IT Employment

What is the best font to use in a resume?

Could the font you use in your resume really be that important? You bet it can.

Deep down inside, many qualified job candidates think that their skills and talents should shine right through any external distractions like a bad interview or a poorly constructed resume. Confidence in one's skills is great, but that doesn't mean you can show up at an interview wearing your favorite housecoat and puppy-themed slippers and expect to be taken seriously.

The same holds true for your resume. Your resume can contain facts that prove you to be the best programmer in the whole wide world, but if its physical format is hard to read, it won't do you much good. I hate to break your heart, but the average employer is not going to intuit that you're God's gift to the world and take the extra time to navigate through typos and bizarre fonts to weed out your career highlights.

I've covered this before, but a simple question remains: What is the best font to use on a resume? While there are no absolute answers, there are some that are pretty close:

Most people tend to use Times New Roman for its readability. However, this may be the very reason you should use something else. Think of how a resume with a different font than all the others will stand out initially.

However, don't go to extremes. Don't use a cursive font or anything really off the beaten path because it won't be easily scannable by HR apps. And don't be tempted to format your resume in

a font like this

just to underline your programming expertise. It will just cause an eye roll.

Use a more readable font like Arial or Helvetica, and keep it between 10-12 points in size. Using a bigger font size might make it more readable, but it also might make it look like it came from a first-grade student.

Don't use justified text. As you can see in Figure A, this can cause huge gaps in the text and be distracting.

Figure A

Hope these tips help!

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

112 comments
richard233
richard233

Customize the resume for each job type if not each individual job itself.  Present the information THEY want quickly and clearly.  Most resumes work best with 1 or 2 pages.  Spelling and grammar count.

Try to put yourself in the position of the person doing the hiring.  Likely as not they will have a stack of resumes from people that may not even have the qualifications they seek and no one likes their time wasted.  If you have spelling and grammar errors you will likely be seen as inattentive or sloppy.

TanteWaileka
TanteWaileka

Obviously you and 99% of the people commenting on this story know little, or ... I have to say it!, NOTHING about fonts and continuous text.  Given that I am a CIO/CTO now but started OUT as a typeface designer for advertising and book publication, I think I may know just a TAAAAD more about fonts and readability/usability. Thank you for giving me the idea for my first article for my new technology blog. I'll bookmark this story and be back to post a followup, shortly.

azvonko
azvonko

It seems the resume is probably the most exploited topic on this site and I find it long ago to became boring. I really don’t understand why it’s presented as the rocket science and why it should deserve so much attention and space. For example now, about the font: of course the font is important to some extent as the element of a general clearness in written communication. However, the clearness is important in every communication – verbal, written, electronic, ... But when comes to clearness in communication, it’s important also to recall that every exaggeration in quantity (like quantity of information, text, etc.) leads to question of “ecology” (here “ecology” in communication).

Classic1000
Classic1000

Toni, this advice is just wrong.  You need to look at the development of type fonts to understand why Times New Roman and other "serif" fonts are ideal for people to read in hard copy.   The serif was developed ages ago because it provides a "hook" for the human eye making it easier to read with less distraction.  

The "sans serif" (i.e. without the little hooks) fonts were easily read by machines for optical character recognition (OCR).  They are not ideal for hard copy reading and cause many people to strain when reading.  

Reading online or onscreen is a bit different.  Some good fonts or this are the Calibri and Lucida groups.

And finally, you do not want your font to stand out in a resume.  The purpose of the resume is to convince the readers of your experience to get a foot in the interview door.  Nothing should distract the reader from the content of the resume. Even slightly fancy fonts are distracting.  Ultimately, whatever you write should have the reader in mind, not the writer.    (and "intuit"...you've got to be joking).

PhysicsTech2
PhysicsTech2

I have to admit that this post tells little if anything to the reader. Font to use........hmmmm.......maybe.........but.........don't.........????? That is what you have said in this article - really nothing. The only definitive used was not to justify the text. Boy, that tells me a lot?! Please don't do one of the worst things in journalism - tease the reader and leave them with an empty mouth! You simply wasted my time in opening the page.......

TraderStf
TraderStf

Using any other font might alter your layout, making it weird. Keep some space everywhere and use tabs, rules, etc, not spaces to align paragraphs... The best is to test it on several computers and also email program before sending it. PDF might be the best solution.

Tea.Rollins
Tea.Rollins

I trash resumes in Times. If it's serif at all, I prefer Georgia. Of course, you, Ms. Bowers, should just do yours in comic sans. It's theme appropriate.

aliakbar_mirza
aliakbar_mirza

I always use Calibri throughout my resume with font size 12. I slightly disagree with the idea of not justifying your text. I f your text is like a sentence, then should be the idea. But when it comes to paragrapghs it might be helpful to give a clean look for them.

nick
nick

1) Read the job desciption and tailor your CV to match it 2) All the important stuff on page 1 and not too crammed. 3) Less is more (a list of 4 things 3 of which are relevant to the job is better than a list of 10).

ananthap
ananthap

I think Times New Roman is the default font for the system, certainly for MS-OFFICE.and thats the probable reason for its popularity. A few years down the line, when technologies merge and people use other devices, we may see a proliferation of fonts. As for justified text, tthe example given is rare. Also the same ill effect is seen when you don't press a hard carriage return after the last wrapped around line. If this can be avoided, justified text certainly looks neater.

amazingsandwiches.com
amazingsandwiches.com

the font selection should really depend on the template, but resume's are not the place to go nuts. Find something elegant, and READABLE above all else. You should be standing out in your contents, not your fonts. You can, btw, download and search for free fonts at http://californiafonts.com if you really do need inspiration, but stay classy please...

techrepublic
techrepublic

I work on the principle that anyone important enough to be worth impressing is old enough to appreciate 14 point font. Working within the A4 at 14 point limitation helps keep it succinct.

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

I wouldn't use Arial on printed copy. It may be nice for screen reading, but I find it really hard on the eyes when presented on paper as paragraphs of text. Helvetica was made for print, and I find it much easier on the eyes than Arial (when on paper). However, keep in mind that Helvetica (as nice as it is) is kind of old now and is wearing thin on some people. The following may be a bit overkill for this article, but I'm presenting it in case someone wants to know: If you expect to purchase a font, you may find it worth while to spend the extra buck for the professional version. If your typing program pays attention to the extra features of a professional font (I'm not sure if MS Word does,) then it will be that much nicer looking. First make sure that your favorite typing program makes use of the extra features available in professional fonts, otherwise there's no point. If you really want to go the extra mile on nice looking typefaces--and you have the cash--be sure to get the italic and bold forms of the font family (as necessary.) Type looks less than attractive when it's forced into italic or bold by a program, as opposed to being created to look italic or bold by a typeface artist. If you are curious about the extra features of professional fonts, Google "kerning", "tracking", and "ligatures". Many professional fonts also have extra nice looking (and legible) symbols. Almost forgot: You can probably skip using professional fonts, if you must use a printer which cannot output at least 200dpi. The extra nice kerning and such may not be output clearly enough to make a difference when using a low-resolution printer (fax machine.)

mcbinder
mcbinder

Casey: Even more interesting would be a breakdown of intake, hired and "never considered" resume fonts. mcb

Professor8
Professor8

To thwart the dysfunctional "candidate management systems"/"applicant management systems" and their resume parsers, one should choose an italic, scripty font -- Brush Script, Zapfino, PilGi, Apple Chancery -- and take advantage of Unicode to utilize those special shmooshed together characters at every opportunity (fl, fi, ae, oe...). Then take an image of your resume and send it to them as a lossy compressed image. The object is to undermine the automated systems and the bodyshoppers, and get a thoughtful, conscientious human being to call you, one who is much more likely to take active measure to place a great candidate like you in a real, full-time, long-term fulfilling job where you can thrive developing great software products, and thus be both compensated and praised in line with the quality of your work.

tom
tom

Comic sans would work!

databaseben
databaseben

Unless your applying for a desktop publishing job, never be creative with resume's because it can come across as an attempt to divert attention away from your skill sets and experience. That being said, if your cover letter, skill sets and experience can't speak for you, then fancy fonts will only make you look bad. If anything, use different resume styles and paper. There are many styles available, so depending on the business you are applying for, you will have to determine which style is more appropriate for a prospective employer. Generally, a simple style is okay for minimum wage jobs while a more technical style is appropriate for technical openings. This being said, make several different resumes to keep handy for the business's that pop up with a job opening. Also, have a pdf version of them ready for emailing and then also mail in the copy the next day. Although the mail in copy will be a duplicate, its timing will play a role with giving you an edge if your initial submission was skipped over. So if this happens, the mail in copy will come in after everyone else's and may give you a second chance with the employer. Lastly, you can also use non-white paper for your resume and include a simple business card with the cover letter. Using a non standard paper stock like ivory, light gray or light camel stock will be okay and give you another edge.. A light gray can be used for jobs like mechanics and technicians, while an ivory stock is nice for desk job opportunities. So in my opinion instead of using (gimmicky) fonts to attract attention to your resume, use an appropriate resume style and non standard paper to attract the employers attention. In conclusion, if you can't afford nice paper or you don't have any idea on using differing resume styles, then don't try to be something you are not. Be simple and be honest with who you are and what you can do for the employer.

rainsua
rainsua

It's not the font but how you use it :)

psauve
psauve

Hi, I use Ariel or Verdana (10 point) for my own documents. However, for anything I send out, I prefer Times New Roman (11 or 12 point). Times New Roman is easy to read and easy to scan.

keithme
keithme

Good article but doesn't really give us many concrete examples of WHAT alternative fonts. Also, what's wrong with justified text? Admittedly IF you have a long url reference or something in a line you will get funny formatting but the example given doesn't have any real "gaps". Justified text looks far more professional than left aligned. Other comments from others good pointers. One should ALWAYS look at the company's web site not just to see what font they might use but also to tailor yoru resume to what they require. Very unlikely your "standard" CV is going to make an impression if it doesn't answer THEIR needs. Just my thoughts. :)

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

As I understand it Times Roman was designed to pack the maximum amount of text in a given font size onto a piece of paper without unduely sacrificing readibility. I much prefer older type faces like Garamond or Baskervill or Century Schoolbook, all of which I find far easier to read than Times Roman, or the popular sansserif faces like Arial and Helvetica. Of course for a pleasant reading experience I'm not aware of anything which compares to Linotype Caslon Old Style, set by a good typesetter on a Linotype, printed on smooth white paper in black ink on a letter press. Gorgeous.

tech
tech

I once went on a job interview where there were an equal number of PC's and Mac's. I used a standard PC font in my resume, but for some reason, the verson of Mac OS they were using at the time didn't support it so my resume didn't look formatted. This was way before the Intel Mac's were released. After that, I always gave my resume in Word AND PDF format. The next place I went to was also a PC and Mac environment. This time my resume looked fine and I was hired.

martin.pendleton
martin.pendleton

The guy responsible for new hires in my previous company had a simple filtering system when reviewing the hundreds of CVs he received each week. As soon as he came to a spelling mistake he'd stop reading and drop the CV straight in the bin.

subscribe@OcatilloPictures.com
subscribe@OcatilloPictures.com

Using a serif font will be easier on the human and the OCR scanner reading your resume. Fonts like Arial have lots of characters that look very similar, making it hard for OCR to read correctly --- and harder to proof read for the author.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

The Pierce County IT Director absolutely hates (and she has a terrible temper!) serif and simply won't read any document having it -- she says it drives her up the wall. It isn't clear how you would dredge up such information as the obsessive compulsive outlooks of a potential employer. The best way is someone on the inside, and, in absense of a "spy", as has been mentioned before, examining the documents from the Company / Agency may be the best clue. In the end, Sans Serif may be the best and safest choice. A resume should always look professional and be targeted in any case. If truly, the major criteria for selecting or rejecting a candidate lies in font choice, perhaps that wasn't the job to go for in the first place. And me, if I ever apply to Pierce County again (though I can't think of a single reason why I would), I will make certain that I submit my resume with 14 point Times New Roman, justified [for the Director's sake whose last words to me about herself were, "I don't know what I am doing"; it's fun activating the "Warrior Gene" if you are safe from attack]. Retirement is the perfect revenge.

GlennHughes
GlennHughes

What really matters is content and secondary to that format/layout. I want to know specifically what your responsibilities and deliverables are, what role you actually played not vague statements using lame buzzwords. Don't over exaggerate (I.e. lie) as even if you bluff your way to interview any decent interviewer will shoot holes in your BS (and if they are like me quite enjoy it). The layout should be clean and easy to read. Sure don't use stupid fonts like comic sans or bold or underlined text to hightlight what you think is great but most common fonts are fine.

gavin.burgess
gavin.burgess

Choice of font is important. The main reason to be careful, of course, is to avoid looking "childish" or "amateurish". Even more important: avoiding grade-school grammatical errors. "Don???t use justified text. As you can see in Figure A, this can cause huge gaps in the text and be distracting." for example. The word "and" in this context is a conjunction. Both parts of a sentence on either side of a conjunction need to stand alone as sentences. The easy way to check yourself is to replace the conjunction with a period. If the two sentences make sense, then all is well. If they don't, such as in the example, it's time to brush up on your grammar, especially if you consider yourself to be a high level communicator.

Hadow
Hadow

Of course, very few resumes are on paper any more, but on paper serif fonts (e.g., Times Roman) are more legible. Online, sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial) are easier to read. Whatever the medium, ragged right is always more readable than justified. Make it easy for your stellar achievements to awe your potential employer.

belgvr
belgvr

Looks like a joke, but here in Brazil i have already seen a mouthdropping ugly and terribly made resume completelly in Comic Sans... i wanted to cry

jay.okane
jay.okane

I have found that when you submit your CV / resume through an agency, they have their own standards (layout, font, point size) that they then use to submit on to the employer. so unfortunately, whatever design choices you make initially, may not be what gets you the interview.

Olderdan
Olderdan

I think FONTS should be last on a long list of reasons why a resume fails. What's the number one reason (with a bullet!) that resumes fail to keep my attention? English. English. English. You are trying to convince someone that you can do a job. To do that job, you need to communicate. Email is one of the most used communication vehicles in business (in spite of what Facebook fanbois and the Twitterati will tell you). If you can't write an English sentence, you won't get the job. Once you have the sentence thing down, THEN look at your font choice. What's next an article on striking the proper balance of [b]bold[/b] face on a resume?

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

Is it considered too hoity-toity to use the more correct r??sum?? as opposed to the word that looks like you should say ree-zoom?

bkfriesen
bkfriesen

If you choose a non-standard font (Calibri might even qualify as a non-standard font depending on the version of Office or Windows of your recipient) remember to embed the font when you save your document. In Word it's found in the Tools/Save Options/Embed fonts in the file menus starting in the Save dialog box.

Classic1000
Classic1000

@databaseben 

DB Ben.  I'd love to read your resume.  It is "you're", not "your".  It is "resumes", not "resume's".  Boy, I didn't get past the first sentence.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

(Albeit ones with a 'simple style')? I'd bet that an applicant at the car wash/grocery/fast food with a CV/resume won't get called back, anyway. They're obviously 'overqualified'.... P.S. Since grammar et al's been brought up in reference to the impression one makes: you might quit using apostrophes for your plurals---save them up for the possessives ;)

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

.....it's not how big the points are, but where you put them. How are you on font width? :O A bit suggestive for a Thursday? Probably (sorry. *waits for banhammer*)

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

.....JOKERMAN is the REAL enemy :)

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

Typeface matters. If I can't read it comfortably, I won't read it. I have a pile of candidates and only limited time to review them. The rest of your points are succinct and absolutely true - I just wouldn't write off the importance of the font. By sticking to your advice: "most common fonts are fine" people should avoid the rubbish font trap though :) Sorry - I'm maybe being a little nit-pickey there.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

call it stupid. Below 14-pt it's legible to humans and machines, thus allowing you to impress them with your actual credentials and experience....'Frankfurter' or 'Brush' would be "stupid"....

dmm99
dmm99

"Both parts of a sentence on either side of a conjunction need to stand alone as sentences." That's not quite right. It's OK to have a sentence with one subject and several related predicates. Simple example: "The rebellious boy loved his mother, but hated her rules." You don't need to include another "he" after "but," not even in formal writing. A more obvious example: "The rebellious boy loved his mother, tolerated her opinions, hated her rules, and loathed her new boyfriend." Clearly, adding "he" three more times is not only unnecessary, but awkward. Counterexample (showing multiple unrelated predicates): "The rebellious boy loved his mother, went shopping, is often late to school, hopes to become a doctor one day." Putting in "he" three more times doesn't help this mess. It needs to be broken up into separate sentences. But I agree that the sentence in question would have been better written as: "...text, which is distracting." Or, even more succintly, written as: "...can cause huge, distracting gaps in the text." Both make the author's point more clearly.

Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower

Alt-130 will indeed produce the letter e with an acute accent, but in some cases (like on this site) will appear on screen as rsum.

databaseben
databaseben

many of the highly skilled unemployed have to start over with minimum wage jobs. but there is always a chance that there is an undisclosed position that pays more and has more responsibility or requires more skills. (albeit about impressions) all is fair for thread comments, texting and some e-books now a days. expression = ; )

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

...and nice examples, although I think I'll leave the rebellious boy out of my resume.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

re'sume' approximates what I tried to say.

Railroad Buff
Railroad Buff

Scroll up a few posts. What you see is the website's tools eating most anything outside the 26 characters of the basic alphabet. Here the vowel e with the forward-leaning accent is missing, without accent all three versions look like "resume". There are other words in the post you've responded to, like "protege", where again both e's are supposed to have that same accent and are consequently eaten by the web tool, making it appear as "protg". I'd put this misbehavior into the same category as handling of names of persons and locations in the US (not exclusively there) - hyphens are not allowed by the vast majority of computer software, first names are limited in length (Christopher will almost always be truncated by one or two letters).

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

I've never seen those; are they a version of phonetic spelling to differentiate between the homonymous-looking verb and noun when spoken?

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

I don't know how well the diacritics will paste in, but from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/r%C3%A9sum%C3%A9: In Canada, resum?? is the sole spelling given by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. In the US, there are three major spellings of this word: r??sum??, resum??, and resume. All three are in common usage and all three are occasionally contested. The usual justification for each is usually as follows: resume is an acceptable spelling, because modern English does not usually have diacritic marks except when borrowing terms or as an optional spelling to indicate a breach of standard pronunciation rules. Compare cafe, emigre, and nee, all of which are commonly spelled with and without accent marks. The spelling resume is more likely to be found on the web. resum?? follows a practice wherein a final e is accented to indicate that it is pronounced where it would usually remain silent. Compare touch??, caf??, and especially sak?? and mat??, where there is no etymological precedent for the accent. The acute accent over the first e, on the other hand, serves no function in English. r??sum?? follows a practice of retaining accents in borrowed words, which some may consider affected. Compare prot??g??, ??migr??, n??e, and ??lan. Certain other French words with two accented e's have the same usage conflict, though the relative infrequency of the words in common usage causes the conflict to be less pronounced. Also, some spell-checking tools prescribe against resum??, suggesting r??sum?? instead, which may affect the perception of the correctness of the two spellings of the term. ------------------ I'm not sure my question has been answered...

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

The verb features two long vowels (plus one silent) and two syllables; the noun features three syllables and a means of indicating that the final vowel be sounded ('). Both of the acceptable pronunciations of the noun (the document) are three syllables long, and differ merely in their accented syllable.