Every so often someone asks me how to choose a font for their resume. It’s an important decision because the font you choose will make your resume easier or harder read. But even a glance at Microsoft Word’s font selector shows more than two hundred options. How can you select the best one for you?
The short answer is: let your purpose determine your choice.
The goal of your resume is to persuasively communicate the full range of your skills and accomplishments. Unless you are a typeface designer, your font choice says nothing about how you well you will perform in your job, so font choice should not be your primary concern. Just use a popular font that is easy to read and all will be well. (Yes, you can leverage your font choice to point to an aspect of your personality if you want to. But that’s a secondary question to think about later.)
First, choose the size of the font. For easy reading, it is best to use 11 or 12 point fonts. Some people say 10 point fonts are acceptable, but, as someone who suffers from mild vision challenges, I know that many people will find 10 point resumes hard to read.
There are two basic kinds of fonts: serif or sans-serif. Serif fonts have little lines on the bottoms of the letters and little blobs at the tips. This makes the letters more distinct, a vital distinction when printing was king. For centuries, serif fonts like Times New Roman, Palatino, Georgia, Courier, Bookman and Garamond were known to be more readable on paper than sans serif fonts.
But when computers came on the scene, readers quickly discovered that serif fonts had a problem. Computer screens need a much higher degree of resolution to render serifs correctly than the early screens allowed for. That made serif fonts harder to read. So sans-serif fonts with a simple, clean look like Arial/Helvetica, Calibri, Century Gothic and Verdana became more popular. And although today’s monitors have much more sophisticated displays and far more pixels per square inch, serif fonts are still at a bit of a disadvantage. Not to mention that many people use cell phones that have much smaller displays. So it would seem that sans-serif fonts would be the obvious choice for resumes, right?
Not quite. Because even today, printed resumes are still widely used. You may never submit one in a job application, but you will need to bring a few resume hard copies to your interviews in case the interviewer asks you for a copy or two in order to see how organized you are. Or your interviewer might print off a copy beforehand to use as an aid in your meeting. So your font choice must be a font that is easy to read both online and in print. That narrows the list a bit.
I usually recommend Arial or Calibri as san serif fonts and Garamond and Georgia as serif fonts. Other popular fonts are Verdana which I tend not to use because it doesn’t read well in the larger font sizes or Times New Roman which, surprisingly, tests out as harder to read in print than Garamond.