, you will be fine in nearly every scenario.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the font size effect on resume length. Obviously, the size of the font can dramatically change the length of your resume.
Use this to your advantage!
Let’s say your resume is just a line or two over a single page or just a few lines away from filling a full page. Adjusting the font just one-tenth of a point can make the text fill out the rest of a page or prevent it from spilling over into the next one. These slight adjustments can work wonders in making your resume more aesthetically pleasing.
Purpose of a Resume
The font changes the entire “feeling” of a resume. Remember the message you want to convey with your resume. When you take a quick glance at it, does it convey the purpose you want it to?
Does it look like the resume of an old, seasoned veteran? Or, does it look like it is representing a young professional or recent college grad?
Just like a piece of art can induce certain feelings, so can a good resume. A great font selection will pop out immediately. It should give the hiring manager an idea of who you are and what your purpose was for writing the resume they see before them.
Here is a short video overview:
The font you choose for your resume is extremely important. You want to strike the perfect balance of uniqueness, class, and professionalism. Keeping these things in mind when choosing a font can be the difference between a call-back and radio silence.
When drafting your resume, keep in mind all the things we mentioned here. You’ll be on your way to the next interview in no time!
Arial is an excellent font to use on a resume.
Tahoma is a great option that gives your resume a kick while still appearing professional.
Trebuchet is a great option since it was designed to appear well on a screen which is how most employers will view your resume. It also provides a modern kick compared to other traditional fonts.
Verdana is a good font to use on a resume!
Times New Roman may be a bit too “classic” when it comes to making your resume stand out. It is still an acceptable font to use, especially for those who want to go with a classic look.