Getting Started Resumes & Cover Letters

Revamp Your Resume: How to Choose Fonts

Written by Miranda Pennington

Within the bounds of taste and good judgment, a resume can be a place to express your best professional self. While “Best Resume” lists often focus on formatting and use of white space, don’t forget to think about your font choices—your first presentation of words to a potential employer.

Patricia Antonelli over at TalentEgg has some more specific guidance for those of you who don’t know your Papyrus from your Antigua Bold. Generally you want a font size that is legible, even on mobile devices, but not so big that it looks like a sign posted on a billboard—shoot for size 11, except for your headers.

1. Serif Fonts

Open up a Word document and try out some of these, like Baskerville or Georgia. Serif fonts have little lines at end of each letter stroke. Fonts with serifs come across as “more traditional and reliable”—they tend to look better in print than on a screen, so select one of them if you’re going to be handing out your resume in hard copy.

Avoid Times New Roman! It’s an obvious choice that signals employers you don’t know how to make your work stand out.

2. Sans Serif Fonts

Fonts like Helvetica and Calibri lack the little tails on serif fonts, and read more cleanly on-screen. These are safe choices for business jobs or any online application process. Coordinate your choice with your cover letter for a cohesive, polished look.

Formal and traditional? Serif is the way to go. Contemporary and sleek? San serif probably sends the right message.

3. Script Fonts

You can get away with a script font for your name at the top, but fancy fonts like Zapfino or Bickham Script can look messy in print or fail to translate on another operating system. The last thing you want is an unintelligible resume, so don’t try to make yours look like someone wrote it with a quill pen.

4. Display Fonts

Anything in the “other” category like Giddyup or Jazz is a big risk—some people may see them as fun and creative, but unless you’re applying for visual arts jobs (like a graphic designer or teaching artist) it’s probably better to err on the side of professionalism. Check out the company’s website to see what their visual style is, and try to find something complementary.

You want your resume to show off your experience and achievements, and any font that distracts from that is the wrong choice. Have a friend glance over your resume before your submit it; if the font is the first thing they notice, before your name or objective, keep looking until their first response is, “What a great-looking resume!”

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.