I thought about opening this up with some fancy font that I’ve always wanted to try out but, then again, I actually do want you to read this. I’m also assuming that it’s what people would like the interviewer or HR officer to do with their resume when they send it in as part of their job application.
Why then, do some individuals insist on using weird and wonderful typefaces in a wholly misguided effort at standing out from the crowd? I’m guessing that they’ve either got no sense of style or that they’re just confused by the befuddling array of fonts which programs like WORD throw up. As an interviewer, all I want is the information about the candidate. If I wanted to look at graffiti, I’d go to the nearest subway.
When it comes down to it, I can’t imagine anyone (with the exception of graphic design companies or other artistic enterprises) paying overdue attention to your choice of typeface as long as it is legible. Goodness knows, I’ve seen enough that weren’t in my time, so I just rejoiced when one landed in front of me that I could read without it giving me myopia or indoor snow-blindness.
However, I think a little bit of style never went amiss and there is also some psychology in your font selection.
At this point you could choose to use an experienced resume design company found on ResumeLines.com or, if you have access to a good quality printer, you could opt to do it yourself. If you are going down the latter path, your choice of font is key (and I really couldn’t resist that pun).
The main contenders in the font stakes
Good old courier. It’s been around since the dawn of the typewriter era and, for that reason, it became despised once WORD-type programs miraculously thrust dozens of bizarre fonts on us that hitherto had only appeared in glossy brochures, on product labels, and in comics.
Courier’s made a bit of a comeback recently (not that it’s ever really gone away) and the (New) Courier typeface is, as you can see, definitely quite presentable. However, one word to the wise, you do need to choose a font size a couple of points above which you would normally select. Therefore, for a resume, you should consider using 12pt.
Courier implies you’re a bit of a traditionalist. What you’re really saying is ‘I’ve bought this computer but I’d really rather prefer my old Olivetti typewriter’.
Its principal drawback is that it doesn’t tend to come out very well on scans or with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software.
Boss factor: Idiosyncratic, certainly, but too many snags for my liking
Arial has been with us since the second generation of word-processing programs came out. It is usually the default font in a word-processing program because it is conveniently common to many other Office-type programs should you need to convert a file or embed something.
Arial is what’s called a ‘sans-serif’ font because, unlike Courier, it doesn’t have those spiky flourishes at the end of each character. I would suggest 11 point for a resume.
The good news is that Arial is very easy to read and scan (OCR) and this makes it a sensible choice. The trouble is that it is so sensible. Because of its ‘default’ status, its use tends to suggest that the user is not particularly IT-literate because they weren’t confident enough to choose another font.
Boss factor: Good choice but too ‘sensible’ for my liking.
Times New Roman
The standard alternative to Arial as a default and one of the main fonts which appeared in the early word-processing programs – hence its continuing popularity, I suppose.
This is a full-blown serif font with all its spikes and curls. Some people feel that this makes the font look businesslike and ‘official’ however, for much the same reason, it can look a bit cold and sterile. It’s also not the best font for easy reading or scanning. I admit that it does work but I personally feel that it creaks a lot along the way.
Like Courier, it does need to be reasonably big in order to see it. The problem is that, once you go over about 12pt, the font suddenly becomes very chunky.
I’ve seen resumes done in this style and many looked kiddie and unprofessional.
Boss factor: You either love Times or you hate it. Used properly it can look smart but it’s not an easy beast to master.
I guess I’m biased but I tend to use Verdana a lot therefore you should read what I say in that light!
It’s quite a big and bulky sans-serif font – something which I’m sure will mean that it doesn’t merit universal appeal. You don’t need a big font size (which can be an advantage when trying to make things fit on a page) – 10 point is perfectly legible.
Verdana has the advantage at smaller sizes because it addresses what is called kerning problems. Kerning is the adjustment of the white space between characters when what the mathematical spacing rule says is right does not match up with what our eyes tell us is right. For example when you have a word ending in ‘titis’. Left to its own devices, there would be a huge gap between the I’s and the T’s. Kerning automatically reduces that gap to what ‘looks right’.
One issue is that ‘cl’ looks a bit like ‘d’ and this can be confusing.
Verdana is otherwise easy to read and scan in. However many don’t appreciate its blockiness.
Boss factor: Clear and effective but can be perceived as being ugly.
A bit too rounded and with too little space between the letters for my liking (look at ‘liking’ for example). It could, therefore, benefit from Verdana’s kerning. 11pt is about the right size to use.
Definitely a bit idiosyncratic. The characters are almost primitive but, because of that, they aren’t too easy to read. Not my cup of tea although I could see the attraction for using it as a main heading:
The Boss: Resume And Career History
Yes, that is quite smart. I wouldn’t want to use it elsewhere on my resume though.
Another Verdana and Arial spin-off. It’s easier to read than Gill Sans and a definite candidate if you want to be a bit different. I like its open style and I’d give it definite consideration for large blocks of text. I don’t think it’s suitable for small work, though.
There’s a good video on Youtube about font selection.
So, what do I suggest you do?
I know I said at the outset about mixing fonts. I meant mixing them in the text so that it looks like a 5-year old had been playing around with the keyboard.
However, if you combine the strengths of a ‘heading-type’ font like Gill Sans with a good, clear, simple font like Verdana or Arial as the main text, your resume is both easy to read and stylish.
Name: The Boss
Address: The Penthouse, Cloud 9
The horizontal line makes a clear visual separation between the two fonts so there is no ‘confusion’ or suggestion that somehow you made a mistake.
Ultimately, what matters is that your resume:
- Is easy to read
- Can be electronically scanned
- Looks professional
- Is logically structured
- Doesn’t give the reader a headache
Yes, it is a matter of taste but those are the ground rules. Ultimately the content is more important than the presentation but, if the presentation is lousy, the content just won’t get viewed. Take it from me, I’ve literally given up on hundreds of resumes which fell short through poor presentation.
Let’s not allow yours to go the same way.
The Boss ran an employment agency for 12 years before selling it to a rival company. During the years of his directorship, the business received over 15,000 job applications and had nearly 1,000 active outworkers at any one time. Before that, The Boss was a senior officer in marketing and management. As a key part of his work, he has both devised aptitude tests and interviewed extensively. He is now a busy careers journalist.