Writing a resume can bring out anxiety in the best of us. After all, who among us has never begun to second guess whether they should be writing their resume in past or present tense or wondered if they were shooting themselves in the foot by somehow choosing the wrong font?
The Best Resume Font
For those currently frozen with indecision over whether to choose Arial or Helvetica, the best font to use on your resume is … whatever font you prefer!
Well, more or less. There are obviously some exceptions, but in general, the font you use on your resume doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s clean and readable.
Resume font choice: What you need to know
Serif vs sans serif
These days, most recruiters are reading your resume on a computer screen, which means sans serif fonts are the most readable. What are sans serif fonts? They’re the ones featuring simple, straight lines without decorative embellishments (like the little ‘feet’ at the bottom of letters). Most default fonts, like Arial and Calibri, are sans serif. If you strongly prefer a serif font, choose something simple and classic like Georgia or Times New Roman.
Avoid special characters
The worst type of font to use is one that converts letters into special characters. Look at the following example:
The text on the left is perfectly legible, with a space between the letters. The text on the right has combined the two letters into a single special character with no space in between, which is not only harder to read, it also can’t be scanned properly by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
Most employers nowadays use ATS, which are programmed to scan your resume for specific keywords and filter out those without relevant experience. If, for example, you’re applying for a Financial Analyst position, ATS may be programmed to search for the keyword ‘financial reporting.’ If you’ve used a font that combines ‘fi’ and ‘ti’ into special characters, the ATS will read this as ‘#nancial repor#ng’ and assume you don’t have what it’s looking for. To avoid this, use a standard font on your resume and double-check to make sure that your letters haven’t been converted into special characters, or use the tool below to confirm that your resume is easily read by ATS. The tool also evaluates your resume on key criteria such as resume length, font size, spacing and margins.
The 10 best resume fonts
If you’re still not sure which font to use on your resume, any of these are good choices:
- Times New Roman
If you’ve ever thought about reducing your font size or margins to fit more information on a standard one-page resume: Please don’t do this! Smaller fonts and less white space mean hiring managers will find it harder to skim your resume. (Plus, it’ll be totally obvious what you’re doing — by now, recruiters have seen every trick in the book.) Never do anything that makes your resume less readable, even if that means you have to trim a couple of achievements or omit an older position altogether.
In most fonts, an 11 or 12 point size is standard (excluding your headings). The exact size you should choose depends on the specific font, but in general, you should never go below 10 points, and more than 12 for standard text isn’t necessary. At a glance, a PDF of your resume should be easily skimmable, which includes using standard headings and plenty of white space.
Using basic styling to make things stand out on your resume is fine. You can format your resume title, section headings, job titles, and company names in bold to make them more easily readable, with subheadings in italics. Generally, avoid underlines, which make your resume — you guessed it — harder to read.
As for bolding random words and phrases, just don’t. It can be tempting to want certain skills or accomplishments to stand out, but the best way to do this is by using appropriate headings, accomplishment-led bullet points, and a resume summary or short blurb to highlight anything particularly noteworthy.
When it comes to using colors, images, or other design elements on your resume, less is more. Which is to say, the perfect amount is zero. A purely black and white resume is the easiest to read (because it affords the most contrast) and to print out, in case the hiring manager chooses to do so. If you absolutely must use colors on your resume, choose a single color and use it sparingly — but really, first consider whether it’s absolutely necessary, as even a lot of creative or design roles don’t require that creativity to be reflected in your resume design.
Whichever font you choose, be consistent! Switching between fonts makes it harder to read, looks unprofessional, and will distract a recruiter’s attention from the actual content of your resume. The same rule applies to your resume formatting in general — if you’ve used bold, italics, or capital letters for one section or subheading, use that same style consistently for each entry.
Where possible, you should always format your resume as a PDF. Why? It’s the only way to guarantee that your resume will look the same to a recruiter as it does to you. Different versions of Word can change your layout and formatting, but a PDF will always look the same, no matter what program is used to open it.
In the rare case that a company specifically asks for your resume in Word format, make sure you’ve used a standard font, as downloadable fonts won’t appear correctly and may make your resume unreadable.
Always check to make sure your PDF isn’t a scanned image, which can happen if you’ve created your resume using Photoshop or an online resume builder. To do this, see if you can highlight text — if you can, you’re good to go. If not, ATS won’t be able to, either. Always create a PDF by converting your document from Word or Google Docs.
General do’s and don’ts for resume fonts
Do use a basic font that’s easy to read. The default font on your word processor of choice is almost always fine.
Don’t use fonts that are particularly thin, light, bold, or flowery. Your primary focus should be on readability, not design.
Don’t use ‘creative’ fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus. Most people don’t care about fonts, with the exception of a few very divisive choices. Avoid these at all costs.
Don’t use a lot of custom downloadable fonts or templates. Keep it simple — you want a hiring manager to be thinking about the content on your resume, not how fancy it looks.
Do use standard fonts and section titles and avoid special characters and images, like this:
Do make sure your resume can be read by ATS and check for other potential issues by using Score My Resume.
Don’t overthink it. As long as your resume uses a standard font, size, and layout, it’ll be perfectly readable — which is the only thing that really matters.