How to Choose the Right Font for an Effective Resume
Writing an effective resume is no easy task. It is your first chance to cause a great first impression on a recruiter or hiring manager.
While your work experience, skills and training are the most important factors to convince a recruiter you are a great fit, you first need to get past a few steps in order to be noticed. That is where the right formatting, including a great font choice can help you stand out and land you a job interview. Then it’s your chance to impress the recruiter!
This article will discuss the importance of fonts for an effective resume, explain the types of fonts and which works best for each type of job position, and provide tips on how to format a resume to help you get that job you’ve been dreaming about!
THE IMPORTANCE OF FONTS FOR AN EFFECTIVE RESUME
Nowadays, with all the competition, being shortlisted for a job interview - especially in highly desirable companies – can be particularly challenging.
Companies are increasingly resourcing to ATS software to help them find the right candidate. This means that even if you have the right skills, you might not even get a chance to be interviewed if you don’t use the right keywords in your resume or if you choose the wrong formatting or fonts.
ATS, or Applicant Tracking Software, helps recruiters sieve through thousands of resumes every day and you need to know how to navigate that and use the information in your favor.
Using a clean and crisp font that is easily legible will make your resume more accessible not only to recruiters but also to ATS systems. In contrast, choosing a typeface that is hard to read or too unconventional may hinder your job search efforts.
In addition, formatting is an important part of a candidate’s branding strategy. You might not think of that, but the overall aesthetics of your resume and even something as simple as a font help convey a message about you. People’s brains are always making connections, and each of these elements triggers associations, even if we are not aware of them all the time.
Although a recruiter will obviously not choose a candidate because of a great font, your design choices tell a lot about you and help recruiters have an idea of who you are even before meeting you.
The font, as well as the overall formatting, helps create a tone. Remember that your resume is the first impression a recruiter will have from you. Therefore, think carefully about what image you want to project through your resume.
If you want to look seasoned and professional, a clean and neutral font can help you achieve that. If you are a young professional that is looking for a creative job, you can resort to a modern typeface to show the hiring manager you are up-to-date with the latest design trends.
The formatting of a resume can also highlight your soft skills, it can help you show that you are dependable, professional and detail-oriented.
On the other hand, the wrong font or size might produce a bad first impression, make you look sloppy or unprofessional. A resume that is crowded and inconsistent can cause a negative impact on the recruiter
Because you typically won’t have a second chance to show you are a good fit, make sure you use all the resources you have to create an effective resume.
Related article: How to Structure a Winning Resume
TYPES OF FONTS
The main types of fonts used in a resume are Serif and Sans Serif fonts.
Other types of fonts such as script or decorative should be avoided as a general rule as most of them can be hard to read and overly playful, which would make a candidate look unprofessional.
Serif fonts are typefaces that have a decorative line or taper added to the beginning and/or end of a letter’s stem. Commonly used Serif fonts are Times New Roman, Georgia and Courier New.
Because they are widely used in newspapers, books and magazines, serif fonts are usually perceived as more traditional and formal. Some Serif fonts can also be used in headings to add an elegant touch to your resume.
Serif fonts can be a good option if you want your resume formatting to help create a seasoned and reliable tone and for candidates in more conservative professions and industries due to its higher level of formality.
SANS SERIF FONTS
Sans Serif fonts have a simple and clean design and are the same width throughout, without the “tails” or “feet” present in the Serif fonts.
These typefaces are perceived as more modern and approachable. Popular Sans Serif fonts are Arial, Calibri and Helvetica.
Sans Serif fonts are recommended for candidates who are looking for a more modern and contemporary style for their resumes. These fonts create a more minimalistic and approachable look. In addition, they are very easy to read and look professional.
BEST FONTS FOR RESUMES
As previously mentioned, a candidate should stick with a serif or sans serif font when creating a resume (or a combination of both if you are more design-savvy). Script and decorative fonts should, in general, be avoided as they can be difficult to read and might look unprofessional for most industries.
To narrow it down a bit more, a sans Serif font is generally recommended in our digital world - unless you are in a very traditional and conservative profession that requires a high level of formality. Serif fonts cater to today’s more minimalist and straight-to-the-point culture.
Most importantly a great font is easily legible. A recruiter spends on average 7.4 seconds on a preliminary scanning phase. If your resume is difficult to read, all those courses and degrees or years of experience might not even have a chance to impress the hiring manager. Your resume might also be scanned by ATS software, so accessibility is key.
These are great serif and sans serif font options that are easily readable both to recruiters and ATS systems and will make you look professional:
Get the look with this Executive Resume Template for Word
WHICH FONTS TO AVOID
Times New Roman – can be difficult to read, particularly on screens, and is overused
Arial – there’s nothing wrong with Arial in general, but it is overused and won’t capture the recruiter’s attention. It may be perceived as a lazy choice
Comic Sans – too playful and childish, will make you look unprofessional
Papyrus – too playful, will make you look unprofessional
Impact – too bold, difficult to read
Courier – looks outdated and unnatural
Futura – leans more towards a decorative font for a resume, may look unprofessional
Brush Script – overused and dated. Like other script fonts, should be avoided in general on a resume
Century Gothic – can be hard to read due to its thin letters
TIPS FOR USING FONTS
BOLDING, ITALICIZING AND CAPITALIZING
Bolding and Capitalizing are great ways to make your resume more easily scannable. You can use bold and/or capitalized fonts to emphasize text such as your name and section headings.
Italicizing can also be used sparingly to highlight or differentiate sections.
But remember to be consistent.
The ideal font size for a resume should be between 10 and 12 for the body. The size will vary depending on the font choice and amount of information on your resume. Some fonts might look too small at 10 and some fonts might look too big at 12. So always use your best judgement and make sure your resume is easy to read both when printed and on a screen.
A larger font size can be used for section headings and your name. Using different font sizes for the body, the section headings and the heading banner is a great way to make your resume more easily scannable (Remember? The recruiter must be able to find information very quickly!). This will create a hierarchy and make your resume look organized and easy to read.
Avoid using underlining for emphasis as it may be confused with web links.
The use of color helps your resume pop and make it easily scannable. Be careful to not overdo it, though.
Use color sparingly, just to highlight important information such as your name, section headings, lines between sections and bars or charts in the skills section.
Only use 1 additional color besides black and avoid using font colors that are too light, and, therefore are hard to read and might not print well. Great color options that will help your resume stand out and look professional are navy blue, dark blue, blue-green, dark green and dark grey.
Resumes need a lot of white space to be easily readable.
Spacing between lines can be adjusted to fit more text but be careful not to overcrowd your resume.
One of the most important things when choosing a font is to be consistent. Make sure you use the same font or fonts throughout your resume.
Using different fonts for text and section headings is a great way of highlighting the different sections and making your resume more readable and easier to scan, but be careful not to overdo it. Try to stick to 2 fonts and be consistent throughout.
Make sure your cover letter and references sheet are also formatted with the same fonts and consistently.
Always review your resume before submitting it. A great way to do that is to ask a friend, coach or family member to read it and see if it’s easily legible and check the style and format and if it looks professional. If you want to review it yourself, a good tip is to wait until the next day to review with fresh eyes. That always helps!
Make and impression and look professional with this Resume Template for Microsoft Word
DO’S AND DON’TS
- Avoid using more than 2 fonts.
- Use bolding, capitalizing and italicizing sparingly
- Choose a font size that is easy to read. Most fonts read well at 10 – 12
- Avoid underlining text as it may be confused with web links
- Use color sparingly to highlight important information and make your resume easier to scan
- Allow lots of white space. That improves readability
- Be careful when reducing line spacing so you resume don’t look crowded
- Be consistent. Choose your font types and sizes and make sure you use the same throughout your resume. Use the same font in your cover letter and references sheet
- Save your resume as a PDF so the formatting remains intact in any computer
Resume formatting is an important part of your job search strategy. Remember to make your choices wisely and in accordance with your industry and the company you’re interested in joining. There is no one-size-fits-all.
- Choose a font that is easily readable and appropriate to your industry
- Great font options are Open Sans, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, Georgia, Palatino, Verdana, Constantia and Lato.
- Fonts you should avoid are Times New Roman, Arial, Comic Sans, Papyrus, Impact, Courier, Futura, Brush Script and Century Gothic
- Use italicizing, capitalizing and bolding as well as color sparingly to emphasize important information but avoid overdoing it
- The ideal font size for a resume should be between 10 and 12 for the body and a larger font can be used for your name and section headers
- Remember to be consistent with your choices and always review your resume
If you don’t want to worry about formatting, want to save time and be confident your resume will look professional, download one of our professionally designed Resume Templates and have an effective resume ready in minutes.