The Final Word on Choosing Resume Fonts and Font Sizes

By Beth Braccio Hering

How to choose the right font for your resume

Photo by Georgie Cobbs

 

Getting a hiring manager’s attention is hard enough without putting your resume at an immediate disadvantage by choosing the wrong font. Plenty of professional and aesthetically pleasing options exist, and spending a few moments finding one that displays your information clearly can make an impact.

“Choosing an appropriate font for your resume may seem like a minor detail, but it’s actually quite an important design element when it comes to presenting your resume,” says Joyce Chou, career and resume expert at ResumeCompanion.

“You can think of your font like your interview outfit — it makes a subtle visual impression that employers will judge. Consequently, using an inappropriate font on your resume can definitely be a deal-breaker during the evaluation process.”

Along with picking a readable font that doesn’t distract the reader from your accomplishments, type size on the page also matters. Follow these general font guidelines recommended by resume experts so your professional experience – not your style faux pas – stand out.

 

Go With a Clean, Clear Font

Experts generally recommend clean, minimalistic fonts. Try sans serif fonts for improved readability, such as:

  • Calibri
  • Verdana
  • Arial
  • Helvetica
  • Tahoma

While some experts believe the extra hinges on serif typefaces can make a document look crowded, these fonts have supporters, too:

  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia
  • Garamond
  • Cambria

Try out different fonts in your document to see what you prefer. Avoid fonts that are cartoony, excessively bold, or too casual, such as Curlz, Kristen ITC, and Papyrus. Likewise, save handwritten or cursive typefaces such as Bradley Hand and Brush Script for a different occasion.

 

Custom Fonts on Resumes

While choosing a font that best expresses one’s individual style may sound like a good idea, it more often backfires. Applicant management systems do not share your passion for calligraphy. Rather, readability on any device should be a greater concern for modern job hunters.

“More and more resumes are staying online — that is, they aren’t getting printed,” Chou notes. “Because of this, if you’re submitting your resume as a Microsoft Word doc, you should stick to standard fonts available on digital devices.”

So, what’s the best course of action for that fancy template with custom fonts and colors you purchased on Etsy? Export it to a PDF file before sending it off so it doesn’t convert improperly. And if you’re still unsure your formatting won’t survive an application management system’s quirks, stick to a more standard format with common fonts, especially when pasting resume copy into forms.

“Maybe you’ve formatted your resume in a beautiful, clean-cut font that also happens to be an obscure one you installed on your personal computer. Hiring managers won’t be able to see this font on their own computers, and your resume format may be wrecked as a result of their computers switching to a default font instead,” Chou warns.

 

Font Size Matters

Ever pick up a book with type so small, it generates second thoughts on whether reading it is worth the effort? People naturally prefer sizes that don’t strain the eyes, and that includes employers sorting through stacks of resumes.

A good rule of thumb is to size your font so that the resume can be easily read at an arm’s length. In terms of numbers, this translates into roughly the 10-12 range for body text. Subheadings, which are used to break down categories and make it easier for the reader to find types of information, should be slightly larger (14 is a good estimate). Your name in the header can be larger in order to gain attention.

While miniscule font will leave hiring managers squinting, avoid going to the opposite extreme. Unusually large type takes up too much space, tends to look childish, and leads the reader to wonder if the writer is trying to compensate for lack of experience by literally “beefing up” qualifications. After playing with different sizes (which will change by font), print a draft of your resume to see how it measures up digitally versus on paper.

 

Font Consistency on Resumes

While some job seekers may use more than one font in order to make certain information stand out, tread carefully. The last thing an applicant wants is to look like a sixth-grader who had fun experimenting with all the possibilities in the art closet.

The same advice holds for color. Black type shows up well and looks classy. Underlining, italicizing, indenting, varying font size in subheadings, and putting certain information in bold print tend to be more pleasing to the eye than a rainbow for distinguishing between entries. (For online material entered into an applicant management system, avoid even these formatting structures.)

In the end, skills and experience make a much bigger difference than font choice. The aim of careful selection is to enhance the chances that your outstanding qualifications show up where they belong — where a hiring manager can clearly see them.