What Does Your Resume Font Say About You?

which font to choose on resumeThere are a lot of decisions involved in constructing the perfect resume: what work experience to prioritize, what details to provide, what skills to exaggerate. But one deal-breaking decision often gets slight attention: What font to use?

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To investigate this question, AOL Jobs spoke to Barbara Safani, owner of the career management firm Career Solvers and author of "Happy About My Resume," as well as two graphic designers: Kevin Poirer, the creative director of Massachusetts-based PearTree Design, and Ryan Clennan, the art director of D.C.-based Studio Grafik.

In general, Safani recommends that resume-writers stick to generic fonts, because if your potential employer doesn't have your offbeat font in their Microsoft Office package, it will be converted, squishing or stretching or jumbling the whole document. She also advises against using serif fonts, because they don't survive so well when scanned.

The graphic designers, on the other hand, are more concerned with aesthetics than pragmatics, and so have some different opinions on the subject:


Times New Roman

Safani: I personally hate Times New Roman. So many people use it, and when you write a resume you want to stand out. But it is one of the more universally accepted fonts.

Poirer: It's a clean, professional font. Conservative.

Clennan: Boring. It's the default.


Georgia

Safani: A resume is like expensive New York real estate; you're trying to put as much quality information on there as possible, without cramming it in. And Georgia's a little wide.

Poirer: Neo-conservative.

Clennan: Not much better [than Times New Roman].


Comic Sans

Safani: In certain situations, like a kindergarden teacher's resume, I might use it.

Poirer: I'm trying to think what the best word to describe that awful font would be.... Let's say whimsical.

Clennan: Too childish. Unprofessional.


Impact

Safani: It's already bolded and almost three-dimensional. Too overbearing. It might use it to highlight a certain section, like your professional identity, but I wouldn't recommend it for the whole thing.

Clennan: Unreadable.


Arial

Safani: I like Arial. The lines are very clean. It doesn't have the serif. It's easy to read.

Poirer: That's a modern font. Conservative, but modern.

Clennan: Could be cool if used correctly.


Helvetica

Safani: Not my personal preference. [Pausing as she scrolls through her fonts on Microsoft Word.] Well, I don't even have it.

Poirer: Unimaginative.

Clennan: The best font ever created.


Futura

Safani: I don't even know what that is.

Poirer: Mildly more interesting than Helvetica, but still unimaginative.

Clennan: More modern, more hip, more up-to-date.


Courier

Safani: That can date somebody. It looks like you did your resume on an IBM Selectric in 1980.

Poirer: Their ideals are classic in nature.

Clennan: Never to be used unless you're trying to create a typewriter look.


Garamond

Safani: I personally don't like Garamond. I think it's hard to read. But I know people who only use Garamond. It's almost too light. It's very thin. I think it's hard to make information stand out.

Poirer: Romantic-professional.

Clennan: Of this list, it's the most professional.


Wingdings

Safani: That's not really a font, is it? If you're putting that kind of stuff on a resume, there's no way you're going to be taken seriously.

Poirer: You can't read it. It's a symbolistic font, so that would be a little James Bond.

Clennan: That means you've been using a lot of heavy drugs.


All Bold

Safani: Nothing stands out. The idea is to use shading and bolding to position important information.

Poirer: Very amateurish.

Clennan: I would be afraid that you were going to attack.


All Italics

Safani: Same thing. And it's harder to read.

Poirer: They're not well-trained in graphic design.

Clennan: Indecisive.


Most agree that it's best to lean conservative in your font choice. But if you're applying for a job in the arts, like at a graphic design firm, you might want to choose something a little more unusual than Times New Roman or Georgia.

There are ways, however, to showcase your personality other than the shape of your letters. "It can be done in the way the information is placed on the page -- images, links, even a little bit of color," advises Safani. "Even if you're creative, you still want the document to be easy to read."



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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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113 Comments

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hrobertgreenbaum

I think I'm in love.

June 23 2012 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gilbertriley3

I've always been a fan of Palatino. I believe it comes in the standard font package for both MS and MacOS.

Also, people should be sending their resume as a scan-able .PDF and/or including it in the text of an email... AS THE EMPLOYER REQUESTS. If you can't meet the employers most simple request, you certainly won't make it to the next level.

If required to send as a MSWord .DOC or other Word Processing file, ensure you create a brand new document, and paste your PERFECT version of your resume into it. Some documents store revision history, and you don't want a curious employer searching for the Deletions / Corrections / Changes to see the version you didn't want them to see.

October 07 2011 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MB

The resume outline and font are NOT important at all. If you are not an EXACT match meaning Exact Experience, Exact Skills, Exact Education, Exact Age (usually 25 - 29) and Speak the Exact Language (many companies are now owned by foreigners and require bilingual) than your resume is deleted or goes into the recycle bin.

Our country which was the Greatest in the world is now the Biggest pile of crap on the planet thanks to all the Goddamn greed from the corporations and the politicians both Republican and Democrat. .They should all be hung like Saddam or shot like bin Laden

October 05 2011 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MB

MOST JOB LISTINGS ARE SCAMS
I notice when looking for work on line almost all make you go to a website and register before applying. Why not just let you send the resume and cover letter? Because most of the time the job doesn't really exist, they just want your info and email to send you junk mail and other marketing offers like for the trade schools.. You end up wasting 15 to 30 minutes filling out the registration for nothing.

If we didn't have one of the most Goddamn corrupt governments’ on the planet, they would not be able to get away this crap. Goddamn our government is nothing but a stinking cesspool of corruption.

October 05 2011 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Boss

More than 40 years in marketing and numerous industry studies say that Arial is less readable in a paragraph than Times Roman. There is a reason for that name ... newspapers wanted a font to make their words easy to read, comprehend and remember. Before the internet and Microsoft publishing, materials using the fonts helvetica or arial were considered cheap. A serif font had more class ... implied quality. The serifs also have a physiological effect on the process of reading. They make it easier to follow the line, thus easier to focus and understand the writer. Fonts like the one in which I'm typing this long paragraph tend to let the eye drop down the page without finishing the line. No kidding, there are studies. Actually a long paragraph combined with a sans serif face can look daunting ... like the most boring, unreadable message on here.
I would suggest if you want your letter and resume to be read, keep the paragraphs short (1-2 sentences) and find a font with serifs that is not too far out to detract from the content of your message.

October 05 2011 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LL

It's the content & not the font that REALLY matters to the employer - though sticking to tradition when writing and the KSS Principle, is the 2nd most important thing to remember here.

October 05 2011 at 3:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Eric

Go Resume??? Fonts??? Really??? Bad NEws Day???

October 05 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dsan104639

really is a slow news day, or something !

October 05 2011 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BajaBeachie

How can you intelligently discuss fonts without knowing that Ariel is the Microsoft version of Helvetica?

October 05 2011 at 12:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LuLu

This article comes to no conclusion, offers no incite other than it's a crap shoot.

October 05 2011 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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